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Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  2,695 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
What is reality ? How do we test the value of any given philosophical system? Can philosophy be useful ? Why must we reject the notion that there is one concrete truth ? American psychologist and philosopher WILLIAM JAMES (1842 1910), brother of novelist Henry James, was a groundbreaking researcher at Harvard University, author of such works as Principles of Psychology (18 ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Cosimo Classics (first published 1907)
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Dec 14, 2011 Buck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Canadians of a certain age may recall a brilliant series of commercials put out by Carlsberg years ago. Aimed at thirty-something men, they cleverly extolled the joys of adulthood. A typical spot showed a horny couple sharing a pre-coital embrace in a motel room. The voiceover narrator explains: “A friend of mine once tried to tell me that the best sex I’d ever have would be with my wife.” Pause. “He was right.” And then the slogan: “Welcome to your Carlsberg years.” (Youtube is pretending not t ...more
David Schaafsma
I read this as I have read it before for a grad course I am teaching on Language, Literacy and Democracy. And Pragmatism. This book is a series of lectures James gave more than a hundred years ago to help explain pragmatism as a method, not as just yet another philosophical position. It's a method of approaching truth as against abstract theory. Seeing truth not as Truth and the self as something clear and solid we need to discover but multiple, social, shifting, flexible, continually constructe ...more
عبدالله  المصري
يقول "أحمد خالد توفيق" : الفلسفة هى فن التحدث عن التفاحة بدلاً من أكلها.
ولكن البراجماتية تختلف ،، فالبراجماتية تتجاوز التحدث عن التفاحة إلى الحديث عما بعد أكلها ..

البراجماتية كفلسفة تغض الطرف عن الحديث عن الماضي ،، وترفض الإستغراق في تأمل الماضي ،، وتهتم بنتائج وتأثير الماضي والحاضر على المستقبل ..

يقول ( د.زكي نجيب محمود ) عن البراجماتية في مقدمة الكتاب : أعطني من القول ما يهديني سواء السبيل في حياة عامة أو في صناعة وزراعة وتجارة، أسلم لك من فوري أن قول حق، بغض النظر عما كان وما هو كائن بالفعل
Moomen Sallam
Jul 05, 2015 Moomen Sallam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
شرح سهل من احد الأقطاب الثلاثة للفلسفة البراجماتية، وتناول بعض القضايا الفلسفية في ضؤ البراجماتية، ولعل أهم ما في الكتاب تناولة للدين، فيما يمكن تسميته بالايمان البراجماتي.
Sep 29, 2011 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I love reading a book and saying at the end, 'this is fundamentally what I believe; this is generally how I think; this has always been a piece of MY philosophy.'

And again, I doff my cap to Buck Mulligan for getting it right.

I am not a pragmatist, but I respect what James is trying to do here.

Also, I gotta say that in terms of writing philosophy, he (James) is definitely head and shoulders above many a profound, pithy, erudite thinker.

I do think there's some essential value to well-written prose, especially when its not taking the form of fiction or poetry or what-have-you and the writer can be easily excused for obscurities, necessary obfuscations,
Douglas Dalrymple
Like his younger brother Henry, William James had a gift for language. Anyone in love with the possibilities of English prose will enjoy reading him. Years ago I read his Varieties of Religious Experience and return to it now and then just to hear him talk. The first two lectures in Pragmatism are especially thick with little surprises of phrasing and insight. I marked up my library copy shamelessly (but only with pencil!). That said, James’s attempt to reform philosophy along “pragmatic” lines ...more
Bob Nichols
The history of philosophy, James says, is "to a great extent that of a certain clash of temperaments" that "loads" thought to justify one position over another. These he divides into the "tender minded" who need monistic, religious, rationalistic certainty and the "tough minded" who are materialistic, pluralistic, and irreligious. Given these different value-laden base points, disputes tend to be unresolvable. Pragmatism is James' way to escape competing visions of the truth. Pragmatism evaluate ...more
This became a pretty tedious read after the first couple chapters. He seems to keep repeating the same basic ideas and applying them to a variety of subjects.

He states at one point how a theory goes through a few different stages in it's introduction and adoption. Eventually a theory becomes so commonplace that it's taken as obvious and trivial. I think that's what's happened to Pragmatism over the last 100+ years, since it was first formally stated.

It's still a powerful idea and one that's usef
Marts  (Thinker)
William James's explanations on the philosophical tradition of pragmatism.

