Milton among the pragmatists

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Appropriating Milton as an exponent of a distinctively American way of thinking has become something of an American tradition. Milton has been invoked in religion, politics, and most recently in philosophy, specifically as an advocate of American pragmatism and its postmodern descendant, the neo-pragmatism routinely associated with Stanley Fish in the 1980s and 1990s. For Fish, the appeal of pragmatism lies in the intellectual freedom afforded by its anti-essentialist implications. The problem is, however, that in his endless appetite for indeterminacy, Fish tends to de-historicize Milton's logocentrism and do violence to his belief in an objective, knowable truth. Ironically, a clear understanding of Milton's historical otherness makes it possible to turn the tables and articulate serious doubts about the disinterestedness of pragmatism and the achievements of American liberalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)923-939
Number of pages17
JournalUniversity of Toronto Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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