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James and Dewey on Belief and Experience

James and Dewey on Belief and Experience

John M. Capps
Donald Capps
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    James and Dewey on Belief and Experience
    Book Description:

    Donald Capps and John Capps's James and Dewey on Belief and Experience juxtaposes the key writings of two philosophical superstars. As fathers of Pragmatism, America's unique contribution to world philosophy, their work has been enormously influential, and remains essential to any understanding of American intellectual history. _x000B__x000B_In these essays, you'll find William James deeply embroiled in debates between religion and science. Combining philosophical charity with logical clarity, he defended the validity of religious experience against crass forms of scientism. Dewey identified the myriad ways in which supernatural concerns distract religious adherents from pressing social concerns, and sought to reconcile the tensions inherent in science's dual embrace of common sense and the aesthetic._x000B_ _x000B_James and Dewey on Belief and Experience is divided into two sections: the former showcases James, the latter is devoted to Dewey. Two transitional passages in which each reflects on the work of the other bridge these two main segments. Together, the sections offer a unique perspective on the philosophers' complex relationship of influence and interdependence. An editors' introduction provides biographical information about both men, an overview of their respective philosophical orientations, a discussion of the editorial process, and a brief commentary on each of the selections._x000B__x000B_Comparing what these foremost pragmatists wrote on both themes illumines their common convictions regarding the nature of philosophical inquiry and simultaneously reveals what made each a distinctive thinker.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09075-2
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Credits
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)

    William james and john dewey rank among the most influential public intellectuals in the history of the United States. They are best known for their advocacy of pragmatism, America’s unique contribution to world philosophy. Pragmatism, as they conceived of it, emphasizes a practical engagement with our everyday world: it avoids the overly theoretical, transcendental, and idealistic assumptions once current in European thought. James and Dewey hoped that pragmatism would help us grasp the actual significance and practical implications of our beliefs, thus leading to greater consensus and mutual understanding. Or, as Louis Menand writes, “pragmatism was designed to make it...

  6. Works Included in This Text
    (pp. 41-42)
  7. William James

    • 1 Reflex Action and Theism (1881)
      (pp. 45-58)

      . . . Since it was as a teacher of physiology that I was most unworthily officiating when your committee’s invitation reached me, I must suppose it to be for the sake of bringing a puff of the latest winds of doctrine which blow over that somewhat restless sea that my presence is desired. Among all the healthy symptoms that characterize this age, I know no sounder one than the eagerness which theologians show to assimilate results of science, and to hearken to the conclusions of men of science about universal matters. One runs a better chance of being listened...

    • 2 The Psychology of Belief (1889)
      (pp. 59-77)

      Everyone knows the difference between imagining a thing and believing in its existence, between supposing a proposition and acquiescing in its truth. In the case of acquiescence or belief, the object is not only apprehended by the mind, but is held to have reality. Belief is thus the mental state or function of cognizing reality—I might, indeed, have called this paper “The Perception of Reality.” As used in the following pages, “belief” will mean every degree of assurance, including the highest possible certainty and conviction.

      There are, as we know, two ways of studying every psychic state. First, the...

    • 3 Is Life Worth Living? (1895)
      (pp. 78-94)

      When mr. mallock’s¹ book with this title appeared some fifteen years ago, the jocose answer that “it depends on theliver” had great currency in the newspapers. The answer which I propose to give tonight cannot be jocose. In the words of one of Shakespeare’s prologues,

      I come no more to make you laugh; things now,

      That bear a weighty and a serious brow,

      Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe,²

      must be my theme. In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which the ultimate mystery of things works sadly; and I...

    • 4 The Will to Believe (1896)
      (pp. 95-110)

      . . . I have long defended to my own students the lawfulness of voluntary adopted faith; but as soon as they have got well-imbued with the logical spirit, they have as a rule refused to admit my contention to be lawful philosophically, even though in point of fact they were personally all the time chock-full of some faith or other themselves. I am all the while, however, so profoundly convinced that my own position is correct, that your invitation has seemed to me a good occasion to make my statements more clear. Perhaps your minds will be more open...

    • 5 From The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)
      (pp. 111-132)

      Most books on the philosophy of religion try to begin with a precise definition of what its essence consists of. Some of these would-be definitions may possibly come before us in later portions of this course, and I shall not be pedantic enough to enumerate any of them to you now. Meanwhile the very fact that they are so many and so different from one another is enough to prove that the word “religion” cannot stand for any single principle or essence, but is rather a collective name. The theorizing mind tends always to the over-simplification of its materials. This...

    • 6 What Pragmatism Means (1907)
      (pp. 133-143)

      Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. Thecorpusof the dispute was a squirrel—a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly around the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between...

    • 7 A World of Pure Experience (1904)
      (pp. 144-161)

      . . . For many years past my mind has been growing into a certain type ofWeltanschauung.¹ Rightly or wrongly, I have got to the point where I can hardly see things in any other pattern. I propose, therefore, to describe the pattern as clearly as I can consistently with great brevity, and to throw my description into the bubbling vat of publicity where, jostled by rivals and torn by critics, it will eventually either disappear from notice, or else, if better luck befall it, quietly subside to the profundities, and serve as a possible ferment of new growths...

