“Could People Be Good Without Foundations?”

From Andrew Hartman’s recent post at U.S. Intellectual History, “The Politics of Epistemology,” in which he excerpts the following (and more) from his book Education and the Cold War:

By the beginning of the Cold War, this crisis was seemingly resolved in what Purcell terms the “relativist theory of democracy,” a stripped-down version of Dewey’s pragmatism in which democracy was made normative to America. This relativist theory of democracy blended what its practitioners believed were the best elements of naturalism, especially a faith in the empirical social sciences, with a co-opted version of rationalism, particularly a Platonic belief that American democracy was an end in itself. Although the relativist theorists of democracy considered themselves pragmatists in their attention to means, pragmatism as an identifiable philosophical radicalism, personified by Dewey in its aggressive and reform-oriented form, faded from view. Rather than critique democracy as it existed, relativist theorists assumed that American society was the democratic ideal. The status quo became an end in itself as intellectuals focused their labors on political stability.

(h/t Michael J. Altman)

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