Pragmatism In William James's Philosophical Conceptions And Practical Ideas

1957 Words 8 Pages
The original pragmatic maxim and the whole creation of pragmatism derive their origins from Charles Pierce, the creator of pragmatism and its principle. The pragmatic principle that Pierce develops can be put forth from his essay, “How To Make Our Ideas Clear”, that “our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects.” (56) According to Pierce, pragmatism says our understanding or meanings of objects and beliefs formulate because of the qualities and characteristics that the objects and beliefs posses along with their resulting practical utilities. An example that Pierce offers in regards to his pragmatic principle is the Christian religious ritual of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation involves the use of bread and wine in the ritual’s …show more content…
However, in summarizing Pierce’s pragmatic principle, James shifts the principle from a theory of meaning and understanding to a theory of truth. James begins his summarization by stating that “what truth means is indeed the conduct it dictates or inspires”. (67) Ironically, this explication of the principle is not what Pierce meant when he developed the pragmatic principle. Pierce equates the principle to be that the meaning of an object or idea is the utility that results from such object or idea. James equates the principle to be that the meaning of a truth, not an object or idea, is the utility and effects that result in believing such truth: “the effective meaning of any philosophic proposition can always be brought down to some particular consequence, in our future practical experience, whether active or passive.” (67) James shifts the pragmatic maxim away from a theory of meaning to a theory of truth based on the resulting psychological effects the idea causes a …show more content…
Accordingly, the hypotheses regarding the existence of God provide options that “[make] some appeal, however small, to your belief” (93) if accepted. However, James realizes that not everyone reading his essay will believe this so he then shows why individuals should decide between options in which evidence is non-existent or insufficient. To do this, James presents Pascal’s wager and the bearings the wager has. James acknowledges that “the option offered to the will by Pascal is not a living option” (94) as Pascal’s option offers us a dead hypothesis as there is “no tendency to act on it.” (95) It is here that James acknowledges that Pascal’s wager, like his own argument offers what initially seem to be dead hypotheses. However, James explains that “our non-intellectual nature does influence our convictions. There are passional tendencies and volitions which run before and others which come after belief.” (97) Thus, Pascal’s wager and James’s forthcoming argument do both present a genuine option. James believes that by

Related Documents