    • 8 From A Pluralistic Universe (1909)
      (pp. 162-166)

      . . . Every examiner of the sensible lifein concretomust see that relations of every sort, of time, space, difference, likeness, change, rate, cause, or whatnot, are just as integral members of the sensational flux as terms are, and that conjunctive relations are just as true members of the flux as disjunctive relations are. This is what in some recent writings of mine I have called the “radically empiricist” doctrine (in distinction from the doctrine of mental atoms which the name empiricism so often suggests). Intellectualistic critics of sensation insist that sensations aredisjoined only. Radical empiricism insists...

  8. Transitions

    • 9 William James (1910)
      (pp. 169-171)

      In responding to the request of the editors to write a few words regarding the late William James, I find myself without any of his books at hand. In any case, an adequate estimate of his philosophy could hardly be made at this time. Those who have been associated with him for many years can alone contribute to the story of his intellectual development—a fascinating topic, I imagine. Those who have studied under him will tell the tale of his teaching. While I have been honored with his friendship for many years, circumstances forbade intimacy, and I am not...

    • 10 The Chicago School (1904)
      (pp. 172-176)

      The rest of the world has made merry over the Chicago man’s legendary saying that “Chicago hasn’t had time to get round to culture yet, but when she does strike her, she’ll make her hum.” Already the prophecy is fulfilling itself in a dazzling manner. Chicago has a School of Thought!—a school of thought which, it is safe to predict, will figure in literature as the School of Chicago for twenty-five years to come. Some universities have plenty of thought to show, but no school; others plenty of school, but no thought. The University of Chicago, by its Decennial...

  9. John Dewey

    • 11 The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy (1909)
      (pp. 179-188)

      That the publication of theOrigin of Species¹ marked an epoch in the development of the natural sciences is well known to the layman. That the combination of the very words “origin” and “species” embodied an intellectual revolt and introduced a new intellectual temper is easily overlooked by the expert. The conceptions that had reigned in the philosophy of nature and knowledge for two thousand years, the conceptions that had become the familiar furniture of the mind, rested on the assumption of the superiority of the fixed and final; they rested upon treating change and origin as signs of defect...

    • 12 The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism (1909)
      (pp. 189-195)

      The criticisms made upon that vital but still unformed movement variously termed radical empiricism, pragmatism, humanism, functionalism,¹ according as one or another aspect of it is uppermost, have left me with a conviction that thefundamentaldifference is not so much in matters overtly discussed as in a presupposition that remains tacit: a presupposition as to what experience is and means. To do my little part in clearing up the confusion, I shall try to make my own presupposition explicit. The object of this paper is, then, to set forth what I understand to be the postulate and the criterion...

    • 13 The Copernican Revolution (1929)
      (pp. 196-214)

      Kant claimed that he had effected a Copernican revolution in philosophy by treating the world and our knowledge of it from the standpoint of the knowing subject.¹ To most critics, the endeavor to make the known world turn on the constitution of the knowing mind seems like a return to an ultra-Ptolemaic system. But Copernicus, as Kant understood him, effected a straightening out of astronomical phenomena by interpreting their perceived movements from their relation to the perceiving subject, instead of treating them as inherent in the things perceived. The revolution of the sun about the earth as it offers itself...

    • 14 What I Believe (1930)
      (pp. 215-225)

      Faith was once almost universally thought to be acceptance of a definite body of intellectual propositions, acceptance being based upon authority—preferably that of revelation from on high. It meant adherence to a creed consisting of set articles. Such creeds are recited daily in our churches. Of late there has developed another conception of faith. This is suggested by the words of an American thinker: “Faith is tendency toward action.”¹ According to such a view, faith is the matrix of formulated creeds and the inspiration of endeavor. Change from the one conception of faith to the other is indicative of...

    • 15 From A Common Faith (1934)
      (pp. 226-250)

      Never before in history has mankind been so much of two minds, so divided into two camps, as it is today. Religions have traditionally been allied with ideas of the supernatural, and often have been based upon explicit beliefs about it. Today there are many who hold that nothing worthy of being called religious is possible apart from the supernatural. Those who hold this belief differ in many respects. They range from those who accept the dogmas and sacraments of the Greek and Roman Catholic church as the only sure means of access to the supernatural to the theist or...

    • 16 From Experience and Nature (1929)
      (pp. 251-267)

      Experience, with the greeks, signified a store of practical wisdom, a fund of insights useful in conducting the affairs of life. Sensation and perception were its occasion and supplied it with pertinent materials, but did not of themselves constitute it. They generated experience when retention was added and when a common factor in the multitude of felt and perceived cases detached itself so as to become available in judgment and exertion. Thus understood, experience is exemplified in the discrimination and skill of the good carpenter, pilot, physician, captain-at-arms; experience is equivalent to art. Modern theory has quite properly extended the...

    • 17 From Art as Experience (1934)
      (pp. 268-284)

      By one of the ironic perversities that often attend the course of affairs, the existence of the works of art upon which formation of an aesthetic theory depends has become an obstruction to theory about them. For one reason, these works are products that exist eternally and physically. In common conception, the work of art is often identified with the building, book, painting, or statue in its existence apart from human experience. Since the actual work of art is what the product does with and in experience, the result is not favorable to understanding. In addition, the very perfection of...

  10. Suggestions for Further Reading on Belief and Experience in James and Dewey
    (pp. 285-286)
  11. Index
    (pp. 287-290)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)