Manifesto Of A Passionate Moderate Unfashionable Essays

Susan Haack (born 1945) is Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Cooper Senior Scholar in Arts and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Law at the University of Miami. She has written on logic, the philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics. Her pragmatism follows that of Charles Sanders Peirce.


Haack is a graduate of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge (B.A., M.A., B.Phil, Oxford; Ph.D., Cambridge). She was elected into Phi Beta Kappa as an honorary member. At Oxford, she studied at St. Hilda's College, where her first philosophy teacher was Jean Austin, the widow of J. L. Austin. As an undergraduate, she took Politics, Philosophy and Economics and said of her taste for philosophy: "initially, the 'politics' part that most appealed to me. But somewhere down the line, despite encouragement from my politics tutor to pursue that subject, philosophy took over."[1]

She studied Plato with Gilbert Ryle and logic with Michael Dummett. David Pears supervised her B.Phil. dissertation on ambiguity. At Cambridge, she wrote her PhD under the supervision of Timothy Smiley. She held the positions of Fellow of New Hall, Cambridge and professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick before taking her current position at the University of Miami.

Haack has said of her career that she is "very independent":

rather than follow philosophical fads and fashions, I pursue questions I believe are important, and tackle them in the ways that seem most likely to yield results; I am beholden to no clique or citation cartel; I put no stock in the ranking of philosophy graduate programs over which my colleagues obsess; I accept no research or travel funds from my university; I avoid publishing in journals that insist on taking all the rights to my work; etc., etc. Naturally, this independence comes at a price; but it also earns me the freedom to do the best work I can, without self-censorship, and to communicate with a much wider audience than the usual "niche literature" does[1]


Haack's major contribution to philosophy, in the 1993 book Evidence and Inquiry is her epistemological theory called foundherentism,[2][3][4] which is her attempt to avoid the logical problems of both pure foundationalism (which is susceptible to infinite regress) and pure coherentism (which is susceptible to circularity). She illustrates this idea with the metaphor of the crossword puzzle. A highly simplified version of this proceeds as follows: Finding an answer using a clue is analogous to a foundational source (grounded in empirical evidence). Making sure that the interlocking words are mutually sensible is analogous to justification through coherence. Both are necessary components in the justification of knowledge. At least one scholar has claimed that Haack's foundherentism collapses into foundationalism upon further inspection.[5]

Haack has been a fierce critic of Richard Rorty.[6][7] She wrote a play, We Pragmatists ...: Peirce and Rorty in Conversation, consisting entirely of quotes from both philosophers. She performed the role of Peirce. Haack published a vigorous essay[8] in the New Criterion, taking strong exception to many of Rorty's views, especially his claim to be a sort of pragmatist.

In Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate, Haack is highly critical of the view that there is a specifically female perspective on logic and scientific truth and is critical of feminist epistemology. She holds that many feminist critiques of science and philosophy are excessively concerned with political correctness.[9][10]

Haack describes her 2003 book Defending Science – Within Reason: Between Scientism and Cynicism, as a defence of scientific inquiry from the moderate viewpoint. During an interview with D.J. Grothe, then of the Center for Inquiry, Haack put forward the proposition that those on the far left consider science to be rhetoric motivated by power or politics, then proceeds to show how science can, and often does provide real benefits and gains, regardless of what the left may claim. Conversely, Haack argues the book is an attempt to make a sounder and solider defence of inquiry in light of some philosophers of science narrow logical models of rationality. Haack's opinion on the topic of inquiry, whoever may be undertaking it, is that good evidence, sound methods, transparent review and fitting new discovery into the collective sphere of human knowledge are signs of robust inquiry. Haack claims that quality inquiry can be done by many, however the scientific community has numerous tools or helps that have brought many benefits to mankind, and which help foster science's credibility. These tools and helps may not be available to those engaged in individual inquiry. When asked about how she responds to paranormal or supernatural claims, Haack indicates supporters of such claims have a heavy burden of proof. Rather than labelling such claims as pseudo-science, she admits these things can be "pretty bad stuff" and if they are to be considered seriously, they would need extraordinary evidence, and that such evidence should fit with the best warranted scientific theory about how things are. In this interview Haack also responds to the question of religion's compatibility with science. She agrees there is great tension between the two. While stating her disagreement with British philosopher of religion Richard G. Swinburne and Stephen Jay Gould, she referred to the pertinent chapter of her book for a comprehensive understanding of her views on this matter.[11]

