|Reading for Philosophical Inquiry: A Brief Introduction to Philosophical Thinking ver. 0.21; An Open Source Reader|
William James, NIH
About the author…
William James (1842-1910) is perhaps the most widely known of the founders of pragmatism. Historically, his Principles of Psychology was the first unification of psychology as a philosophical science. As a teacher of philosophy, he was a colleague of both Josiah Royce and George Santayana. Once Royce was asked to substitute teach for James in James' Harvard philosophy class which, at the time, happened to be studying Royce's text. Supposedly, as Royce picked up James' copy of his text in the lecture hall, he hesitated briefly, and then noted to the class that James had written in the margin of the day's reading, " Damn fool!"
About the work…
In James' view, what are three stages in the normal development of a theory? Can you think of examples of theory-development in accordance with this paradigm?
Explain James' critique of the correspondence theory of truth. Is his characterization of the correspondence theory an oversimplification?
How does James define a true idea? Does his characterization clearly distinguish a true idea from a false idea?
Explain James' thesis concerning the pragmatic theory of truth. What do the words "verification" and "validation" themselves pragmatically mean?
James writes that "our ideas 'agree' with reality." How does this description differ from the suggestion that true ideas correspond with facts?
Discuss whether or not there is any difference between the true and the useful for James. How is the verification process related to this interpretation of truth?
According to James, what are the main objections of rationalism to pragmatism? How does James answer these objections?
Compare the notions of the true, the right, and the good as described by James at the end of this reading selection.
William James. Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. New York: Longman Green and Co., 1907.