William James (1842 -1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James. William James was born at the Astor House in New York City. He was the son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics. James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, his godson William James Sidis, as well as Charles Sanders Peirce, Bertrand Russell, Josiah Royce, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, Jr., Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud.
Pragmatism and the Meaning of Truthby William James
An unabridged, unaltered edition of both Pragmatism and the sequel The Meaning of Truth. In Pragmatism, William James explains the pragmatic method and its consequences, advocating its usefulness in understanding what we take to be true belief. Pragmatism holds that to have a belief is to have certain rules for action. Any and every notion has its own set of practical… See more details below
An unabridged, unaltered edition of both Pragmatism and the sequel The Meaning of Truth. In Pragmatism, William James explains the pragmatic method and its consequences, advocating its usefulness in understanding what we take to be true belief. Pragmatism holds that to have a belief is to have certain rules for action. Any and every notion has its own set of practical consequences. The meaning of a thought is said to be whatever course of action necessarily follow from it. In metaphysical disputes between false and true notions, the dispute must be settled by considering the practical consequences of the two notions. Any two notions that can be shown to have identical practical consequences are shown to be identical notions. Writes James, "Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to show some practical difference that must follow from one side or the other's being right." To have a clear and complete conception of an object is equivalent to considering the practical, empirical effects and properties of the object, and the conduct it will produce. James credits Charles Pierce for introducing this way of thinking about belief. James writes that it was Pierce's notion that "To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve-what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare," and that further, "to develop a thought's meaning, we need only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce: that conduct is for us its sole significance. The key essay in "The Meaning of Truth is the third, "Humanism and Truth". "Humanism" is James's preferred name for pragmatism. Here James lays out his thesis on truth as being a matter of continuity of experience and of useful relations with things. James always resisted the notion, commonly ascribed to many so-called pragmatists and relativists, that they "make it all up". James suggests that experience as a control is no mere fancy. James claimed to be constrained in his theorizing about truth and constrained by the world that is empirically there all around us.
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