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Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#46 Apr 16, 2012
This criticism from that Wiki page is thought provoking (and brings to mind again Reinhold Neibuhr and the just war theory):

James' doctrine has taken a lot of criticism. In 1907 University of Michigan Professor Alfred Henry Lloyd published "The Will to Doubt" in response, claiming that doubt was essential to true belief. For example, in his essay, "The Ancestry of Fascism" Bertrand Russell writes:

The Inquisition rejected Galileo's doctrine because it considered it untrue; but Hitler accepts or rejects doctrines on political grounds, without bringing in the notion of truth or falsehood. Poor William James, who invented this point of view, would be horrified at the use which is made of it; but when once the conception of objective truth is abandoned, it is clear that the question, "what shall I believe?" is one to be settled, as I wrote in 1907, by "the appeal to force and the arbitrament of the big battalions", not by the methods of either theology or science.[3]
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#47 Apr 16, 2012
Maybe a new thread should be started....
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#48 Apr 17, 2012
One of the books about William James describes the commonly understood definition of pragmatism to be-- how well does it work? But I've read much of his take on the term and that doesn't seem to be what he was saying. Like the term existentialism, there are many different definitions. In another book, it explains how the originator of the term pragmatism, forgot his name at the moment but he seemed to apply it more scientifically, later changed the term to pragmaticism to "keep it safe from kidnappers". Funny.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#49 Apr 17, 2012
Google search of "pragmatism"; this page is from Encyclopedia of Philosophy link:

Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected. Pragmatism originated in the United States during the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. Although it has significantly influenced non-philosophers—notably in the fields of law, education, politics, sociology, psychology, and literary criticism—this article deals with it only as a movement within philosophy.

The term “pragmatism” was first used in print to designate a philosophical outlook about a century ago when William James (1842-1910) pressed the word into service during an 1898 address entitled “Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results,” delivered at the University of California (Berkeley). James scrupulously swore, however, that the term had been coined almost three decades earlier by his compatriot and friend C. S. Peirce (1839-1914).(Peirce, eager to distinguish his doctrines from the views promulgated by James, later relabeled his own position “pragmaticism”—a name, he said,“ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers.”) The third major figure in the classical pragmatist pantheon is John Dewey (1859-1952), whose wide-ranging writings had considerable impact on American intellectual life for a half-century. After Dewey, however, pragmatism lost much of its momentum.

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in pragmatism, with several high-profile philosophers exploring and selectively appropriating themes and ideas embedded in the rich tradition of Peirce, James, and Dewey. While the best-known and most controversial of these so-called “neo-pragmatists” is Richard Rorty, the following contemporary philosophers are often considered to be pragmatists: Hilary Putnam, Nicholas Rescher, Jürgen Habermas, Susan Haack, Robert Brandom, and Cornel West.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#50 Apr 17, 2012
I wonder how the above definition of pragmatism could be applied to religion. Or the "how well does it work"....seeing as how religious faith in the midst of persecution is bound to appear, humanly speaking, as if it were not working at all: "Save yourself Jesus!", "Where's your God now, Jesus!?", etc., etc.

It seems as if the term can be too easily swayed in the means of judging religious faith unfavorably. And I don't see William James doing that. Moreso, he seems to be using the term in affirming religious faith.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#51 Apr 17, 2012
Those are my first thoughts...super superficial probably, but I'm trying to make whatever sense I can of the intellectualism. May continue with this, it's very interesting, and just learned Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the introduction to James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience". I read that book four times and hadn't made that connection between James and Neibuhr. It may have been before I learned of Reinhold Neibuhr's writings. But very intersted now to read that introduction again.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#52 Apr 17, 2012
Recalling too that Noam Chomsky often refers favorably to John Dewey.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#53 Apr 17, 2012
Wow. Dynamite intro by neibuhr. Just pulled it up online.


...But he does not come to terms with the charge of Reformation thought, that the quest for perfection is bound to be abortive, since even the most rigorous human virtue cannot escape the ambiguity of good and evil, with which all human striving is infected.....

...An appreciation of any classic of philosophical, scientific or religious thought (and James' volume is a classic in all three categories) cannot obscure the dated quality of the thought. No degree of genius can lift even the profoundest mind completely above the characteristic mood of his age. Thus James' optimism is an obvious reflection of the mood of the late nineteenth century, a mood which he expressed succinctly in a little essay, now little known but given wide publicity by the peace societies. The title of the essay was "A Moral Equivalent for War." One need not examine the thesis of the essay carefully in this context, but merely observe that he found a rather too simple road to a warless world.....
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#54 Apr 17, 2012
So there's the comparison between Neibuhr and James' "Moral Equivalent of War"--Neibuhr refers to it as a too simple road to a warless world.

