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What is attempted in this book is an examination
of the Pragmatist philosophy in its relations to
older and newer tendencies in the thought and
practice of mankind.

While a good deal has been written within the
last ten years upon Pragmatism, the issue that it
represents is still an open one — to judge at least
from recent books and reviews, and from recent
official discussions. And there seems to be a
favourable opportunity for a general account
of the whole subject and for an estimate of its

In the opening chapter and elsewhere, both in
the text and in the footnotes, I have put together
some things about the development and the
affiliations of Pragmatism, and of pragmatist
tendencies, that may not be altogether new to
the professional student. Such a presentation, or
general conspectus, I have found to be a necessity
in the way of a basis both for discussion and for
rational comprehension. Taken along with the
original pronouncements of James and his confreres


it affords an indication of the philosophy to which
the pragmatists would fain attain, and of the
modification of rationalistic philosophy they would
fain effect.

The chapter upon Pragmatism as Americanism
is put forth in the most tentative spirit possible,
and I have thought more than once of withholding
it. Something in this connexion, however, is,
in my opinion, needed to cause us to regard the
pragmatist philosophy as resting upon a very real
tendency of the civilized world of to-day — a
tendency that is affecting us all whether we like
it or not.

The chapter upon Pragmatism and Anglo-
Hegelian Rationalism is also offered with some
degree of reservation and misgiving, for, like
many of my contemporaries, I owe nearly every-
thing in the way of my introduction to philosophy
to the great Neo - Kantian and Neo - Hegelian
movement. In its place, I had some months ago
a more general chapter upon Pragmatism and
Rationalism, containing the results of material
that I had been elaborating upon the develop-
ment of English Neo-Hegelianism. At the last
moment I substituted what is here offered upon
the significant high-water output of Hegelianism
represented in Dr. Bosanquet's Edinburgh Gifford

In regard to the note upon the Pragmatist
elements in the philosophy of Bergson I ought,
perhaps, to say that I kept away from Bergson's


last two books until I had written out what had
been growing up in my own mind about the
activism of Pragmatism and its relations to
Idealism. I have found confirmation for much
of my own thought in the teaching of this
remarkable and significant thinker, and I regret
the partial representation of it that is here

Having crossed the ocean for the printing of
my book, I have in some cases lost or misplaced
references that I intended to use or to verify.
For this I crave the indulgence of readers and

I am indebted to the following gentlemen for
much kind help and criticism in the revision of
my manuscript and proof-sheets for the press :
my brother, the Rev. Victor Caldwell, M.A., of
Patna, Ayrshire ; Professor John Laird of Queen's
University, Belfast; Professor James Seth of the
University of Edinburgh ; Professor P. T. Lafleur
of M'Gill University. I also owe much in this
same connexion to recent conversations with
Professors A. Lalande and D. Parodi of Paris,
upon Pragmatism and contemporary philosophy

LONDON, September 191 3.



I. Introductory ....... i

Note on the Meaning of " Pragmatism " . 21

II. Pragmatism and the Pragmatist Movement . 23

III. Some Fundamental Characteristics . . 58

IV. Pragmatism and Human Activity . . . 93

Appendix to Chapter IV. — Philosophy and

the Activity-Experience . . . .109

V. Critical . . . . . . . . 116

VI. Pragmatism as Humanism . . . . 141

VII. Pragmatism as Americanism . . . .168

VIII. Pragmatism and Anglo-Hegelian Rationalism 196

IX. Pragmatism and Idealism in the Philosophy

of Bergson ...... 234

Concluding Remarks ..... 262






Pragmatism has by this time received so much
attention in the reflective literature of the day
that any writer upon the subject may now fairly
presume upon a general acquaintance with its main
principles and contentions. Indeed, it is pro-
bable that most thinking people may be credited
with the ability to have formed some sort of
judgment of their own about a philosophy whose
main contention is that true ideas are working
ideas, and that truth itself, like a creed or a
belief, is simply a working valuation of reality.
There are still, however, some things to be said,
at least in English, upon the place and the meaning
of Pragmatism in the philosophical reconstruction
that is generally felt to be so necessary to-day.

