Pragmatism, a New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking ; The Meaning of Truth, a Sequel to Pragmatism

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Harvard University Press, 1978 - Philosophy - 369 pages
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"Pragmatism" is the most famous single work of American philosophy. Its sequel, "The Meaning of Truth," is its imperative and inevitable companion. The definitive texts of both works are here available for the first time in one volume, with an introduction by the distinguished contemporary philosopher A. J. Ayer.

In "Pragmatism" James attacked the transcendental, rationalist tradition in philosophy and tried to clear the ground for the doctrine he called radical empiricism. When first published, the book caused an uproar. It was greeted with praise, hostility, ridicule. Determined to clarify his views, James collected nine essays he had written on this subject before he wrote "Pragmatism" and six written later in response to criticisms by Bertrand Russell and others. He published "The Meaning of Truth in 1909," the year before his death.

These two works show James at his best full of verve and good humor. Intent upon making difficult ideas clear, he is characteristically vigorous in his effort to make them prevail.

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Review: Pragmatism and the Meaning of Truth

User Review  - Julie Bell - Goodreads

I can't believe I used to like Philosophy - it just takes so much energy to read. I mean, I'm glad these concepts are added to our collective pysche, but it's just a lot to digest. Read full review

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Contents

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy
9
The Funct1on of Cogn1t1on
13
Lecture II
27

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About the author (1978)

William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. He has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world. He died due to heart failure on August 26, 1910.

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