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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 con—and 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 to...in 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

80 Folder Collection
耀梅林 published on November 17, 2017
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