In the related chapter ten of Defending Science, Haack disagrees with Gould's claim that science and religion have their own distinct domains that do not overlap. (See NOMA). Haack also disagrees with Swinburne. Haack believes that while scientists, historians and detectives play a useful role in scientific inquiry, theologians do not. Haack shows how religion and science make claims about how the world is. She shows how science and religion also make assertions as to what could lead to a better human condition. By these statements, Haack shows that religion and science do not enjoy their own separate space. She points out areas where prior and current religious claims about the natural universe are strongly refuted by the best warranted findings of science. She also stipulates that controversy and unanswered questions abound in modern science. She summarises her defence for scientific inquiry by stating that she makes no apology for reserving her "greatest admiration for those who delight to exercise the mind, no matter which way it takes them…those for whom doing their damnedest with the mind, no holds barred, is a point of honor".[12]

She has written for Free Inquiry magazine and the Council for Secular Humanism. Haack's work has been reviewed and cited in the popular press, such as The Times Literary Supplement as well as in academic journals.


Haack is an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa Society and Phi Kappa Phi, a past President of the Charles S. Peirce Society,[13] and a past member of the US/UK Educational Commission.

Selected writings[edit]

  • Deviant Logic. Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • Haack, Susan; Kolenda, Konstantin (1977). "Two Fallibilists in Search of the Truth". Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. 51 (Supplementary Volumes): 63–104. JSTOR 4106816.  (Charles Sanders Peirce and Karl Popper have strikingly similar views on the propensity theory of probability and philosophy of science.)
  • Philosophy of Logics. Cambridge University Press, 1978.
  • Evidence and Inquiry. Blackwell, 1993.
  • Deviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic: Beyond the Formalism. The University of Chicago Press, 1996. (Extends the 1974 Deviant Logic, with some additional essays published between 1973 and 1980, particularly on fuzzy logic, cf The Philosophical Review, 107:3, 468–471 [1])
  • "Vulgar Rortyism," The New Criterion 16, 1997.
  • Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays. The University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  • Defending Science – Within Reason: Between Scientism and Cynicism. Prometheus Books, 2003. ISBN 1-59102-117-0.
  • "Trial and Error: The Supreme Court's Philosophy of Science". American Journal of Public Health, 2005.
  • Pragmatism, Old and New (Robert Lane, associate editor). Prometheus Books, 2006.
  • Putting Philosophy to Work: Inquiry and Its Place in Culture. Prometheus Books, 2008.
  • Evidence Matters: Science, Proof and Truth in the Law. Cambridge University Press, 2014.


  1. ^ ab"Interview with Susan Haack". Richard Carrier Blogs. 6 May 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  2. ^Aune, B. (1996). "Haack's Evidence and Inquiry". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 56 (3): 627–632. doi:10.2307/2108389. 
  3. ^Flage, D. E. (1995). "Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology". The Review of Metaphysics. 49 (1): 136–138. doi:10.2307/20129822. 
  4. ^Fumerton, R. (1998). "Evidence and Enquiry". The Philosophical Quarterly. 48 (192): 409–412. doi:10.2307/2660334. 
  5. ^Tramel, P. (2007). "Haack's foundherentism is a foundationalism". Synthese. 160 (2): 215–228. doi:10.1007/s11229-006-9108-y. 
  6. ^Haack, Susan (1993). "Ch. 9: Vulgar Pragmatism: an Unedifying Prospect". Evidence and Inquiry. Oxford UK: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-11851-9. 
  7. ^Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Richard Rorty". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 
  8. ^Haack, Susan (November 1997). "Vulgar Rortyism". The New Criterion. 
  9. ^Haack, Susan (2000) [1998]. Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31137-1. 
  10. ^Lynn Hankinson Nelson (1995). "The Very Idea of Feminist Epistemology". Hypatia. 10 (3): 31–49. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.1995.tb00736.x. JSTOR 3810236. 
  11. ^Susan, Haack. "Interview with D.J Groeth". Center for Inquiry. 
  12. ^Haack, Susan (2003). Defending Science – Within Reason: between Scientisim and Cynicism. Chapter 10 "And, In Conclusion": Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-59102-117-0. 
  13. ^"The Charles S. Peirce Society". 