As far as the external signs of any such vital
relation between Pragmatism and our recent
academic philosophy are concerned, the reader

may be aware, to begin with, that there have been



many important concessions 1 made to pragmatists
by such representative rationalists as Mr. Bradley
and Professor Taylor, not to speak of others, 2 and
Pragmatism has certainly had a very powerful
effect upon the professional philosophy of both
England and Germany, judging at least from the
extent to which many of the more prominent
representatives of philosophy in these countries
have apparently been compelled to accord to it
at least an official recognition. 3

Pragmatism, again, in consequence of the
different receptions that it has met with at the
hands of its friends and its foes, has undergone
various phases of exposition and of modification,
although it has not yet, nor is it on the whole likely
to have, a philosophical output comparable to that
of Idealism. It has become more and more
conscious of its own affiliations and relations to
older, and to broader doctrines, declaring itself, in
the hands of Professor James and his friends, to
be but a new name for older ways of thinking.

1 See, for example, the concessions and the fresh statements of the
problem of philosophy, and the " clearing of the ground," etc., referred
to on p. 76 and p. 74. Also p. 27 in reference to the stir and the
activity that have been excited by the pragmatist controversy. See
also p. 230, in the eighth chapter, in reference to some things in such a
typical intellectualist as Professor Bosanquet that may be construed
as a concession to Pragmatism and Humanism.

2 Dr. Edward Caird affirmed in his memoir of his brother (Principal
John Caird) that idealists admit some pragmatist charges.

8 Professor Stein, a contemporary European authority, to whom
we shall again refer below, says, for example, in his well-known articles
in the Archiv fiir Philos<yphie (1908), in reference to Pragmatism, that
we have had nothing like it [as a ' movement '] " since Nietzsche "
(" Der Pragmatismus," p. 9).


And it has succeeded, in a measure, in clearing
itself from liability to the superficial interpreta-
tion that it met with a few years ago, when it
was scoffed at for teaching that you may believe
" what you like," for speaking, for example, as
if the " theoretical " consequences of truth were
not to be considered as well as the " practical."
Although still resting in the main upon an out-
spoken declaration of war against Rationalism, it
is no longer blind to the place and the value of
thought or the "concept," in the matter of the
interpretation of our experience.

Pragmatism, as the theory is generally under-
stood, rests in the main upon the work of three
men, Professors James and Dewey of America, and
Dr. Schiller of Oxford. The fact, along doubtless
with other things, that these men have ere now
been spoken of as occupying a right, a left, and
a centre in the new movement, is presumably
an indication that it has already received its
highest theoretical expression — presumably in the
California pamphlet of Professor James, or in the
famous Popular Science Monthly article of Peirce,
canonized as the patron saint of the movement by

Whether this be so or not, it has been in the main
the work of James to set forth the meaning of
Pragmatism as a philosophy of everyday life, as
the theory of the attitude of man as man to the
world in which he finds himself. Dr. Schiller,
again, it is claimed, has done much to set forth


Pragmatism to the world as an essentially human-
istic philosophy, recognizing and providing for the
rights of faith and of feeling in determining our
beliefs and our theories about things. This philo-
sophy has " much in common with what in other
quarters is called Personalism." It cannot, how-
ever, be differentiated so sharply as Dr. Schiller
apparently would have us believe from the many
manifestations of this philosophy that abound in
modern times, from Fichte, and from Lotze, down
to men who are still living — Eucken and others.
The ingenious Professor Dewey, moreover, is the
champion of the scientific, or the empirical, or the
" instrumental' ' method in philosophy, and has
worked hard and successfully at the reform which
he thinks must take place in logical and philoso-
phical conceptions when interpreted as simply tools
or devices for the economy of our thought.