As mentioned in lecture 2: "Pragmatism represents a perfectly familiar attitude in philosophy, the empiricist attitude...
A pragmatist turns his back resolutely and once for all upon a lot of inveterate habits dear to professional philosophers. He turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He tu
Zakaria Bziker
Dec 24, 2014 Zakaria Bziker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I had to read this book to understand the age we're living in. I am not a fan of pragmatism. I think it reduces the philosophical inquiry to selfish pursuits and ties science to short term goals. Pragmatism, to my understanding, has no need for philosophy.
“Science tells us what we can know, but what we can know is little, and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive to many things of very great importance.”
― Bertrand Russell
Oğuzcan Önver
Sep 01, 2016 Oğuzcan Önver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kitabın daha başında Whitman - To you şiirinden bahsedene HIGH FIVE BRO!
Jul 28, 2013 P rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
From friends that have studied the pragmatist tradition at length and/or identify as pragmatists, there's often a (weakly) suppressed but discernible sigh and eye-roll when discussing Jamesian pragmatism. Recently, a friend suggested that James might be using intentionally ambiguous vague language in order to make his brand of pragmatism accessible to the audience of laypersons and "amateur philosophers" to whom these lectures were delivered. So, a caveat: from these experiences and my own studi ...more
Nov 17, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William James shows why people are reading his philosophy a century after he delivered the lectures that make up the bulk of this work. His writing style is highly readable, and yet he does not shy away from untranslated Greek or German phrases and concepts. In a too-short summary, his idea of pragmatism could be described as assigning utility to an argument based on the outcomes that the argument can yield - if the resolution to an argument does not lead to a tangible difference in observable r ...more
Ben Labe
"The pragmatic method" as William James defines it, " to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences." Those consequences may become manifest in "concrete fact" or in "conduct consequent upon that fact." James outlines two functions of pragmatism: as prescribing a mode of solving metaphysical disputes and as offering a theory of truth in its own right. James diagnoses the greatest philosophical tension of his time as consisting of a battle between "tender-h ...more
Frank Spencer
Jan 04, 2012 Frank Spencer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: james
This is as good as any of a summary of James' philosophical ideas. There are eight lectures delivered in Boston and New York in 1906 and 1907. The tough minded vs. tender minded and monistic vs. pluralistic distinctions are presented. You get more understanding of the idea that the practical difference made is an important aspect of what something is. How James brings Pragmatism and religion together is made clear in the last lecture. He quotes Taylor as saying, "'Reality' is in general what tru ...more
Shane Wagoner
Aug 09, 2016 Shane Wagoner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Core idea is fantastic, additional remarks unique to James (such as his comments on religion and free will) are disappointing.
John Martindale
I had a hard time getting into this book until the 6th lecture when James finally started to unpack the Pragmatist concept of truth. Though I am not fully on board or in agreement with him, I still thought he has some interesting insights and reflections. Rather then try to summarize the tidbits that stood out to me from his 6th and 7th lecture, I decided I'd just copy them here, so you can get a sense of pragmatism in his own words.

“I have honestly tried to stretch my own imagination and to rea
Esteban del Mal
James is too happy for my tastes.
Oct 22, 2016 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, clear statement of the pragmatist view of truth, especially in the 'Pragmatism and Humanism' chapter. The digressions into discussing religion weren't very interesting to me.
Feb 03, 2012 Brenton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure who originally said it, but William James' 'Pragmatism' is the "quintessential American philosophy". After finally finishing, I strongly agree. The ideas that James describes are a summary of the way Americans have been making decisions for a long time, without them ever knowing it. That's not to say that this is just a commentary; James presents engaging and challenging original ideas.

