Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Auxier, Randall


The dissertation takes as its central problem the priority and value of nonviolent and pragmatic social epistemology. Many concede the desirability of nonviolent problem solving, but quickly and unreflectively assent to violence when the imagination fails to procure viable alternatives. Moreover, the kind and quality of knowledge gained through the use of nonviolence, it is argued, is far superior to the kind and quality of knowledge gained through the use of violence. This dissertation attempts to settle the discussion of the priority and value of nonviolence as a social epistemology by arguing for, and ultimately proving with the use of rationale and empirical evidence, that pragmatic nonviolence has more social-epistemological and/or value as knowledge than the available violent alternatives. Neither modern nor post-modern violence are able to produce knowledge with quite the same staying power, lasting effects, and high quality than that which is generated through what I call "pragmatic nonviolence." Traditionally, for a variety of biased reasons, classical American pragmatism has not taken a stand for either philosophical or methodological nonviolence. This unfortunate situation will, I hope, change with the argument in this dissertation. The issue of whether or not the social-epistemological value of pragmatic nonviolence, as a philosophical movement, has the potential to steer the course of contemporary social, political, and moral pragmatism into the 21st century, has largely been settled. The discussion and analysis offered in chapter one focuses primarily on the logic of domination, violent knowing, and violent realism. Historical context is provided to situate the central problems, compare sources of knowledge, and explore the relationship between violence and knowledge. The views of Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, The United States Military Academy, Wendy Hamblet, Crispin Sartwell, Judith Bradford, and Aaron Fortune receive primary attention in chapter one. Chapter two focuses primarily on the development of a radically empirical social epistemology and theory of concept formation. I examine the roots of social epistemology and describe the problem of learning theory and concept formation through notions of habit, conduct, and struggle. The views of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Leonard Harris receive attention in this section of chapter two. I conclude this chapter by outlining concepts of peace and social justice as they demonstrate how social knowledge is created pragmatically. The views of Martin Luther King, Jr., Duane Cady, and Steven Lee receive attention in the latter section of chapter two. The analysis offered in chapter three centers on what I claim generates better knowledge: pragmatic nonviolence. The first section of chapter three describes the kind of normative epistemology I advocate and how pragmatic nonviolence offers qualitatively better knowledge than the alternatives. The views of C.S. Peirce, John Dewey, and Edgar Sheffield Brightman are considered in this section. The second section details the extent and value of uniting pragmatism and nonviolence, the need for a distinctly pragmatic conception of nonviolence, prophetic pragmatism, and American personalism. The views of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cornel West, and Randall Auxier are treated in this part. The third and fourth sections of chapter three applies the theories advanced in previous sections and chapters to demonstrate how pragmatic nonviolence generates better knowledge. The views of Myles Horton and Bob Moses are considered at length.




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