chapter  3
18 Pages

How to know the future – and the past (and how not)

A pragmatist perspective on foresight and hindsight 1
WithGunther Hellmann

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This chapter examines the similarity of forward-looking and backward-looking ways of sense-making of social action based on a broadly conceived pragmatist tradition. It discusses how ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions are often separated in ‘positivist’ or ‘realist’ social science in ways which are neither helpful for ‘theory-based’ backward-looking ‘explanation’ (hindsight) nor helpful for structurally analogous forward-looking ‘prediction’ (foresight), not to mention the ‘constitutive’ hanging-together of concepts and facts. It grounds these understandings of backward-looking and forward-looking ways of sense-making in the classical pragmatist doctrine of the primacy of practice and in an anti-representationalist perspective on knowledge production influenced by the ‘linguistic turn’. Moreover, it elaborates on what it practically means to engage in narration about the past and future along these lines and how this differs from alternative ‘epistemological’ or ‘ontological’ understandings emphasizing a strong distinction between ‘mind’ and/or ‘consciousness’ on the one hand and ‘world’ on the other. It finally argues that the emphasis on the possibilitarian nature of an open past and an open future suggests that we should take into account how an anti-representationalist view of sense-making impinges on the difference between different forms of projection and imagination and why the latter should be more appreciated.