When, in pragmatist fashion, we seek to judge
of Pragmatism by this last-mentioned matter of
its results, by the things it has enabled its advocates
to accomplish, we find that we may, to begin with,
speak in the following terms of the work of Professor
James. He has certainly indicated how the
pragmatist method may be applied to the solution
of some of the ordinary difficulties of reflective
thought ; about, for example, the nature of matter
or the nature of the soul, or about the old opposition
between the " one " and the " many," about such
concepts as " thing," " kinds," " time," " space,"
the " fancied," the " real," and so on. In all


such cases an answer, he holds, is obtained by
putting, say, the initial difficulty in the following
form : " What practical difference can it make
now that the world should be run by matter or by
spirit ? "

A fair illustration of his meaning here would be
his own characteristic attitude, so far as the
philosophy of religion is concerned, to the so-
called " theistic " proofs that have been part of the
stock in trade of rational theology. A " neces-
sary being " and a " whole of truth " and the
"Absolute" 1 are not, he would hold, what the
average man understands by God ; they have
hardly any perceptible effect upon life and con-
duct — the all-important matter in the thought
of God as he conceives it. Only those notions,
he would have it, which can be interpreted by
the thought of the " difference " they make to
our practical conduct are real notions at all —
" Providence," say, or " God " as the guarantor
of the reality and the permanence of the moral
order, and so on. The " soul," again, he would
hold, " is good for just so much and no more."
And a similar thing, too, would be true about
Berkeley's " matter," or about the " matter " of
the materialists. 2 This latter, for instance, cannot

1 Sec Chapter VIII., where I discuss the natural theology that bases
itself upon these supposed principles of a " whole of truth " and the
" Absolute."

2 This statement I think would be warranted by the fact of the
tendency of the newer physical science of the day to substitute
an electrical, for the old material, or corpuscular, conception of
matter, or by the admission, for example, of a contemporary biologist


possibly do all it is claimed to be able to do in the
way of an explanation of the order of the world
and the phenomena of life.

Then again, James has written a great many
pages upon the so-called deeper view of human
nature (as inclusive of will and " emotion " in
addition to mere thought) taken by Prag-
matism in comparison with that entertained by
Rationalism. We shall have occasion to return
to this point.

He has made it clear, too, that it was an unfair
interpretation of Pragmatism to take it as a plea
for believing what you like, as was said above.
Our experience, he puts it, must be consistent, the
" parts with the parts," and the " parts with the
whole." Beliefs must not clash with other beliefs,
the mind being wedged tightly between the coercion
of the sensible order and that of the ideal order.
By " consequences," too, he contends we may mean
intellectual or theoretical consequences as well as
practical consequences.

He has also, along with his brother-pragmatists,
raised the question of the nature of Truth, attain-
ing to such important results as the following :
(i) there is no such thing as pure truth, or ready-
made truth ; (2) the " copy-theory " of truth
is unintelligible. 1 We shall later be obliged to

of importance (Verworn, General Physiology, p. 39) that " all attempts
to explain the psychical by the physical must fail. The actual problem
is . . . not in explaining psychical by physical phenomena but rather
in reducing to its psychical elements physical, hke all other psychical
phenomena." 1 See p. 81, and p. 150.


examine the more controversial positions that
(3) truth is not an end in itself, but a means
towards vital satisfaction ; (4) truth is the
" expedient " in the way of thinking, as the right
is the expedient 1 in the way of acting, and so

Further, Professor James finds that Pragmatism
leaves us with the main body of our common-sense
beliefs [Peirce holds practically the same thing],
such as the belief in " freedom " — as a " promise
and a relief," he adds ; and the belief in the
religious outlook upon life, in so far as it " works."
This is the attitude and the tenor of the well-
known books on The Will to Believe and The
Varieties of Religious Experience. 2, " Our acts,
our turning-places, where we seem to ourselves
to make ourselves and grow, are the parts of the
world to which we are closest, the parts of which
our knowledge is the most intimate and complete.
Why should we not take them at their face-value ? "
And yet, as against this attitude, Professor James
elsewhere finds himself unable to believe " that
our human experience is the highest form of
experience extant in the universe." It is the