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Book Review

Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays

Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays, by Susan Haack; x & 223 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, $22.50 cloth, $13.00 paper.

In her Evidence and Inquiry (1993), Susan Haack presented a substantial new account of empirical knowledge and how it grows in the sciences and elsewhere. This account is designed to avoid the pitfalls of the two standard types of epistemological theories, foundationalism and coherentism, by combining features of both. Granted that the label Haack has chosen for her theory, "foundherentism," may be the pug-ugliest philosophical coinage of recent years, it does have the virtue of transparency, situating her account along a spectrum of familiar theories. The emblem that she has chosen for her approach, by contrast, is altogether striking and memorable: Haack compares the systematic pursuit of inquiry to doing a crossword puzzle. While each solution that you come up with for a row is a guess, based on the clue provided (this being the foundational component of the model), what enables you to check these guesses is their mutual fit in the interlocking pattern of the puzzle (the coherence component).

While Evidence and Inquiry was largely a constructive theoretical study addressed to philosophers of science and other specialists, Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate consists mainly of polemical essays (all written since 1993) concerning topics in philosophy but directed at very wide audience in the humanities. The earlier book did contain a polemical chapter ("Vulgar Pragmatism: An Unedifying Prospect"), which seems in retrospect like the seed from which much in her new book sprang. Haack's targets in this chapter were Steven Stich and (especially) Richard Rorty. Stich's approach to philosophy is scientistic, abounding in evolutionary and functionalist lingo, while Rorty's draws heavily on the humanities and literature. But for Haack the common upshot of their work is more important than the stylistic differences: namely, a [End Page 239] rejection of notions like objective truth and rational standards of inquiry--or rather an outright dismissal of them as philosophically naive, once viewed from the vantage point of a truly sophisticated way of thinking. In refusing to have any truck with either position, Haack strikes a line strongly reminiscent of the one taken by Hilary Putnam in Renewing Philosophy (1992), in which, however, the Scylla of scientistic reductionism (represented there by Jerry Fodor, among others) got far more critical attention than the Charybdis of literary-humanistic reductionism (Rorty again). Haack shares with Putnam a fundamental commitment to the indispensability of notions such as truth and rationality, which are essentially the concern of philosophy and which cannot be eliminated by invoking some type of naturalism, or some type of historicism--regardless of how popular such tendencies may be.

The kind of inquiry analyzed in Evidence and Inquiry is, of course, the serious kind. Haack recognizes two alternatives, discussed at various points in Manifesto. One way in which inquiry can fail of seriousness is when the outcome is determined in advance: C. S. Peirce labeled this "sham reasoning," and Haack adopts the locution, going on to coin a parallel term, "fake reasoning," to label another kind of pseudo-inquiry, where the real aim is self-aggrandizement, and the truth-value of the proposition supposedly under consideration is a matter of indifference. As Haack points out, the latter "is not uncommon in some areas of contemporary academic life, [when] a clever defense of a startlingly false or impressively obscure idea can be a good route to reputation and advancement" (p. 9). Though I foresee that this will be one of those distinctions impossible to keep straight, it is a useful one: right off the bat, it enables me to distinguish what is wrong with the work of Stanley Fish (fake reasoning) from what is wrong with that of J. Hillis Miller (sham reasoning).

In reading Manifesto, I had to remind myself constantly that Haack is writing about things going on in philosophy departments rather than literary ones, since much of...

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