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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - Introduction

Summary

In many ways Hilary Putnam's writings constitute the ideal introduction to his thought. For they are not only lucid and accessible, but also self-reflective, providing numerous signposts to his philosophical motivations, changes of mind and sources of inspiration. Rather than simply ‘introducing’ Putnam's thought, therefore, the papers collected here are mostly interpretative, seeking, in particular, to trace changes in the broader philosophical environment Putnam's thought was part of – changes that in many cases were precipitated by his novel ideas – and chart the transformation of Putnam's own thinking against the background of these developments. In tracing the evolution of Putnam's thought, they provide a window onto the dynamics of the Anglo-American philosophical arena since Putnam's emergence, in the 1960s, as a leading philosopher. One such transformation is the demise of logical positivism, still dominant in Putnam's formative years, and a growing interest in Wittgenstein and American pragmatism. A related trend is the shift away from the philosophy of science, which loses the primacy it enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s, and the corresponding repositioning of the philosophy of mind, which takes its place. Most significant, perhaps, is the increasing salience of the ethical perspective in the wake of the growing desire that philosophy play a more direct role in our lives.

Putnam, who has always been politically engaged, never distanced himself from the ethical. Professionally, however, he was educated in analytic philosophy at a time when it tended to relegate ethical and existential issues to the sidelines.

References
Putnam, Hilary (1975a). Mathematics, Matter and Method. Philosophical Papers, Volume I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Putnam, Hilary (1975b). Mind, Language and Reality. Philosophical Papers, Volume II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Putnam, Hilary (1978). Meaning and the Moral Sciences. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
Putnam, Hilary (1981). Reason, Truth and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Putnam, Hilary (1983). Realism and Reason, Philosophical Papers, Volume III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Putnam, Hilary (1988). Representation and Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Putnam, Hilary (1990). Realism with a Human Face, ed. James Conant. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Putnam, Hilary (1992). Renewing Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (The Gifford Lectures, St. Andrews 1990)
Putnam, Hilary (1994). Words and Life, ed. James Conant. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. A collection of essays by Putnam, selected and introduced by the editor
Putnam, Hilary (1999). The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia University Press
Putnam, Hilary (2002). The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Putnam, Hilary (2004). Ethics without Ontology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press