1 See Chapter V. pp. 136, 138, where we examine, or reflect upon,
the ethics of Pragmatism.

2 The importance of these volumes in the matter of the development,
in the minds of thinking people everywhere, of a dynamic and an
organic (instead of the older rationalistic and intellectualistic) con-
ception of religion and of the religious life cannot possibly be over-
estimated. Of course it is only right to add here that such a dynamic
and organic view of religion is the property not only of Professor
James and his associates, but also of the army of workers of to-day
in the realms of comparative religion and anthropology.


emergence of many such incoherences in his
writings that gives to his pragmatist philosophy of
religion a subjective and temperamental character,
and makes it seem to be lacking in any objective
basis. " If radically tough, the hurly-burly of
the sensible facts of nature will be enough for you,
and you will need no religion at all. If radically
tender, you will take up with the more monistic
form of religion : the pluralistic form — that is,
reliance on possibilities that are not necessities —
will not seem to offer you security enough." * He
" inclines," on the whole, to " Meliorism," treating
satisfaction as neither necessary nor impossible ;
the pragmatist lives in " the world of possibilities."

These words show clearly how difficult it is to
pin down Professor James to any single intelligible
philosophy of belief, if belief be interpreted as
in any sense a " commerce ' of the soul with
objective realities, as something more than a
merely generous faith in the gradual perfection or
betterment of human society.

" Religious experience," as he puts it in his
Pluralistic Universe, "peculiarly so called, needs,
in my opinion, to be carefully considered and
interpreted by every one who aspires to reason
out a more complete philosophy." In this same
book, it is declared, however, on the one hand, that
" we have outgrown the old theistic orthodoxy,
the God of our popular Christianity being simply
one member of a pluralistic system " ; and yet,

1 Pragmatism, p. 300.


on the other hand, and with equal emphasis, that
" we finite minds may simultaneously be conscious
with one another in a supernatural intelligence." *
The book on The Meaning of Truth seems to
return, in the main, to the American doctrine of
the strenuous life as the only courageous, and
therefore true, attitude to beliefs, as the life that
contains, in the plenitude of its energizing, the
answer to all questions. " Pluralism affords us,"
it openly confesses, " no moral holidays, and it is
unable to let loose quietistic raptures, and this is
a serious deficiency in the pluralistic philosophy
which we have professed." Professor James here
again attacks Absolutism in the old familiar
manner, as somehow unequal to the complexity of
things, or the pulsating process of the world,
casting himself upon the philosophy of experi-
ence, and upon the evident reality of the " many "
and of the endless variety of the relations of things,
in opposition to the abstract simplicity of the
" one," and the limited range of a merely logical,
or mathematical, manner of conceiving of reality.
" The essential service of Humanism, as I con-
ceive the situation, is to have seen that, though
one part of experience may lean upon another part
to make it what it is in any one of several aspects
in which it may be considered, experience as a
whole is self-sustaining and leans on nothing. . . .

1 Or an admission like the following in the Meaning of Truth
(p. 243) : "It may be that the truest of all beliefs shall be that in
transsubjective realities."


"It gets rid of the standing problems of Monism and
of other metaphysical systems and paradoxes." 1

Professor James exhibits, however, at the same
time a very imperfect conception of philosophy,
holding that it gives us, in general, " no new range
of practical power," ignoring, as it were, the
difference between philosophy and poetry and
religion and mere personal enthusiasm. And he
leaves the whole question of the first principles of
both knowledge and conduct practically unsettled.
These things are to him but conceptual tools, 2
and " working " points of departure for our efforts,
and there seems in his books to be no way of reduc-
ing them to any kind of system. And he makes,
lastly, a most unsuccessful attempt at a theory
of reality. Reality is to him sometimes simply a
moving equilibrium of experience, the " flux " we
have already referred to ; sometimes the fleeting
generations of men who have thought out for us
all our philosophies and sciences and cults and
varied experiences, and sometimes the " common-
sense world in which we find things partly joined
and partly disjoined." It is sometimes, too, other
things even than these. In a chapter of the book
upon Pragmatism* it is stated in italics that
" reality is, in general, what truths have to take
account of," and that it has three parts : (i) " the
flux of our sensations," and (2) the " relations that
obtain between our sensations, or between their

