The Jane Collective

June 26, 2012

Feminist Pragmatism


The Jane Collective is a loosely affiliated group of scholars interested in advancing feminist pragmatism in the spirit of the social philosophy of Jane Addams (1860-1935).  Addams has been widely recognized as a social worker, pacifist, and co-founder of the social settlement, Hull House, but not until the late 1990’s did she receive serious consideration for her contribution to philosophy.  The Jane Collective is particularly interested in facilitating reflection on Addams as a social philosopher and this site is dedicated to that purpose. 

The term “feminist pragmatism” reflects the intellectual intersection found in Addams’ work.  Pragmatism is the controversial moniker often applied to American Philosophy.  As first espoused by Charles Sanders Peirce (although without using the term), pragmatism refers to the notion that a proposition is true to the extent that it satisfactorily works.  In his later works he eschewed the term pragmatism in favor of the unwieldy term “pragmaticism.”  William James first used the term, pragmatism, as a call to for philosophers to reject tedious abstractions and turn to concrete experience, and he emphasizes that “concrete personal experiences [are] multitudinous beyond imagination, tangled, muddy, painful and perplexed.”  John Dewey’s pragmatism or instrumentalism explicitly links philosophy to the social life and culture of the time and he explains that the interactions of persons with their environing world provide the basis for challenging the status quo.  Addams was a contemporary of the “classic” American philosophers, but only recently has been recognized for her role in developing the field.  Addams brought feminist sensibilities to pragmatism, emphasizing care and connection while acknowledging multiple, unequally situated, standpoints.

The linked pages provide resources for studying Addams as well as news about the Collective.  The Jane Collective holds an annual luncheon at the national meeting of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy and offers an Addams Prize for the best paper presented in the area of feminist pragmatism.


The Jane Collective

“the identification with the common lot which is the essential idea of Democracy becomes the source and expression of social ethics. It is as though we thirsted to drink at the great wells of human experience, because we knew that a daintier or less potent draught would not carry us to the end of the journey, going forward as we must in the heat and jostle of the crowd.”

--Jane Addams

Democracy and Social Ethics

Note of disambiguation:  This Jane Collective is not associated with the group by the same name that engaged in an underground abortion service in Chicago from 1969 to 1973.

Please direct all inquiries and corrections to  Maurice Hamington.

Last updated 6/11.  Special thanks to Charlene Haddock Seigfried for editing this page!.