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Volume 45 Issue 3 (July 2014), Pages 325-474

New Voices for Expressive Pragmatism: Bridging the Divide between Pragmatism and Perfectionism (pages 399-421)

Abstract

This article explores the theme of moral rationality by examining two distinct philosophical approaches, those of perfectionism and pragmatism broadly construed. It does this by comparing Cora Diamond's reading of J. M. Coetzee's novel The Lives of Animals with an imaginary reading of the same novel tuned to a moral sensibility closer to Deweyan pragmatism. By comparing a real account with an imaginary one, the article intends to press Diamond's perfectionist understanding of problematic moral experience into confrontation with a pragmatist account of the same phenomenon. This reading becomes the starting point for a broader confrontation between two larger philosophical conceptions: perfectionism and pragmatism. By this comparison, the article means to extend a dialogue begun more than a century ago, showing in particular that integrating both perspectives within a common moral epistemology provides new insights into our understanding of moral experience. The general claim is that their differences notwithstanding, perfectionism and pragmatism share a common moral sensibility, although they part ways on some decisive issues that the article makes explicit.

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