CFP: The Pluralist Special Issue Dedicated to Richard J. Bernstein: Reconsidering Pragmatism as a Living Movement

Submission deadline: May 15, 2024

Topic areas



Special Issue of The Pluralist Dedicated to Richard J. Bernstein:

Reconsidering Pragmatism as a Living Movement    

The Pluralist is calling for papers for a special issue dedicated to philosopher Richard J. Bernstein. We envision this special issue to honor the life and legacy of Bernstein through a continuation of his philosophical spirit and unfinished work.  

In Spring 2022, Bernstein taught American Pragmatism for the last time. In the year leading up to his final semester, Bernstein said something shifted for him in the way he understood pragmatism. He was planning on writing about this shift in his thinking in an essay he would sometimes refer to as “Bernstein on Bernstein” or “Pragmatism Reconsidered.” While he did not have the chance to write the essay he had envisioned, he did articulate his thoughts throughout that final semester.   He wanted to rethink three key distortions which he thought were obscuring more rich engagements with pragmatism.   

First, he was concerned with the tendency towards essentialist definitions of pragmatism which invite the question of who really counts as a pragmatist. While of course there are important themes that have emerged (e.g. anti-foundationalism, fallibilism, a kind of systematic rejection of Cartesianism, the meaning and failures of democracy, etc.) Bernstein felt there were no core set of commitments that one could say “this is what a pragmatist is.”   

The second distortion he was concerned with was a sort of canonization that followed from these essentialist definitions. In understanding the ways in which pragmatism developed, he felt it was important to remember that much of its richness was in fact due to the lack of disciplinary boundaries in American universities at that time, and ongoing conversations with activists and intellectuals outside of academia. In particular, he felt that the canonization of pragmatism excluded the role of women and Black thinkers, and that in these areas we had to rethink what pragmatism was about, who it included, and look toward a deeper understanding of not only their intellectual, but also their social and political interests.   

Finally, he wanted to recall the critical element to pragmatism that he felt Dewey was so sensitive in defending. Dewey thought the Europeans had misinterpreted pragmatism as a glorification of America, rather than what he felt it was—a kind of ultimate critique of America, where critique is based on a kind of understanding.   

To be clear, on Bernstein’s definition, reconsidering pragmatism is not a simple expansion of the canon or an exercise in who should or should not count as a pragmatist. Rather it is something different altogether—to see if we can understand pragmatism not as a cannon at all, but rather as a living, evolving movement. Reconsidering pragmatism should be understood as a renewed pragmatist commitment to challenging disciplinary boundaries, challenging our assumptions, continued learning, growth, and to keep trying to find and create new ways to move forward. 

We invite those who are interested in reconsidering pragmatism along the lines that Bernstein envisioned / articulated to submit essays for consideration to be published in this special issue of The Pluralist.

We are particularly looking for submissions that speak to one (or more) of the following lines of inquiry:   

●Historical essays, reconsidering entrenched narratives to bring in previously overlooked voices, movements, or thinkers from outside of philosophy or academia  

●Contemporary applications or uptake of pragmatic themes by socio-political movements   

●Reconsidering the philosophical implications of understanding pragmatism not as a cannon but as a living, evolving movement   

We also welcome papers that engage directly with any of Bernstein’s works.    

Submission Guidelines   

Essays of 4,000-6,000 words are preferred, although longer papers will be considered.

Please include an abstract of 250-300 words at the top of your submission.   

Email to [email protected].   

Deadline: May 15, 2024 

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)