More on this later...
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#55 Apr 17, 2012
Okay...that intro by wonder I was unaware of it since that had to have been later--Varieties released in 1902, so Neibuhr's intro probably decades after...unable to pull it up online again unfortuantely.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#56 Apr 18, 2012
The wiki page for 'Varieties..' is brief, but has interesting quotes/criticism:

A July 1963 Time review of an expanded edition published that year, ends with quotes about the book from Peirce and Santayana:[2]

In making little allowance for the fact that people can also be converted to vicious creeds, he acquired admirers he would have deplored. Mussolini, for instance, hailed James as a preceptor who had showed him that "an action should be judged by its result rather than by its doctrinary basis." James...had no intention of giving comfort to latter-day totalitarians. He was simply impatient with his fellow academicians and their endless hairsplitting over matters that had no relation to life. A vibrant, generous person, he hoped to show that religious emotions, even those of the deranged, were crucial to human life. The great virtue of The Varieties, noted pragmatist philosopher Charles Peirce, is its "penetration into the hearts of people." Its great weakness, retorted George Santayana, is its "tendency to disintegrate the idea of truth, to recommend belief without reason and to encourage superstition."
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#57 Apr 18, 2012
More wiki:

James believed that the study of the origin of an object or an idea does not play a role in the study of its value. He asserted that existential judgment, or the scientific examination of an object's origin, is a separate matter from that object's value. As an example, he alluded to the Quaker religion and its founder, George Fox. Many of the scientists in James' audience immediately reject all aspects of the Quaker religion because evidence suggests that Fox was schizophrenic. Calling this rejection medical materialism, James insisted that the origin of Fox's notions about religion should not come into account when propositioning the value of the Quaker religion. As an aside, many believe El Greco to have suffered from astigmatism, yet no one would dismiss his art based on this medical detail. James proposed, somewhat sarcastically, that his audience's atheism was perhaps a dysfunction of the liver. Some believe science to be superior to religion because of religion's seemingly vain, unfounded, or perhaps insane origin. In his lectures, James asserted that these claims, while perhaps historically or epistemologically interesting, play no role in the separate question of religion's value.

[edit] Reality versus symbols of realityThe lectures discussed the distinction between symbolism and reality. Symbols, such as the word "steak" on a menu, do not embody the actuality of the objects they represent. The word "steak" on a menu merely points to some slab of meat in the back of the restaurant. In a similar way, James posits that all of science is fundamentally detached from reality since the tools of science are merely pointers to some actual objective realm. He criticized his audience for the scientific tendency to ignore the unseen aspects of life and the universe. As an example, he discussed the way the notion of a lemon causes salivation in the mouth of an individual; while there is no lemon, there is clearly a process occurring worthy of academic inquiry.


"while there is no lemon" implies atheism, but James writes referring to himself as a Christian. I don't know if he was or wasn't.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#58 Apr 18, 2012
But as for George Fox being labeled a psychopath (that's the term 'Varieties...' includes)--that's similar to the humour in 'The Brother's Karamazov' regarding Father Ferapont--he appears insane to the reader, while many of his fellow monks believe Father Ferapont a religious visionary.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#59 Apr 18, 2012
Quakers: I attended a 'Friends' meeting in York, England in 1994. Later attended another (offshoot) Friends meeting in Sacramento, CA (1998), one in which they actually had a preacher (normally they don't have a preacher or leader). Taken aback when reading through their hymnal book and finding "Puff the Magic Dragon"! Turned and showed a man next to me, and he simply shrugged his shoulders. lol
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#60 Apr 18, 2012
One of the books on William James said he established his beliefs on solid grounds. (instead of solid ground-- universal pluralism--lol)
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#61 Apr 19, 2012
Messed that comment up yesterday. That book was referring to a particular William James belief--not his beliefs in general. So I should have wrote that it said he established his belief on solid grounds. Belief singular--grounds plural. And one of his books are called, if remembering it correctly, the metaphysics of a pluralistic universe. I referred to his universal pluralism, but that may not be the corect way to put it.

Confusing at times trying to makes sense of all this, but nevertheless very much enjoying the attempt at reading 'Varieties...' again. Only on page 25 or so and ahve already read some things that are helpful and thoughtprovoking.

Austin, TX

#62 May 6, 2012
What most of you all dont realize is its all compartmentalized and ties into the more elite organizations.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a magical initiatory order...
Basically a screening process takes place by high level members following the progress of the newcomer and his participation, advancement, and understanding of the steps. Eventually some are selected to be brought into more advanced spiritual ways....Master Mind, manifestation groups etc. Networking and being placed in good jobs etc happens.
A.*.A.*. also known as the Order of the Silver Star
The desire chip in Alcoholics Anonymous is silver.
Frank Buchman(Oxford Group)
Bill Wilson
were all hooked in with the big clubs in New York Wall Street etc.
The great thing about not fitting in anywhere is you can see a whole bunch in all directions. I'm usually labeled and ridiculed and that affirms I am on target.
For fun...Lets just say I got Hirams Key and can see a whole lot of what is in the temple.
Sister in Anchorage

Anchorage, AK

#63 Jun 15, 2012
Chris, If you can, please call as soon as you get this message. It concerns your father.... Call collect
Bruce Deile

Dallas, TX

#64 Jun 15, 2012
Supecting the last post here is a prank...similar trick occurred in Truckee when on library computer--someone posed as a friend in Tangier, Morocco when I was in e-mail correspondence with a Moroccan family I'd stayed with in 1984. Caught them red handed since they referred to me by Bruce--my middle name--when Rashid (the person they were posing as) only knew me by my first name--Chris.

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