By Trygve Throntveit

Pragmatist thinker William James has lengthy been deemed a doubtful advisor to moral reasoning. This e-book overturns such considering, demonstrating the coherence of James's efforts to boost a versatile yet rigorous framework for people and societies looking freedom, that means, and justice in a global of interdependence, uncertainty, and change.

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Those who left room for a mind not wholly determined by physical processes could appeal to “inward propriety, [or] congruity in the ideas” as the criterion for rationality. ”62 If James did read this paper in front of the Metaphysical Club, his friends might have warned that he was painting himself into a corner. Perhaps associationists had constructed a psychology in which no thought could be considered rational, in the sense of being better to think than something else. How did James’s own insistence on the indeterminacy of thought differ?

Early in his academic career, however, James turned to the study of psychology, and from the mid-1870s until the publication of The Principles of Psychology in 1890 he did much to establish the scientific footing and disciplinary The Ethical Origins of James’s Pragmatism 27 identity of the field. 48 There is no doubt James’s moral concerns encouraged his turn to psychology. The thrust of his work was to make Darwin the friend of free will, and that, James came to believe, meant refuting the psychology of Herbert Spencer.

But Renouvier also recognized the limits of this and any empiricist epistemology. If all experience can be scoured for knowledge of reality, today’s experience cannot possibly be complete; tomorrow might challenge, refine, or refute today’s conclusion. This uncertainty creates a problem, for without certain knowledge of the future there is no empirical basis for purely reasonable ideas upon which to act. 65 Renouvier’s “fideism”—his account of the mind’s tendency, born of necessity, to act on reasoned faith in the absence of certainty—was crucial to James’s reconciliation of science and morality.

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