Essays in Pragmatism

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Press: Holloway Press (November 4, 2008)
ISBN:9781443721042
Author Name:James, William
Pages:196
Language:English

Content

This antiquarian volume contains Henry James's seminal philosophical treatise, 'Essays in Pragmatism'. 
The ideas outlined within this text underpin James's work, and are key to understanding the mind of this most important of philosophical thinkers.
The volume will be of considerable use to the student of philosophy and those with a keen interest James's work, and it is a veritable must-have for collectors of important philosophical writings.
The chapters of this book include: 'The Sentiment of Rationality', 'The Dilemma of Determinism', 'The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life', 'The Will to Believe', 'Conclusions on Varieties of Religious Experience', 'What Pragmatism Means', 'Pragmatism's Conception of Truth', and more.
William James (1842 – 1910) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and trained physician.
He is hailed as one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced.
We are republishing this book now complete with a specially commissioned biography of the author.

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Politics & Social Sciences,Philosophy,Movements,Pragmatism



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Comment List (Total:4)

  •     Interesting read.
  •     The only notion (hazy at best) I had of Pragmatism was from some recent reviews I'd read ofThe Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, which got me curious about the concept. A few days later, I saw this book in a library book sale, and to be honest, I picked it up mostly due the effect of synchronicity. As a philosophy layman, I have little background to place this collection of James' essays into context, and though I understand that James' views didn't originate in a vacuum, and that Pragmatism itself has underwent sort of a modern revival in the past thirty years or so, I can only speak to the worth I found in this single volume. How James expanded on other's work, or in what regard modern thinkers hold him, I don't know, though through some online research, it appears that his ideas are still a springboard for a variety of Neo-pragmatists and Neo-Classical Pragmatists.Of the seven essays collected here (arranged chronologically), only the last two deal with Pragmatism by name, though all treat their subjects consistently with the idea that, "in the last analysis, philosophical beliefs - answers to ultimate questions - must square with the facts of human nature" (from the introduction by Alburey Castell, pg xiii). This idea of human nature as the arbiter of truth casts James as a solid humanist, which is what F.C.S. Schiller urged him to call his philosophy (again, from Castell's introduction), but James was already set on Pragmatism, presumably because of its association with practicality.James begins his arguments in 'The Sentiment of Rationality', where he posits that no philosophy, no matter how abstractly admirable, can ever hope to survive unless it meets the theoretical and practical 'needs' of the thinking man. In 'The Dilemma of Determinism', he discusses the arguments for free will and predestination, and in 'The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life', he addresses the sticky wickets created by accepting the idea of free will. 'The Will to Believe' is James' defense of man's right to believe in the infinite, and 'Conclusions on Varieties of Religious Experiences' expounds on this idea further, and includes a bit of James' personal belief on the matter. Lastly, 'What Pragmatism Means', and 'Pragmatism's Conception of Truth' are both explanations and defenses of the pragmatic method.This was a challenging book for me. James' turn of the century writing style had much to do with it, as did my inexperience with this type of inquiry. I found myself retrenching often, flipping back several pages at a time to reacquire the threads of the discussion, and often even resorting to reading out loud, to help decipher meaning through the rhythm of the words (surprisingly or not, this worked well for me through some of James' more archaic sentence structures). Regardless, I kept at it until I felt I grasped his point, which, in the end, I felt was not nearly as cognitively difficult to appreciate as was deciphering his delivery.Essentially, Pragmatism is a method, one that hopes to leapfrog over the roadblocks caused by metaphysics and by mutually exclusive ideas of truth that still satisfy the 'sentiments of rationality'. What would be the practical difference in our lives if we held to be true one or the other of these competing ideas? If none, then the argument is a waste of time. However, if one idea did have this difference, then the truth of the idea would be revealed during its application - as we verified it. Thus, there are no abstract Truths handed down from the ether - a truth 'happens' as we verify it. Truth is always in a state of 'becoming'.Regardless of what use Pragmatism has been put to since James' formulation, whether in sociology, jurisprudence, business practice or ethical considerations, the important thing for me to consider is that James' application of the Pragmatic method was confined to the cognitive, and for settling metaphysical debates. It may have seemed natural to transition from the theoretical to the material, but personally, I think there is a possibility for dangerous short-sightedness inherent in that process. Whether I'm right or wrong, intuitively, it does not seem a great leap to think of this uniquely American philosophy, formulated in the early years of the twentieth century, as one of the ingredients necessary to create what is popularly believed to be the American Century.One last irrelevancy: On the title page of this used copy was the following inscription. To Pete L. - In hopes that when reading this, you will achieve utter de-fascination. - G. Wondering about this 'found text' and the anonymous individuals it concerns gave me almost as much to think about as the essays themselves.
  •     I am about to teach, once again, a course in religion and psychology -- since I have degrees in both. I want to avoid reading, once more, the many extreme Christian examples of religious experience in William James'sThe Varieties of Religious Experience. Through various recent experiences, and teaching experiences, I know that the book is widely misunderstood, or parts are taken out of context.Looking over my bookshelves, I came across a very old copy of this book, _Essays in Pragmatism_. The introduction covers many of the points needed to explain the history and background of the extraordinary contribution of William James. As his relatively unsung contemporaries in the systematic examination of religion, I will add William E.B. DuBoisThe Souls of Black Folk (Enriched Classics Series)and Evelyn UnderhillPractical Mysticism. Sigmund Freud is also roughly a contemporary of William James, and there may have been a reference to Freud'sThe Interpretation of Dreamsin William James's _Varieties_. What is useful in Freud, though, is covered in hisFive Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, where he details the Freudian defense mechanisms.This book has a nice balance of essays. I think the most important to the topic of religion and psychology is "The Will to Believe." Then, rather than do all of Varieties we will concentrate on understanding the last two chapters of it, which are included here. Most young readers of Varieties seem to get swept away by the early chapters, which validate religious experiences they have had, or have wondered about. In contrast, James's point came at the ending of his book, and involves the ability to rationally examine cases chosen precisely because they were extreme, not because they were Christian.Essays in Pragmatism contains in one book two important elements that help delineate James and his thought; the separate "Essay on Pragmatism" comes as a bonus for those who think they know what pragmatism means.In short, this book serves as a good introduction to William James's thought, to his way of looking at religion, and to his philosophy of pragmatism.
  •     Almost there...or was it my melancholic prof?James is an intellectual but the prof did some serious injustice to him. Too bad
 

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