Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Occasionally a book succeeds in giving influential expression to an attitude and a set of principles that eventually make up a historically important philosophical movement. This is the case with William James’s Pragmatism. Borrowing the term from his philosophical contemporary Charles S. Peirce, James attempted in a series of published lectures to popularize and defend “a number of tendencies that hitherto have lacked a collective name.” Pragmatism came to dominate the American intellectual scene as well as to gain recognition as a uniquely American philosophical position. James’s book still serves as a sympathetic if sometimes polemical introduction to the pragmatic movement. Its eight related essays discuss the origin and meaning of pragmatism as well as suggest how the pragmatic method can be applied to troublingly perennial problems in metaphysics and religion. The contents give evidence of James’s belief that philosophizing, as a technical concern, must always involve consequences for the life of common sense and ordinary people.