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Pragmatism, A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking

by William James, 1907

Preface

The lectures that follow were delivered at the Lowell Institute in Boston in November and December, 1906, and in January, 1907, at Columbia University, in New York. They are printed as delivered, without developments or notes. The pragmatic movement, so-called - I do not like the name, but apparently it is too late to change it - seems to have rather suddenly precipitated itself out of the air. A number of tendencies that have always existed in philosophy have all at once become conscious of themselves collectively, and of their combined mission; and this has occurred in so many countries, and from so many different points of view, that much unconcerted statement has resulted. I have sought to unify the picture as it presents itself to my own eyes, dealing in broad strokes, and avoiding minute controversy. Much futile controversy might have been avoided, I believe, if our critics had been willing to wait until we got our message fairly out.

If my lectures interest any reader in the general subject, he will doubtless wish to read farther. I therefore give him a few references.

In America, John Dewey's 'Studies in Logical Theory' are the foundation. Read also by Dewey the articles in The Philosophical Review, vol. xv, pp. 113 and 465, in Mind, vol. XV, p. 293, and in The Journal of Philosophy, vol. iv, p. 197.

Probably the best statements to begin with however, are F. C. S. Schiller's in his 'Studies in Humanism,' especially the essays numbered i, v, vi, vii, xviii and xix. His previous essays and in general the polemic literature of the subject are fully referred to in his footnotes.

Furthermore, see G. Milhaud: le Rationnel, 1898, and the fine articles by Le Roy in the Revue de Métaphysique, vols. 7, 8 and 9. Also articles by Blondel and de Sailly in the Annales de Philosophie Chrétienne, 4me vols. 2 and 3. Papini announces a book on Pragmatism, in the French language, to be published very soon.

To avoid one misunderstanding at least, let me say that there is no logical connexon between pragmatism, as I understand it, and a doctrine which I have recently set forth as 'radical empiricism'. The latter stands on its own feet. One may entirely reject it and still be a pragmatist.

Harvard University, April, 1907.


William James. Pragmatism: A new name for some old ways of thinking. Published in New York by Longman Green and Co. (1907). The text of this document is in the public domain and reproducible without permissiosn.

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