Root Metaphor: The Live Thought of Stephen C. Pepper (1980)

For scholars seeking references to the articles published in special issue of Paunch (1980) on the work of Stephen C. Pepper, the pursuit will seem elusive. Fortunately, the editor in chief, Art Efron, put the contents on the open Internet. Although he’s Efron has since retired and the web pages are gone, the content has been preserved on the Internet Archive!

This issue of Paunch is devoted entirely to the philosophy of S.C. Pepper. Eventually all twenty of the essays will be available at this site including the painting by Hiroshige, “The Shono Station.” The essays will be individually listed on this page but can also be accessed through the Table of Contents by clicking on Paunch link at the beginning of this paragraph.

“Work Related to Pepper”, at
Utagawa Hiroshige (1933) Driving Rain at Shono (Station 46) from the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido [described at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and displayed on Flickr as “Shono, 45è station du Tokaido (Musée Guimet / MNAAG, Paris)” by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra as part of a temporary exhibition “Sur la route du Tokaido” in 2019.

The 221-page issue was reviewed in a variety of philosophy journals.

This special edition edition of of Paunch magazine magazine presents essays on Stephen C. Pepper’s theory of root metaphor, developed in in World Hypotheses, and its extensions to aesthetics aesthetics and art criticism. [p. 90] [….]

The order of presentation of these essays generally follows Pepper’s original view, beginning with the general theory of root metaphor in metaphysics, then moving to more special applications in aesthetics. Arthur Efron in a 42-page Introduction indicates that Pepper’s attempt was not to devise a metaphysical theory, but to determine a procedure for testing truth claims, a method for understanding any metaphysical theory. And Pepper clearly saw here no sharp division between philosophy, psychology (especially psychology of visual perception), and physiology. Pepper, Efron claims, “is the only one to argue consistently that actually there are only four or five relatively adequate views” in metaphysics. Relations may be found here, however, with Irwin Edman’s Four Ways of Philosophy, which was published in 1937, the same year as Aesthetic Quality. There is no question that Pepper was in close contact not only with Dewey but with Edman as well—Columbia University’s professor of “Philosophy of Art and Theory of Criticism.” Elmer H. Duncan writes about why he believes “Pepper should be considered one of the greatest philosophers of this century” (p. 64). Of the general commentators on Pepper’s theory of root metaphor, only Charles Hartshorne is seriously negative. [p. 91] [….]

It is clear that the hope of many of these writers is to help rectify the eclipse of Pepper’s metaphysical and aesthetic theory by the domination in recent decades of analytical philosophy. But the suggestion in many places that the significance of Pepper’s thought is to be found in its practical application—not only to art criticism, but to psychology, gerontology, the teaching of humanities, or even to library science (see p. 34) — bypasses the kind of logical argument needed to defend the significance of Pepper’s thought on a philosophical level. The telling criticisms of Hartshorne or Yanal remain unanswered by notes of practical usefulness.

Harrell, Jean G. 1980. Review of Root Metaphor: The Live Thought of Stephen C. Pepper, by Arthur Efron and John Herold. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (1): 90–92., .

Pepper’s work in aesthetics was closely linked to his contributions to value theory and to metaphysics. In value theory he extended the cognitive naturalism of Ralph Barton Perry in conjunction with the purposive behaviorism of Edward Tolman. In 1947 Pepper presented his value theory in compact form in A Digest of Purposive Values, and elaborated it in comprehensive, technical detail in Sources of Value (1958). His textbook, Ethics (1960), offers a social adjustment theory of morality; it contains, in compressed and elementary form, his general theory of value based on the concept of the selective system as the unifying principle. In metaphysics, Pepper’s book, World Hypotheses (1942), is a minor, contemporary classic. Against the anti-metaphysical positivisms of his time, Pepper treated metaphysical theories as world hypotheses, and traced their origin to root metaphors drawn from ordinary experience. He then argued that there are only four adequate world hypotheses – formism, mechanism, organicism, and contextualism; and, further, that these world hypotheses are equally adequate and autonomous. Then in his 1961 Carus lectures, published as as Concept and Quality (1967), Pepper advanced a fifth world hypothesis — selectivism — as his own. [pp. 66-67].

Despite the quantity and quality of his works, Pepper, like so many of his philosophical compatriots, has been neglected by the contemporary American community of professional philosophers. Perhaps the present volume under review will usher in a period of deserved critical appre- ciation of Pepper’s thought, although it is noteworthy that its editors, Arthur Efron and John Herold, are not professional philosophers, but an English professor and a professor of literature and music appreciation respectively. Nonetheless, the volume of essays they have assembled and to which they have ably contributed will reward the attention of philosophers. Arthur Efron introduces the volume with a long essay (pp. 5-53) which provides not only a probing interpretation of Pepper’s thought but also a helpful overview of significant commentary on it, including the contents of the volume under review. For a judicious assessment of Pepper’s continuing value, Efron’s essay is highly recommended. [p. 67]

Reck, Andrew J. 1981. Review of Review of Root Metaphor: The Live Thought of Stephen C. Pepper, by Arthur Efron and John Herold. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 17 (1): 65–69. .

In the poetry collection of the University of Buffalo is a collection of “Paunch Magazine records (Art Efron)” with the note, “This collection has not yet been fully processed”.

Paunch, the journal of literary criticism founded by longtime UB English faculty member Art Efron, endured for 37 years and became a home for radical ideas and different genres.

Efron, who retired from UB in 2005 after more than 40 years on the faculty, will share behind-the-scenes stories of Paunch ….

Wuetcher, Sue. 2016. “Efron to Share Behind-the-Scenes Stories of Paunch.” Research News. UBNow (blog). May 16, 2016. .


#contextualism, #paunch, #stephen-c-pepper