James’s Pragmatism (Hackett Publishing Company)

Lecture I
p. 8 James argues that a philosopher’s temperament is integral to his philosophizing, though he tries to deny this and characterize his philosophizing as “objective.”
1) What does James mean by this?
2) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 10 James divides philosophers into two major camps: Tender-minded Rationalists and Tough-minded Empiricists.
3) What do Rationalists tend to believe (in a nutshell)?
4) What do Empiricists tend to believe (in a nutshell)?
5) Do you tend to agree or disagree with James’s division? Why?
Pps. 12,13 James introduces religious philosophy and the notion of the Absolute.
6) How does he characterize religious philosophy?
7) How is it connected to the tender-minded rationalists? Explain.
p. 14 James argues that refinement of metaphysics tends to be artificial and that empiricists prefer to turn their backs on metaphysics.
8) What does he mean by metaphysics?
9) What constitutes “refinements” of metaphysics? Explain.
10) Why might empirically-oriented philosophers reject metaphysics and its refinements?
p. 18 James introduces the term “pragmatism,” arguing that this philosophy can address both rationalists and empiricists.
11) Though it is not yet developed as a philosophy, how might pragmatism (at this initial stage) address concerns of both rationalists and empiricists? Discuss.

Lecture II
p. 26 James argues that “the pragmatic method …is to try to interpret [notions] by tracing [their] respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to any one if this notion rather than that notion is true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing and all dispute is idle.”
12) How do you understand this? Explain.
13) Do you tend to agree with it or not? Why?
p. 28 James argues that pragmatism “unstiffens all our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work.”
14) What does he mean by this? Example?
p. 31 James describes the process of pragmatism.
15) What is that process? Describe it.
16) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 32 James argues that a new opinion counts as “true” just in proportion as it gratifies the individual’s desire to assimilate the novel in his experience to his beliefs in stock.”
17) What does that mean? Explain.
18) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 33 James argues that “the reasons why we call things true is the reason why they are true, to ‘to be true’ means only to perform this marriage function.”
19) What does he mean? Explain.
20) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 35 James discusses “idealistic pantheism” and evolution vs. “dualistic theism” and God.
21) What is his stand here? Explain.
22) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 36 James admits theological ideas into his pragmatic systems.
23) How? Explain.
24) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 38 James differentiates between rationalism, empiricism and pragmatism.
25) How does the do this? Explain.

Lecture III
p. 43 James discusses the concept of “substance.”
26) What is a substance? Explain.
p. 43 James says that nominalists think that “substance’ is a “spurious idea due to our inveterate human trick of turning names into things.”
27) What does he mean by nominalist?
28) What does he mean by our penchant for “turning names into things”, and how does it apply to “substance?”
p. 44 James argues that Berkeley’s criticism of ‘matter’ was pragmatistic.
29) What is Berkeley’s thesis in relation to matter?
30) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
31) How is Berkeley’s thesis pragmatistic?
p. 47 James argues that “it makes not a single job of difference so far as the past of the world goes, whether we deem it to have been the work of matter or whether we think a divine spirit was its author.”
32) What does he mean by this?
33) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him. Why?
p. 48 James argues that “God, if there, has been doing just what atoms could do – appearing in the character of atoms, so to speak – and earning such gratitude as is due to atoms, and no more.”
34) What does he mean by this?
35) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him. Why?
p.50,51 James argues that the “notion of God…however inferior it may be in clearness to those mathematical notions so current in mechanical philosophy, has at least this practical superiority over them, that it guarantees an ideal order that shall be permanently preserved.”
36) What does he mean by this?
37) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 51 James argues that “Materialism means simply the denial that the moral order is eternal, and the cutting off of ultimate hopes; spiritualism means the affirmation of an eternal moral order and the letting loose of hope.”
38) What does he mean by this?
39) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him. Why?
p. 54 James argues that “anyone who insists that there is a designer and who is sure he is a divine one, gets a certain pragmatic benefit from the term – the same, in face, which we saw that the terms God, Spirit, or the Absolute, yield us. ‘Design’, worthless tho it be as a mere rationalistic principle set above or behind things for our admiration, becomes, if our faith concretes it into something theistic, a term of promise.”
40) What does he mean by a “term of promise” in this context? Explain.
41) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 55 James argues that “Free-will pragmatically means novelties in the world, the right to expect that in its deepest elements as well as in its surface phenomena, the future may not identically repeat and imitate the past.” He calls free-will a “general cosmological theory of promise.”
42) What does he mean by this? How is free will a “general cosmological theory of promise?”
43) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 56 James argues that “Other than this pragmatical significance, the words God, free will, design, etc., have none.
44) What does he mean by this?
45) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
Lecture VI
p. 92 James argues that “True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify. False ideas are those that we can not.”
46) What does he mean by this? How is it connected to his basic thesis so far?
47) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 92 James argues that “Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true. It is made true by events.”
48) What does this mean? Explain.
p. 93 James argues that “The possession of truth, so far from being here an end in itself, is only a preliminary means towards other vital satisfactions.”
49) What does he mean?
50) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 93 James argues that “You can say of it then either that ‘it is useful because it is true’ or that ‘it is true because it is useful.’”
51) Explain what you think he means.
p. 95 James argues that “Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system.”
52) What does he mean by this? Explain
53) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 96 James argues the “Realities mean, then, either concrete facts, or abstract kinds of thing and relations perceived intuitively between them. They furthermore and thirdly mean, as things that new ideas of our must no less take account of, the whole body of other truths already in our possession.”
54) What does he mean? Explain.
55) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 98 James argues that “Truth for us is simply a collective name for verification-processes, just as health, wealth, strength, etc., are names for other processes connected with life, and also pursued because it pays to pursue them. Truth is made, just as health, wealth and strength are made, in the course of experience.”
56) What does he mean? Consider truth as a verification-process, and how all the other abstract terms are like “truth.”
57) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 99 James offers a counter-argument to his thesis: “You pragmatists put the cart before the horse in making truth’s being reside in verification-processes. These are merely signs of its being merely our lame ways of ascertaining after the fact, which of our ideas already has possessed the wondrous quality.”
58) What does the counter-argument mean?
59) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 100 James argues that “The true, ‘to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as ‘the right’ is only the expedient in the way of our behaving.”
60) What does he mean by this?
61) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 101 James argues that “The ‘facts’ themselves meanwhile are not true. They simply are. Truth is the function of the beliefs that start and terminate among them.”
62) What does this mean?
63) Do you tend to agree or disagree with it? Why?
p. 102 James lays out a review of the rationalist argument for truth.
64) Review the argument.
65) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?
p. 103 James argues that the “rationalist’s fallacy here is exactly like the sentimentalist’s. both extract a quality from the muddy particulars of experience, and find it so pure when extracted that they contrast it with each and all its muddy instances as an opposite and their nature. All the while it is their nature. It is the nature of truths to be validated, verified. It pays for our ideas to be validated.”
66) What does he mean by this? Explain.
67) Do you tend to agree or disagree with him? Why?

 

 

 

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