In Search of the Mundane: What Pragmatism Means

05.01.10

In Search of the Mundane: What Pragmatism Means
Tuesday, May 4th, 7-9:00PM
threewalls
119 N Peoria St. #2D

In Search of the Mundane seeks to extend a conversation began during an exhibition of the same name held at threewalls in 2009 and co-organized by Randall Szott and InCUBATE. It will manifest as a series of monthly events focused on the arts of living. We started this project from discussions about the philosophical tradition of Pragmatism and its potential as a tool for better understanding the everyday world of institutions and infrastructures. We view Pragmatism as a means to experiment with how these institutions and infrastructures could change in conceivable ways to better suit the needs of people who inhabit them. InCUBATE has a kinship to the notion of experience as revelation and the refusal to admit a distinction between “doing” and “thinking,” between theory and practice. Therefore, this event series is meant as a way to link the Pragmatist belief that knowledge is a social process built upon experiments in everyday life with the practical experiences we and others have in making our creative projects happen both inside and outside the pre-existing infrastructures for art and culture.

The first event will serve as the initial convening of the Pragmatist Reading Group. InCUBATE will introduce the motivations behind their interest in Pragmatism and moderate a discussion informed by two selected readings: Jane Addams’ from “A Function of the Social Settlement” (1899) and William James’ “What Pragmatism Means” (1907). Anyone is free to participate in the discussion. To receive digital copies of the reading, please email bryce@incubate-chicago.org

James’ essay, first delivered as a lecture in Boston in 1906, is an attempt by one of Pragmatism’s founders to clearly explain to the philosophy to group of laypeople. James begins with an anecdote about solving a dispute among a group of campers arguing about a man chasing a squirrel around a tree. He continues on to position Pragmatism relative to other philosophies and defend its conception of “truth” from detractors.

Addams’ essay attempts to define the mission of the social settlement as something distinct from schooling or philanthropy. Instead, Addams views it as a democratic institution functioning in accord with the ideals of Pragmatism and operative at the level of actual lives.

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