Pragmatism

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Harvard University Press, 1975 - Philosophy - 316 pages
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"It is absolutely the only philosophy with no humbug in it," an exhilarated William James wrote to a friend early in 1907. And later that year, after finishing the proofs of his "little book," he wrote to his brother Henry: "I shouldn't be surprised if ten years hence it should be rated as 'epoch-making,' for of the definitive triumph of that general way of thinking I can entertain no doubt whatever‚e"I believe it to be something quite like the protestant reformation."

Both the acclaim and outcry that greeted Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking helped to affirm James's conviction. For it was in Pragmatism that he confronted older philosophic methods with the "pragmatic" method, demanding that ideas be tested by their relation to life and their effects in experience. James's reasoning and conclusions in Pragmatism have exerted a profound influence on philosophy in this century, and the book remains a landmark.

  

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Contents

Pragmatism I
27
A Note on the Editorial Method
177
The Text of Pragmatism
185
Apparatus
203
Emendations
205
Textual Notes
213
Alterations in the Manuscripts
229
WordDivision
252
Report of the Wellesley Lectures 1905
275
Key to the Pagination of Editions
315
Copyright

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About the author (1975)

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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