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It traces Emerson's philosophical legacy through the 19th and 20th centuries to discover how Emersonian thought continues to inform issues of race, aesthetics, and poetic discourse. Emerson's pragmatism derives from his abolitionism, Michael Magee argues, and any pragmatic thought that aspires toward democracy cannot ignore and must reckon with its racial roots. Magee looks at the ties between pragmatism and African-American culture as they manifest themselves in key texts and movements, such as William Carlos Williams's poetry; Ralph Ellison's discourse in Invisible Man and Juneteenth and his essays on jazz; the poetic works of Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, and Frank O'Hara; as well as the "new jazz" being forged at clubs like The Five Spot in New York.

Ultimately, Magee calls into question traditional maps of pragmatist lineage and ties pragmatism to the avant-garde American tradition. Customer Reviews Average Review. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Usually ships within 6 days. Overview A daring and innovative study that rewrites the story of American pragmatism. Product Details About the Author.

Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. Guitar Educational. Expand your guitar knowledge with the Guitar Lesson Goldmine series! Featuring individual Featuring individual modules covering a giant array of topics, each lesson in this Jazz volume includes detailed instruction with playing examples presented in standard notation and tablature. View Product. A First Book of Jazz: 21 Arrangements for.

Accessible to novices of all ages, these 21 easy-to-play melodies for the piano include George Berklee Guide. But the appeal to experience is not limited to the differential perspective of the theoretical inquirer Smith ; indeed, it is present in every domain of human engagement. For example, the novice reader might greatly benefit from an experienced one.

But the dominant traditions of Western philosophy are, in effect, so many betrayals of experience, most of all because they assume that, in order for us to comport ourselves responsibly, we must have resources and criteria beyond anything experience could provide. Experience is judged to be, even by Kant and Hegel, not sufficient unto itself. Though Kant and indeed all of the rationalists concede that appeals to experience are in some instances necessary, they are far from sufficient: a transcendental or dialectical or some other form of reason alone can make up for the inherent deficiencies of our finite experience.

The need to go beyond experience indeed seems to many thinkers to be an exigency rooted in experience itself. But the classical pragmatists in their way and Cavell in his suggest that the need is rather to turn toward experience in a more painstaking, courageous, and imaginative manner than philosophers have yet done.


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They do not presume that a trans-experiential reason is required; rather they contend that the cultivated capacities of the human animal are sufficient for drawing from experience what such an animal needs to act responsibly and, indeed, to live wisely. Day That is, we need simultaneously to consult and interrogate our own experience, to fall back upon it and to turn it upon itself. This experiential task is itself a prefiguration of extemporaneous creativity. Consequently, in exploring the contours of this task, we will be foreshadowing the exploration of jazz improvisations as an arresting instance of what a reflective engagement with human experience demands.

Experience is, among other things, a name for what equips the human animal to meet effectively the promptings, pressures, and propulsions of this intimately imminent future see, e. The appeal to experience in its rudimentary form is not a formal, articulated appeal; it is rather a spontaneous, situated response, for when agents respond in this manner they are drawing upon or going on 10 their experience. Even so, the philosophical attempts to accredit the appeal to experience, especially those of the classical pragmatists and Stanley Cavell, help us to understand what is entailed — and indeed entangled — in its most rudimentary form.

It is, indeed, an intentional one. But there is value in caricaturing James in this manner. For it underscores the difficulties inherent in any appeal to experience. A reliable timetable is, of course, the result of a painstaking distillation of controlled observation. Such a symbolic chart is at once the reflective distillation from, and a valuable instrument for, ascertaining practical opportunities concerning say railroad travel. In a sense, the experience of any mature person is to some extent always already codified. So, the necessity of such an appeal cannot be gainsaid, at least by those of us who take experimental science seriously, also by those who consider personal experience uniquely valuable.

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The very possibility of such an appeal is, however, deeply problematic. If human experience is what traditional philosophy has claimed, it cannot bear the weight or fulfill the functions placed upon it. The recovery of experience must, at least in part, be a reconstruction of our understanding of experience such that experience can bear, for example, the weight of experimental evidence, as this expression is used by the scientific inquirer, or that of personal testimony, as this is understood in a historical situation.

Even so, it cannot be merely a reconstruction of our understanding of experience, for it must be both a creative appropriation and an ongoing transformation of our actual experience Colapietro In other words, it must be an enhancement of experience itself, an enhancement due above all else to the cumulative effects of making our experience, at once, more our own and more trust- worthy. The appeal to experience is something we do ; and that to which we appeal is, in some manner and measure, called into being as the result of our appeals.

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Experience is, in its immediacy, so inchoate and unfocused as not to be recognizable by us as experience i. This however should not be interpreted as an example of radical constructivism; rather it should be seen as an implication of pragmatic intelligence. Selective attention is inevitably woven into a fabric involving potentially debilitating inattention Hagberg The infant becomes a speaker by being addressed by others as one as someone whose babblings are already to some extent utterances.

