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  • First of all, we should mention for the sake, for the viewers, that Dewey's first pragmatist

  • paper was called "The Reflex Arc in Psychology." An unlikely title. Many people don't know.

  • Everyone knows that James was both a philosopher and a psychologist, the famous joke which

  • my father already told me was, you know, that the James brothers, one of them writes novels

  • that read like psychology books and the other writes psychology books that read like novels.

  • But in fact John Dewey was also a professor psychology although he was not as good a psychologist

  • as James in his, the period when he was producing his psychology.

  • But, and I agree that he carried the idea of overcoming Cartesian dualism with respect

  • to perception further than James, although James, I think, was the first modern philosopher

  • to go in that direction. Husserl, himself, always credited James with inspiring his attempts

  • in that direction. So that's a very important conand there are philosophers now, analytic

  • philosophers going in the same direction who never cite either James or Husserl, anyone

  • outside of analytic philosophy.

  • It's as if this was rediscovered in Oxford, you know, people called disjunctivists, which

  • John McDowell is one. They trace this back to some paper written in Oxford in 1963 or

  • something that there, the American realists or Russell in a certain period or James or

  • Dewey are just outside. This is what worries me about analytic philosophy.

  • Having become a movement, it's become an exclusionary movement, and that is what I want to warn

  • against.

  • But the verificationism is not incompatible with realism about perception. The problem

  • is that I think both James and Dewey have a tendency to write as if what's really there

  • is what they call, what Dewey calls qualities, and what James calls pure experience.

  • And I think Reichenbach put his finger on something when he said when it comes to unobservable

  • things, things like electrons, then they tend to sound positivist.

  • They have trouble extending their ontology, to use Quine's term, to include the theoretical

  • entities of modern physics. They tend fact Dewey called himself an instrumentalist.

  • They go instrumentalist there.

  • I don't call myself a pragmatist. For one thing I don't like the pragmatist theory of

  • truth, which they were too proud of.

  • I thought the theory of truth is a mistake and for that matter the so-called pragmatic

  • maxim, their rule for making our ideas clear, namely, see what actions they would lead to

  • as a general theory of meaning I think it's a disaster.

  • I think the reason it was not, did not produce disastrously bad philosophy is they made a

  • rather restricted application.

  • I think for James in practice -- Peirce is a different kind of philosopher, and we can

  • talk about him separately -- but for Peirce -- for James and for Dewey what the pragmatic

  • maxim meant in their writing, they applied it to philosophical positions. What they meant

  • was we should ask what difference a philosophical position makes to the way people live.

  • What would it, and Dewey as an educator often asked what difference would it make to education

  • if we accepted this view on free will or that view on free will. That's one of the examples

  • I use when he writes on free will.

  • That seems to me healthy.

  • That doesn't commit you to a general view about what meaning is for any statement at

  • all.

  • But the turn to let's now try and think that philosophical positions certainly over the,

  • over a century or more, usually not very quickly, but over a century or more philosophical positions

  • if they're well-known have an influence on public debate and sometimes on public life

  • for many centuries. Think of Aristotle, Plato, Kant, etc.

  • And so that I. And I think it's interesting because James, the metaphysical position of

  • James which I'm most interested in, is his position on perception and Russell who detested

  • James' theory of truth published a book, the analysis of mind in which he says I follow

  • the lead here of the American new realists whose leader is William James.

  • Now I just. What I have against Russell is when he wrote about James in his history of

  • western philosophy he should have said although I dislike that side of James, I myself have

  • been terribly influenced by this other side of James. I think Russell was rather forgetful

  • and he simply forgot that he had in 1915 published a book that he said whose leading idea he

  • said came from James.

  • And Dewey almost never, in fact, employs the pragmatic maxim. In his work on, what I call

  • his work on epistemology, although he didn't like the term epistemology, Logic: the Theory

  • of Inquiry, the pragmatist theory of truth is only mentioned in one footnote. So I think

  • there's a lot one can find in the pragmatists without being oneself a pragmatist.

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Putnam on James, Dewey, and Pragmatism

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    耀梅林 posted on 2017/11/17
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