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Beyond (Post)Positivism: The Missed Promises of Systemic Pragmatism


  • I would like to thank International Studies Quarterly’s editors and reviewers for their thoughtful suggestions, as well as Stefano Guzzini for encouraging me to present my interpretation of Kaplan’s work, and for his helpful comments. I am, above all, grateful to Mort Kaplan himself, who has accepted, with great enthusiasm and patience, to engage in a dialogue with me since April 2008. The reconstruction of Systemic Pragmatism I offer here owes much to our discussions, to Kaplan’s intellectual generosity, and to his willingness to discuss his work through different lenses and engage my perspective on his oeuvre. Some of these discussions were held in Chicago in November 2008; I am grateful to the Center for American Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut for facilitating that trip.


Hamati-Ataya, Inanna. (2012) Beyond (Post)Positivism: The Missed Promises of Systemic Pragmatism. International Studies Quarterly, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00710.x
© 2012 International Studies Association

This paper explores Pragmatism’s potential for transcending the antagonism between positivism and post-positivism, through the work of Morton Kaplan, who combines a Pragmatist theory of knowledge with a systems theory of world politics. A reconstruction of Kaplan’s synoptic philosophy shows how Pragmatism can help us move beyond the dual fallacy of truth as correspondence and truth as self-consciousness, to a non-foundationalist epistemology that acknowledges the historicity of knowing without annihilating the realism of the common world we live in. Moving from the realm of knowledge to the realm of judgment, this paper also reconstructs Kaplan’s moral analysis, thereby revealing its significance for the discipline’s renewed concern for the problems of values and reflexivity.