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Among its many affordances, Twitter can be a powerful public note taking tool.

At the end of a rich and exhausting conference entitled Thinking the Plural organized to celebrate the work and teaching of Richard J. Bernstein, I used Twitter to focus my attention during his final plenary keynote address on engaged fallibilistic pluralism.

I share these public notes here both for my own future reference and research, and also, of course, to make them accessible to you for your thoughts and comments. Perhaps so doing will afford us an opportunity to put engaged fallibilistic pluralism into practice.

The lecture, which as will be seen, Bernstein characterized as a pep-talk, further expands upon Bernstein’s 1988 APA Presidential Address entitled, “Pragmatism, Pluralism and the Healing of Wounds.”

That text was itself the starting point of my own attempt to articulate an Ethics of Philosophy in a Digital Age. The virtues of engaged fallibilistic pluralism are learned through practice, so perhaps this site can continue to serve as practice field.

Richard J. Bernstein: Engaged Fallibilistic Pluralism


Here Bernstein articulates an inclusive and open vision of engagement. This vision animates our work on the Public Philosophy Journal, and specifically our attempts to create an open peer review ecosystem that will reward community members for, as Bernstein says below, endeavoring to see the position of the other in the best possible light.


The manner in which Bernstein below embraces and emphasizes the need to be public in our fallibilism ought itself to be highlighted. In the 1988 address, he puts it this way: “For it is only by submitting our hypotheses to public critical discussion that we become aware of what is valid in our claims and what fails to withstand critical scrutiny.” 1


In this section, Bernstein returned to James, but he also attempted to root the idea of pluralism in the spirit of the New School itself. Horace Kallen, a founding member of the New School and the first Jew to teach at Princeton, criticized the rhetoric of the melting pot in his 1915 article in the Nation. In short, to talk of a melting pot is not to respect and welcome a plurality of perspectives, but an attempt to establish and reinforce the powerful structures of assimilation.

  1. Bernstein, Richard J. “Pragmatism, Pluralism and the Healing of Wounds.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 63, no. 3 (November 1, 1989): 5–18. doi:10.2307/3130079.

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