This is a heavy, heavy work. The book is composed of eight chapters which are a series of eight le
Sep 12, 2016 Ci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read-books
This is considered as a key text of "classic pragmatism". At the center, James considered this dilemma: the claims of science on one side, the claims of religion and morality on the other. The "hard-headed" vs. "tender-hearted" sides of human nature. Pragmatism is a mediating instrument to resolve this dilemma by considering solely the "practical consequences" of each concept or thought, as "What you want is a philosophy that will not only exercise your powers of intellectual abstraction, but th ...more
Kelly Head
Sometimes the audiobook version is the only way to go, and this is a case in point. I listened to a Librivox volunteer read this series of lectures given by James in Boston in the early 1900's, and he did a fantastic job. There is something about the way a person whose first language is not English can read clearly and slowly that helps with comprehension. Unfortunately, the actual content of the lectures underwhelmed me, but they were worth listening to nonetheless. James tries to find a middle ...more
Kyle van Oosterum
Sep 03, 2015 Kyle van Oosterum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I’ve never taken a trip down the lane of American Philosophy, but this little sojourn has flung me into an ideology, which is captivating, to say the least. Pragmatism, as the name suggests is a system that asks one primary question in response to conflicting theories: “In what respects would the world be different if the alternative was true?” A truth is as true as it is useful, as useful as it is true.

As a psychologist, William James understood that truths are malleable to human need. We shou
David Walsh
Jun 16, 2015 David Walsh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What to make of William James' Pragmatism?

For the reader, this volume comprises the content of eight lectures delivered by Mr James between November 1906 and January 1907 as an effort to explain the then relatively new pragmatic movement. Thankfully it is mostly readable and comprehensible, and I suppose to fail on either count would have an ironic quality given the claims of James' pragmatism.

As to the content, James positions pragmatism in contrast to (but not necessarily out of odds with) bot
Alex Kartelias
Dec 03, 2013 Alex Kartelias rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
At the beginning, James reveals a tendency that most people have when they encounter seemingly, "opposite" philosophical systems of thought: they feel pressured to either pick empiricism or rationalism as the, "true" theory of knowledge. This extends to not only epistemology, but to metaphysics- namely, pluralism and monism. Explaining in his clear and conversational prose, he makes the case that has been made a thousand years ago in Taoism: ying and yang. It is true that black and white are opp ...more
Paul Gibson
William James' pragmatism is supposed to be aimed at the practical, but like so many philosopher's books, the majority of James' book is aimed at contemporaries in his field. He has a bone to pick with fellow Rationalists, Metaphysicians, Monists, Intellectualists, etc... He spends about 9/10 of his book attacking their ideas and putting his detractors down. So to follow his concerns, one must understand the history of philosophy up to the point of his version of pragmatism. Or you must read thr ...more
Jun 23, 2014 Seamusin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
The history of philosophy is one of brilliant beginnings, muddled middles and all manner of wild conclusions. This text is a good example.

The first few lectures are good, introducing the pragmatic way of deciding between theories, which I think is decent. And I very much like the emphasis on a coherent world-view. First two lectures perhaps 4/5. The middle lectures get a bit repetitive as he's applying the ideas, but then boy, by the end it really turns ugly. He paints philosophy as either compl
I'd read a lot about this book but hadn't yet read it for myself. The book is a series of lectures that James gave about the philosophical paradigm, and for that reason it doesn't have a traditional book structure. It literally feels like you're taking a peek into a lecture hall. The cadence of the narrative, the way the argument develops, etc. has a very different flow than you'd get with a more traditional book. Still, it's interesting and boils down pragmatism to its core ideas very simply.

Mar 01, 2016 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, 2016
The idea of pragmatism is deceptively simple yet powerful:

Truth is defined by that which is the most practical to our lives.

In other words, we can in a sense, choose our reality, so long as it conforms to our previous beliefs and helps us develop as human beings.

The term truth is ambiguous here. Was Newton's theory of gravity "true" in light of Einstein's theory of relativity? A pragmatist would say yes, in so far as Newton's theory is more practical in our day to day experience. A physicist on
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translation 1 3 Nov 24, 2012 11:11PM  
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays 1972-1980
  • Science and the Modern World
  • Reconstruction in Philosophy
  • Creative Evolution
  • The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings Volume 1: 1867-1893
  • Naming and Necessity
  • The Advancement Of Learning
  • On Certainty
  • William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism
  • The Ethics/Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect/Selected Letters
  • Critique of Practical Reason (Texts in the History of Philosophy)
  • Monadology
  • The Philosophy of History
  • The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume Two: Hegel and Marx
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States, James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have la ...more
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“I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds.” 7 likes
“There is a finely translated epigram in the greek anthology which admirably expresses this state of mind, this acceptance of loss as unatoned for, even tho the lost element might be one's self: 'A shipwrecked sailor, buried on this coast, bids you set sail. Full many a gallant bark, when we were lost, weathered the gal.” 2 likes
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