By Meg Holden
Frank Cunningham’s new collection of essays, Ideas in Context, offers insights and anecdotes from a life of Canadian ideas that is lively and compelling, despite the author’s winningly sincere but unjustified emphasis on the modesty of his contributions. While Frank himself does not claim to be a pragmatist in his political and philosophical ideas, he clearly leans this way, and here, I offer my comments on two of the essays in the book, “The global public and its problems” and “Urban philosophy: a pragmatic perspective,” as new fodder for pragmatic discourse from the city to the global scale. In so doing, I consider what we mean by the idea of the public and how the public is created through self-consciousness, shared values, a commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the creation of appropriate institutions. I illuminate these themes by considering an urban dispute, in Vancouver Canada, over the siting of public schools for children in two expensive inner-city neighbourhoods. In the conclusions, I ask how this discussion illuminates broader themes about the pragmatist commitment to thought and action, as inseparable activities that move philosophy from metaphysics to practical political questions for here, now and for future generations.