1 Meaning of Truth, p. 124, 5. 2 See p. 40 and p. 149.

3 Pragmatism, pp. 244-245.


copies in our minds," and (3) " the previous truths
of which every new inquiry takes account." Then
again, in A Pluralistic Universe, 1 it is declared that
" there may ultimately never be an All-form at
all, that the substance of reality may never get
totally collected . . . and that a distributive form
of reality, the Each-form, is logically as acceptable
and empirical and probable as the All-form."
This is the theory of the outspoken " radical
empiricism " 2 which is the contention of the
volume upon The Meaning of Truth, the main
effort of which seems to be to show again that the
world is still in the process of making. It has the

1 A Pluralistic Universe, p. 34.

2 In respect of James' later doctrine of " radical empiricism " we
may quote, for the sake of intelligibility, from Professor Perry (his
friend and literary executor) the following : " James' empiricism
means, then, first, that ideas are to be tested by direct knowledge,
and, second, that knowledge is limited to what can be presented.
There is, however, a third consideration which is an application of
these, and the means of avoiding a difficulty which is supposed to be
fatal to them. This is what James calls ' radical empiricism,' the
discovery that ' the relations between things, conjunctive as well as
disjunctive, are just as much matters of direct particular experience,
neither more nor less so, than the things themselves.' ' Adjacent
minima of experience ' are united by the ' persistent identity of certain
units, or emphases, or points, or objects, or members ... of the
experience-continuum.' Owing to the fact that the connexions of
things are thus found along with them, it is unnecessary to introduce
any substance below them, or any subject above them, to hold things
together " (Present Philosophical Tendencies, p. 365). In regard to this
radical empiricism, I am obliged, as a Kantian, to say that, to my
mind, it represents the reduction of all Pragmatism and Empiricism
to an impossibility — to the fatuous attempt (exploded for ever by
Hume) to attempt to explain knowledge and experience without first
principles of some kind or another. It is a " new Humism," a thing
which no one who has penetrated into the meaning of Hume's Treatise
can possibly advocate. A philosophy without first principles, or a
philosophy that reduces the relations between experiences to mere
" bits " of experience, is indeed no philosophy at all.


additional drawback of bringing Pragmatism
down not only to the level of radical empiricism,
but to that of common-sense realism or dualism
[the belief in the two independent realities of
matter and mind], and to that of the " copy-
theory " * of truth, from which both Pragmatism
and Radical Empiricism are especially supposed
to deliver us. "I will say here again, for the sake
of emphasis, that the existence of the object . . .
is the only reason, in innumerable cases, why the
idea does work successfully. . . . Both Dewey
and I hold firmly ... to objects independent of
our own judgments." 2 Much of all this is, no
doubt, like surrendering philosophy altogether.

In the case of Dr. Schiller, we may notice first
his frequent and successful exhibition of the extent
to which human activity enters into the constitu-
tion not only of " truth," but of " reality," of
what we mean by reality. This is interwoven in
his books with his whole philosophy of truth
as something merely human, as " dependent
upon human purposes," asa " valuation " expres-
sive of the satisfactory, or the unsatisfactory,
nature of the contents of " primary reality." It
is interwoven, too, with his doctrine that reality
is essentially a v\r), something that is still in the
making, something that human beings can some-
how re-make and make perfect. Then this posi-
tion about truth and reality is used by him, as by
James, as a ground of attack against Absolutism,

1 See p. 82 and p. 154. 2 The Preface, pp. xv., xix.


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Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 1 of 21)