Genealogical Pragmatism: How History Matters for Foucault and Dewey

in Journal of the Philosophy of History
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This article offers the outlines of a historically-informed conception of critical inquiry herein named genealogical pragmatism. This conception of critical inquiry combines the genealogical emphasis on problematization featured in Michel Foucault’s work with the pragmatist emphasis on reconstruction featured in John Dewey’s work. The two forms of critical inquiry featured by these thinkers are not opposed, as is too commonly supposed. Genealogical problematization and pragmatist reconstruction fit together for reason of their mutual emphasis on the importance of history for philosophy. In so fitting together they repair crucial deficits in both traditions as they currently stand on their own (namely, genealogy’s normative deficit and pragmatism’s excessive instrumentalism). The resulting conception of critical inquiry as simultaneously problematizational and reconstructive is offered as a first step toward a crucial philosophical task we face today: articulating normativity without foundations.

Genealogical Pragmatism: How History Matters for Foucault and Dewey

in Journal of the Philosophy of History




Todd MayThe Philosophy of Foucault (Chesham: Acumen2006) 103.


HabermasThe Philosophical Discourse of Modernity282.


Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose“Biopower Today”BioSocieties 1 (2006) 195–217215; see also abinow Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment; Rabinow Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary; Nikolas Rose Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999); and Nikolas Rose The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine Power and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2006).


Alexander NehamasThe Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault (Berkeley: University of California1998) 170; see for further discussion Koopman Genealogy as Critique: Problematization and Transformation in Foucault and Others Chapter 4 and Koopman “Foucault Across the Disciplines: Introductory Notes on Contingency in Critical Inquiry” in History of the Human Sciences 24 no. 4 (2011).


DeweyReconstruction in Philosophy26.


DeweyReconstruction in Philosophy213.


DeweyLogic: The Theory of Inquiry494.


John Herman RandallNature and Historical Experience (New York: Columbia University1958) 99.


DeweyThe Public and Its Problems85.


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