The Soul of Classical American Philosophy - The Ethical and Spiritual Insights of William James, Josiah Royce, and Charles Sanders Pierce

How much do I want to read more? 7/10

This one book about W. James is actually accessible, and is directly interesting.
I like it.


We humans create our world by our interaction with reality. But we cannot create it any way we wish, because reality acts as a constraint to which we must yield. And yet several possible worlds can be created out of the same reality, depending partly on our evolutionary and cultural inheritance, and partly on our own interests. Free will means that we can choose what we pay attention to and thereby choose our actions and to some extent our world.

Part I - William James

Chapter 1 - Meaning and Truth


William James described pragmatism as a method of approaching meaning and truth that would overcome the split between sci- entific and religious thinking.

If we look at our minds at any moment, we find two kinds of thoughts, beliefs and doubts. A doubt identifies a state of mind in which we need to ask a question. A belief is a state of mind in which we can make a statement.
Doubt involves uneasiness due to a lack of a rule to deter- mine our action. We do not know what to do aside from clearing up the doubt by finding an answer to the question. We clear up the doubt by “fixing,” that is, establishing a belief.
A belief is a rule of action. When we have a belief, we know what we would do, given the proper circumstances. We act on our beliefs; otherwise they are not really beliefs.
We make an idea clear there- fore, by identifying the action that we would perform if we believe the idea, and the result that would follow if the idea is true.

William James developed pragmatism into a method for determining the meaning and testing the truth of any proposition.
When a dispute breaks out the pragmatist asks, “What difference will it make if this or that position stands as the correct one?” If no difference results, the dispute is merely verbal.

Just as nature provides an extravagant number of organisms, so human nature extrava- gantly allows for a large number of concepts that each person is able to master.
The only things that can be called true or false are beliefs. Reality is not true; it simply is.

What does it mean, then, to say that our concepts correspond to reality? They correspond if they lead us to a satisfactory relationship with reality. Truth is a leading.

Radical Empiricism