Winds Of Doctrine eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about Winds Of Doctrine.
“Thirteen Pragmatisms;” and besides such distinguishable tenets, there are in pragmatism echoes of various popular moral forces, like democracy, impressionism, love of the concrete, respect for success, trust in will and action, and the habit of relying on the future, rather than on the past, to justify one’s methods and opinions.  Most of these things are characteristically American; and Mr. Russell touches on some of them with more wit than sympathy.  Thus he writes:  “The influence of democracy in promoting pragmatism is visible in almost every page of William James’s writing.  There is an impatience of authority, an unwillingness to condemn widespread prejudices, a tendency to decide philosophical questions by putting them to a vote, which contrast curiously with the usual dictatorial tone of philosophic writings....  A thing which simply is true, whether you like it or not, is to him as hateful as a Russian autocracy; he feels that he is escaping from a prison, made not by stone walls but by ‘hard facts,’ when he has humanised truth, and made it, like the police force in a democracy, the servant of the people instead of their master.  The democratic temper pervades even the religion of the pragmatists; they have the religion they have chosen, and the traditional reverence is changed into satisfaction with their own handiwork.  ‘The prince of darkness,’ James says, ’may be a gentleman, as we are told he is, but whatever the God of earth and heaven is, he can surely be no gentleman,’ He is rather, we should say, conceived by pragmatists as an elected president, to whom we give a respect which is really a tribute to the wisdom of our own choice.  A government in which we have no voice is repugnant to the democratic temper.  William James carries up to heaven the revolt of his New England ancestors:  the Power to which we can yield respect must be a George Washington rather than a George III.”

A point of fundamental importance, about which pragmatists have been far from clear, and perhaps not in agreement with one another, is the sense in which their psychology is to be taken.  “The facts that fill the imaginations of pragmatists,” Mr. Russell writes, “are psychical facts; where others might think of the starry heavens, pragmatists think of the perception of the starry heavens; where others think of God, pragmatists think of the belief in God, and so on.  In discussing the sciences, they never think, like scientific specialists, about the facts upon which scientific theories are based; they think about the theories themselves.  Thus their initial question and their habitual imaginative background are both psychological.”  This is so true that unless we make the substitution into psychic terms instinctively, the whole pragmatic view of things will seem paradoxical, if not actually unthinkable.  For instance, pragmatists might protest against the accusation that “they never think about the facts upon which scientific theories are based,” for they lay a great emphasis

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Winds Of Doctrine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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