Analogously, experience becomes something to which we can reliably appeal by being that to which appeals are made. Experience as a court of appeal is constituted as such by the conscientious efforts of deliberative agents. In stressing this point, however, I do not intend to privilege unduly the juridical metaphor, especially since my intention is to move away from Kant, not to reinforce his authority.

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Other metaphors are indeed needed to highlight other facets of experience. I might appeal to a friend for reassurance or to a lover for affirmation of my singularity. On this occasion, however, I want to focus most of all on the deeply personal dimension of human experience, without thereby neglecting the inevitably communal dimension. The experienced person is, accordingly, a practical not a rhetorical or theoretical skeptic, that is, a skeptic in the etymological rather than the textbook sense. Above all else, then, the disposition not only to pose questions but also to be open to questioning all facets of our questions themselves defines the skeptic in this sense.

Etymologically, the skeptic is the inquirer and, perforce, the questioner — one who is alive to the force, implications, and salience of questions ordinarily left unasked. We must interrogate the motives and ideals animating as well as the protocols and indeed spirit structuring our forms of interrogation. Skeptical reflexivity of course returns, time and again, to the interminable task of reflexive interrogation: put quite simply, the task of calling ourselves into question. Part of the goal of this essay is, however, to suggest that self-interrogation and self-trust are of a piece Emerson; Day.

The distrust implicit in the very act of questioning turns out to be an expression of trust or faith in our experience as a self-corrective and self-transcendent process. We cannot help but fall back on our own experience.

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For experience is not only that with which we have been entrusted; 12 it is also that in which we are forced to put our trust. It is, in the end that is, in the meantime , what we willy-nilly go on , especially in our efforts to go on see, e. As it presently stands, however, it is not yet entirely trustworthy.


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Making our experience trustworthy can only begin, in earnest, by entrusting ourselves to our experience again, Day. These inevitable dangers are, for the most part, disguised characters, some of them being indeed seductive figures whose alluring power might have far more destructive sources than even these seducers realize. It is likely that they have misled themselves. In other words, the forms of seduction almost certainly involve, for the seducer no less than the seduced, a subjection to a series of illusions.

Those who are seduced by his critique of reason, a project inescapably encompassing a critique of experience, are, therefore, blocked from their own experience, in subtle, frequently imperceptible, but ultimately destructive ways. But so too is Kant himself. As tempting as it is to see either the pragmatic or the perfectionist appeal to human experience as a transformation of the transcendental approach, it is better to resist than to succumb to this temptation.

Such, at least, is what I hope to show next. A critique of experience is unavoidable. It not only invites but also demands interrogation. Our experience proves itself trustworthy by being subjected to relentless critique, incessant interrogation, innumerable queries As Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and indeed others have stressed, such critique is always an exercise of courage. As it stands at any actual moment of either our personal lives or collective histories, however, our experience is not entirely trustworthy, even in those instances cf.

Day , or in those contexts, when it has undergone dramatic trans- formation as a result of our conscientious critiques. It more often than not needs to be rendered more trustworthy. Our opposition to the allegedly Humean dissolution of human experience into an arbitrary conjunction of sensory impressions need not drive us to a transcendental critique of human rationality, even though familiarity with the details of such a critique, especially as developed by such a philosophical genius as Kant, can be immensely suggestive for how other forms of critique including ones breaking decisively with the tenacious tradition of transcendental philosophy are to be carried out.

Emancipating Pragmatism

So, the critique of experience is to repeat inescapable, whereas the form of that critique is debatable. On this occasion, I want more than anything else to suggest that this form might be something more deeply akin to the one we encounter in the writings of Stanley Cavell than the form we see exemplified in the texts of Kant. But it is not simply or even primarily a variant of the form we encounter in Kant. Our experience is precarious because we are typically careless but of even greater pertinence we are, all too often, cowardly. To use a wonderful expression employed by William Ernest Hocking, we have to have the courage of our experience.

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Put otherwise, the coin by which our experience is purchased is courage: our experience is not ours lest there is, especially at critical junctures [crisis], a courageous refusal to cede our personal experience to various authorities Cavell To be thr own back on our experience is, in effect, to be thrown back on self-trust. But what makes this especially problematic and disconcerting is that, at just those times when we are thrown back on self-trust, we are ordinarily least confident about the trustworthiness of our experience.

Practically, this means that we are least confident of our mastery of an aspect of a practice especially relevant to the execution of a task, in the here and now, frequently a task thrust upon us not infrequently, an inescapable task. In a word, we are least confident about ourselves. Do we possess what the moment demands of us, what the situation asks so urgently of us? Trust in the self helps create the self. More fully, trust in the self helps create not only the self hence, a self worthy of being trusted but also a depth of experience itself worthy of our trust.

Of course, such a trustworthy self and such trustworthy experience are not in the least separable. In the end, they are identical.