William James’ Pragmatism (1907) consists of a series of lectures given to the equivalent of Meetup groups of his time. He presents a unique set of views about truth, knowledge, reality, religion, and philosophy. In this series of discussions we will read and discuss this fundamental text chapter by chapter.
James can seem deceptively simple. His writing is not convoluted and obscure like the worst of the Continental philosophers, nor is it overly dry and technical like the worst of the Analytics. Instead, it is clear and accessible to an educated audience not versed in philosophical subtlety. But despite the apparent simplicity of the text, he expresses profound insights into the nature of reality and our knowledge of it, how we can best think about reality and what we should then do about what we find.
Here is the schedule of readings.
*** Please read the assigned chapter ahead of time. ***
Don’t worry if you come in late; each is a standalone essay. But, of course, reading them in sequence will give you a better understanding of James’ thought.
9 June: Lecture I. — The Present Dilemma in Philosophy
16 June: Lecture II. — What Pragmatism Means
23 June: Lecture III. — Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered
30 June: Lecture IV. — The One and the Many
7 July: Lecture V. — Pragmatism and Common Sense
14 July: Lecture VI. — Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth
21 July: Lecture VII. — Pragmatism and Humanism
28 July: Lecture VIII. — Pragmatism and Religion
4 August: No reading. This will be a summary of the ideas and issues raised during our reading.
The text is _Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking_ published in 1907. Its copyright has expired, so you can find it freely online.
Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5116/5116-h/5116-h.htm
Google Books digitized scan: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Pragmatism_a_new_name_for_some_old_ways/UGBRAAAAYAAJ
If you want a physical book, you can find numerous editions on online bookstores.
I will post the Zoom link the day of the meeting.