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Pragmatism (Dover Thrift Editions) [Kindle Edition]

William James
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Noted psychologist and philosopher develops his own brand of pragmatism, based on theories of C. S. Peirce. Emphasis on "radical empiricism," versus the transcendental and rationalist tradition. One of the most important books in American philosophy. Note.

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Editorial Reviews


The meanings--twenty? thirty?--of "pragmatism" continue to be a central question in American philosophy and intellectual history. A chance to see the development and working of James's own mind from the inside, as it were, should do much to help us understand where he himself stood and what he himself meant...In brief, scholars, students, and the general reading public should all display an interest in a critical edition of James's works. (Charles Frankel)

About the Author

Fredson Bowers is Linden Kent Professor of English, Emeritus, at the University of Virginia.

Ignas K. Skrupskelis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Differences December 31, 1999
By A Customer
One is surprised to read in the first two reviews that James's pragmatism is a justification for relativism, nihilism, and even despotic tyranny. This evaluation comes from interpreting James in terms of utilitarianism, rather than understanding what he means by practical consequences. One will hear James claim in _Pragmatism_ that, "I am accustomed to put questions to my classes in this way: In what respects would the world be different if this alternative or that were true? If I can find nothing that would become different, then the alternative has no sense." The pragmatic maxim does not invite us to accept the most expedient point of view for the purpose of utility, but instead invites us to return to the world and experience in evaluating the nature of concepts. Thus, to adopt an example from Peirce, an application of the pragmatic maxim to a concept such as "salt" would lead us to look at the practical consequences of this concept for real world experience such as its hardness, seasoning capabilities, chemical nature, ability to combine with other elements, etc.. In other words, pragmatism, as James agrees, is also an empiricism. Given this, an application of the pragmatic maxim to the political concepts of democracy and fascism would indeed lead us to discern vast differences between the two doctrines and to ultimately reject the former by virtue of its practical consequences. In final analysis, _Pragmatism_ is a curative of philosophical abstractions which would ask us to turn away from empty first principles to see what difference those principles actually make in our actions and lives. Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
In the book Pragmatism William James offers one of his finest works; articulate, clear and funny. (See for example his analysis of monism and pluralism). One often wonders if writers who fail to speak plainly have anything to say. Happily James is the clearest of them all. It is especially amusing to see him poke fun at philosophers who take their cherished positions far too seriously.
It would be a mistake to misconstrue this work as the basis of a philsophy for living or even a pragmatic school of thought per se. Rather (as stated in the text) it offers a fresh analysis of major problems, including determinism, monism, pluralism, and reductionism. Full of wit and refreshing humor, this is a first-rate, brilliantly written guide to timeless issues in philosophy.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! Buy it! Read it! Live it! Think it! February 10, 2001
The superlatives trip off my tongue when I think about this book. In it Harvard psychologist and philosopher Willaim James propounds the substance (not much) and import (massive!) of his philosophical method: pragmatism. He got this method from his lifelong friend Charles Sanders Peirce and it boils down, quite simply, to doing nothing which doesn't make a difference in terms of outcomes; what works is what matters. Not that this simplicity boils over into simplisticness. James is an astute operator and is aware of what criticism shall come his way. Thus, in this series of lectures he addresses all the realist, essentialist and foundationalist philosophers with their abstract, universal and idealistic arguments and demonstrates that it is the pragmatist who takes our obligations seriously. The pragmatist is guided by the experience of the senses and the working body of truth each person carries with them and these are no small trifles. The pragmatist is not one who is free to make anything up (contrast the external realist who can say anything and claim what they like since its beyond verification / falsification).
So read this classic piece of American philosophical writing and be entertained, educated and edified all in one go. It has changed my approach to life.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can James Reconcile Empiricism with Religion? August 16, 2002
By A Customer
In his 1909 book Pragmatism, William James attempts to reconcile the grim eschatology of empiricism with the noble incentives of religion. James sets the stage by defining empiricists as "tough-minded" realists, deducing truth solely from material experience, and rationalists as "tender-minded" religious types, virtuous but prone to dogmatic thinking and an unverifiable belief in oneness. His answer to what he calls this "present dilemma of philosohy" is pragmatism, a bridging doctrine that seeks to value a "scientific loyatly to facts, and willingness to take account of them,...but also the old confidence in human values and the resultant spontaineity, whether of the relifious or of the romantic type." James posits that in order for truth to be truth, it must have "cash-value." He states, "The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons." Simply put, James feels strongly that there must be a verifiable correlation between what we believe and what we experience. A righteous starting point.
Pragmatism is a stimulating read, and with his background in psychology, James delves profoundly into the rationalizations of human thinking. Despite its bold statements, the book has a kindly tone, and the author's earnest attempts to convince are without academic snideness or scorn. But as perceptive as Pragmatism is at times, James inevitably comes off as just an empiricist with a heart, as sort of a materialist's "compassionate conservative." Robert Frost biographer Jay Parini says that James was "trying to have his cake and eat it too" and inconsistencies do arise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Yingxin Ni
5.0 out of 5 stars good
From the content, book condition to delivery time, item price, I feel that all as good as or even better than i expected
Published 10 months ago by Jack Chang
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but Important
Despite the informal tone of James's writings, pragmatism is a deep and difficult theory which most educated people who are not philosophers have not even begun to grasp. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Stan S.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great lecture. Couldn't make it through it.
I just couldn't finish this. I couldn't follow what he was saying. I'm assuming that its my current state of mind. Read more
Published 10 months ago by T. Hollins
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated
The bastardization of the term "pragmatism" is most unfortunate, and thus this book is certainly worthwhile reading, even for sophisticated students of philosophy, if only... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Wesley A Morris
3.0 out of 5 stars it's free
I down loaded this, a free book, to fill up my kindle. I have yet to read it. But it's a classic, so there.
Published 18 months ago by chris pederson
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read
I placed a few of these ebooks on my Iphone to read during times I have had to wait around on someone or something that I was not interested in. Read more
Published on May 11, 2012 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets the wheels spinning a bit!
Pragmatism delves into the extremely thought-provoking topic of philosophizing about philosophy itself. Read more
Published on October 5, 2009 by John Galt
2.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatism A new name for old ways of thinking
This series of lectures by James illustrates well the fundamental attributes of pragmatism. As such it is an important book for any philosopher to read. Read more
Published on November 5, 2007 by AT Litchfield
5.0 out of 5 stars James's Pragmatism
In 1906 and 1907, William James delivered a series of eight lectures at the Lowell Institute, Boston, and at Columbia University, New York City which he published as "Pragmatism: A... Read more
Published on November 30, 2006 by Robin Friedman
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