Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking
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Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,660 ratings  ·  52 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 (18421910), brother of novelist Henry James, was a groundbreaking researcher at Harvard University, author of such works as Principles of Psychology (1890)...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Cosimo Classics (first published 1907)
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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
أحمد سعيد البراجه
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...more

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,...more
[Note: I would just like to say that my opinion of William James has improved much since writing this scathing review. Now he's one of my favorite authors. Most of this had to do with my reading Psychology: the Briefer Course .]

I have a confession to make. This book enraged me, beyond anything that I consider reasonable. My thoughts ran like this: “What?! William James is the greatest philosopher America is supposed to have produced—and these are his ideas? What international, historical shame h...more
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
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...more
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
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
Andrew Anony
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...more
Esteban del Mal
James is too happy for my tastes.
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...more
Doug Newdick
I've always been sympathetic to pragmatism, but more of the Peirce and Dewey variety than the James variety. So I thought I should read what he himself said on the subject. The book is divided into several sections each dealing with a different aspect of pragmatism. Some of these sections have aged better than others. The single best one is the section on pragmatism as a theory of truth. The worst ones are where James tries to reconcile pragmatism and religion. After reading the book I can see w...more
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...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
Alex Kartelias
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
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

كثيرا ما سمعت في حياتي اليومية عبارات مثل : رأي براجماتي، تفكير براجماتي، رجل براجماتي، موقف
براجماتي... وهكذا. ولا أخفيكم سرا؛ كنت أتوجس من اللفظ ذاته فضلا عن توجسي من الموصوف به؛ ربما لارتباط البراجماتية، نوعا ما، في قاموسي وفي ذاكرتي بـالميكافيللية! سامح الله أولئك الصنف من البشر -وما أكثرهم- الذين يسيئون استخدام الكلمات لتماهي معانيها في عقولهم؛ هذا مكان ذاك، وهذه بتلك، والفاصوليا كالبازلاء لأنهما -ويا للفطنة- من فصيلة الخضروات!

- أنت براجماتي إذن أنت مح...more
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.

Brent McCulley
William James' lectures on 'Pragmatism' were ground breaking at the time. Not only that, but they paved the way for multiple new schools of philosophical thought. Hard-lines in its approach, and practical in its outworking, pragmatism is a worldview not for the idealists - who are too busy arguing over abstract a priori notions - but for the rationalist; nay, for the empiricist. 'Show me how this affects my life personally,' says the pragmatist, 'and only then will I tell you how much I care ins...more
Dylan Suher
James' marvelous clarity -- prose so straightforward that in a philosophical context it strikes one as moving -- belies a sharp and subtle mind, that is to say, nothing is sacrificed by way of intelligence to make this treatise readable. I wonder if this book will count as an important read in my life, when I look back at it. The reason I hesitate to fully endorse it is that there is a certain convenience to pragmatism that I find suspect. It is all well and good to talk about common sense and t...more
John E. Branch Jr.
Read sometime in the 70s or 80s. As someone with an interest in philosophy but essentially no training in it, I found this book very to understand and even to like. Conceivably it would strike some trained philosophical minds as less than fully rigorous, but that didn't (and doesn't) matter to me. The book has influenced my thinking and possibly even my writing, though I won't attempt to explain that.

As with Varieties of Religious Experience, the entry on William James at the Stanford Encycloped...more
Gabriel Oak
Not as clear or compelling as Varieties of Religious Experience, but this is still a solid piece of writing. James sets out to introduce the philosophical movement of pragmatism, partly by exploring the nature of truth, which he maintains we must redefine as comprising what "works" in making sense of our world.
The text consists of 8 lectures by William James and has a nice flow to it. After a while you get the feel that you are sitting in a room listening to a presentation by this great philosopher and psychologist. The chapters are well organized with a central point to each lecture. By the end of reading this brief edition the reader will have gained an understanding of pragmatism, its applications and benefits... or should I say the value of pragmatism as measured by its usefulness.

Whether or not y...more
S.J. Pettersson
Whenever I think of William James I always think of nitrous oxide. When I went to a dentist as a child we were just told to hold onto the chair hard while they drilled into our cavities. They always used to say: "I'm almost done, just a few more seconds", even if they had just began. think they were taught to say that in dental school. I didn't experience laughing gas until I was in my late 20's here in the States. It made everything echo, echo, echo. I guess to use it in a dental office is pret...more
Read this after seeing that a journalist I really like (Jamelle Bouie) cited it as a book that was important to him. A collection of lectures laying out the basics of James' philosophy. A very interesting way of looking at the world, I was a bit put off by the amount of time James devoted to debating his critics, as it was not entirely clear that he was earnestly conveying the criticism he had received.

Otherwise, an eloquent and entertaining series of lectures on the philosophy of pragmatism.
Eight lectures given in 1906 describing Pragmatisem. I was able to follow maybe 80%, enough to keep me engaged. I have not read very much philosophy and could not follow his references. I made good use of the dictionary in my Kindle. It is more readable than expected and a sense of humor comes through as well.

My understanding is: to discover if a truth is real, look to it's effect on the lives of finite people. If it has no effect, it is a mental construct that can be discarded.
Rodger Broome
As a novice in philosophy, I think James' pragmatics are very sensible and his argument for why both subjectivity and objectivity are needed to understand human life and experience. He supports his argument with solid analogies and examples with a touch of artistry. It is a small book that is worth an afternoon of an person's time. The readers is liable not to see the world of science and religion in the same way they did before reading this great work.
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
Tylor Lovins
This book is the clearest introduction to pragmatism that I have ever read; in fact, I might classify it as the clearest introduction to any philosophy or philosophical subject that I have ever read. Anyone can benefit from this. I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in a theory of truth that is not limited to coherence or correspondence.
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translation 1 3 Nov 24, 2012 11:11PM  
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • Creative Evolution
  • Science and the Modern World
  • The Advancement Of Learning
  • Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
  • Critique of Practical Reason (Texts in the History of Philosophy)
  • Experience and Nature
  • The Ethics/Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect/Selected Letters
  • On Certainty
  • Naming and Necessity
  • Philosophical Essays
  • An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
  • The Enneads
  • The Philosophy of History
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
More about William James...
The Varieties of Religious Experience Pragmatism and Other Writings William James: Writings, 1902-1910 The Principles of Psychology, Volume 1 The Will to Believe, Human Immortality, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy

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“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
“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.” 2 likes
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