Cambridge Pragmatism: a Research Workshop

31 May — 1 June, 2012 :: Winstanley Lecture Theatre, Trinity College, Cambridge


Pragmatists approach philosophical problems by enquiring about the practical role of disputed notions — truth, causation, value, or necessity, for example — in human life. Over the past century, many distinguished Cambridge philosophers have been pragmatists in one sense or another. Most famously of all, the remarkable shift in Wittgenstein's views when he returned to Cambridge in 1929 is distinctly pragmatist in nature: it focuses on the many things that we humans do with language. In the same period, many of Frank Ramsey's contributions to topics such as probability, belief, causation and laws have a deeply practical character. Later, it is easy to identify pragmatist strands in von Wright’s views of causation, Anscombe’s writings on indexical thought, Mellor’s work on tense and on success semantics, and Craig’s view of knowledge, to name just four of the more prominent examples. And in this century, to date, Simon Blackburn and Huw Price are self-avowed pragmatists about a range of philosophical topics.
This research workshop aimed to explore this distinctive Cambridge philosophical tradition: its origins in the 1920s in the Cambridge of Bertrand Russell and G E Moore; its common themes; and its links and influences, in both directions, with other prominent figures, movements and schools in international philosophy.

Video and audio recordings

Recordings of talks and discussions at the workshop are available here:


Thursday 31 May



Cheryl Misak (Toronto)
The Origins of Cambridge Pragmatism

1:15—2:45 Dorothy Edgington (Birbeck)
Ramsey and Pragmatism
3:00—4:30 Sami Pihlstrom (Helsinki)
A Pragmatist Perspective on Wittgenstein and von Wright


5:00—6:30 Robert Brandom (Pittsburgh)
From German Idealism to American Pragmatism, and Back


Allhusen Room, Trinity College. [Please note that this dinner is for speakers and invited guests, and participants who paid separately for dinner on registration. Bookings for dinner are now closed.]

Friday 1 June


Michael Williams (Johns Hopkins)

A Pragmatic Approach to Knowledge


11:30—1:00 Chris Hookway (Sheffield)
Pragmatism, Beliefs, and Propositions


2:00—3:30 Simon Blackburn (Cambridge)
Teleology and Justification


4:00—5:30 Huw Price (Cambridge)
'Here' is the Tip of the Iceberg


Organisation and support

The workshop was organised by Fraser MacBride and Huw Price. We gratefully acknowledge financial assistance from the Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme and the Pragmatic Foundations Project at the Centre for Time, University of Sydney. We are also grateful for administrative assistance from CRASSH.

Faculty of Philosophy|University of Cambridge

Updated 23.06.12