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with its notion of a " pre-existing ideal " of know-
ledge and reality, as already existing in a super-
sensible world, that descends magically into the
passively recipient soul of man. There is no such
thing, he claims, as absolute truth, and the con-
ception of an " absolute reality " is both futile and
pernicious. Absolutism, too, has an affinity to
Solipsism, 1 the difficulties of which it can escape
only by self -elimination.

Then Absolutism is, Schiller continues, " essen-
tially irreligious," 2 although it was fostered at first
in England for essentially religious purposes. 3 It
has developed there now at last, he reminds us, a
powerful left 4 wing which, as formerly in Germany,

1 See p. 159 and p. 212.

2 As for Dr. Schiller's charge that Absolutism is essentially " irre-
ligious " in spite of the fact of its having been (in England) religious
at the outset, the best way of meeting this is to insist that it is mainly
in its form, rather than its content, that Absolutism is (or was) irre-
ligious in both Germany and England.

3 British students of philosophy are quite well aware that it was the
religious and the spiritual motive that seemed to weigh most with
Hutchison Stirling and John Caird and Green in their attempts (thirty
years ago) to introduce German transcendental philosophy to their
fellow-countrymen. Stirling was impressed with the idea of a working
correspondence between Hegelianism and Calvinism. John Caird's
animus was against the agnosticism of Herbert Spencer and of Mansel,
and he found inspiration in this connexion in Hegel's treatment of
Kant's theory of the limitations of the understanding. And to Green
the attractive thing about Kant was his vindication of a " spiritual
principle " in " nature," and in " knowledge," and in " conduct," a
principle which rendered absurd the naturalism of the evolutionary
philosophy. Friends of this spiritualistic interpretation of German
Critical Rationalism find its richest and fullest expression in the
books of Edward Caird upon the Evolution of Religion and the
Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers.

4 The idea of a left wing is generally associated in the minds of
British students with the destructive criticism of Mr. Bradley in Appear-
ance and Reality, in which many, or most, of our ordinary ways of


has opened a quarrel with theology. In Absolu-
tism, the two phases of Deity — God as moral
principle, and God as an intellectual principle —
" fall apart," and absolutist metaphysic has really
no connexion with genuine religion. Humanism
can " renew Hegelianism " by treating the making
of truth as also the making of reality. Freedom
is real, and may possibly " pervade the universe." *
All truth implies belief, and it is obviously one of
the merits of Pragmatism to bring truth and reason
together. Beliefs and ideas and wishes are really
essential and integral features in real knowing,
and if knowing, as above, really transforms our
experience, they must be treated as " real forces,"
which cannot be ignored by philosophy. 2

Against all this would-be positive, or con-
structive, philosophy we must, however, record
the fact that the pragmatism of Dr. Schiller breaks
down altogether in the matter of the recognition
of a distinction between the " discovering ' of

regarding reality (our beliefs in " primary " and " secondary "
qualities of matter, in " space "and" time," in" causation,"" activity,"
a " self," in " things in themselves," etc.) are convicted of " fatal in-
consistencies." See, however, Professor Pringle-Pattison's instructive
account of his book in Man's Place in the Cosmos, bringing out the
positive side. The " left " is represented too, now, in Dr. Bosanquet's
Individuality and Value, which we examine below as the last striking
output of British transcendentalism or absolutism. See in this entire
connexion Professor James Seth's recent account of the " Idealist
Answers to Hume " in his English Philosophy and Schools of Philosophy.

1 See p. 244. I find a confirmation of this idea in what a biologist
like Professor Needham treats of as the " autogenetic nature of re-
sponses " (General Biology, p. 474) in animals.

2 See the Studies in Humanism for all the positions referred to, or
quoted, or paraphrased, in these two paragraphs.


reality and the " making " of reality. And despite
the ingenuity of his essay in the first edition of
Humanism upon " Activity and Substance," 1 there
is not in his writings, any more than in those of
James, any coherent or adequate theory of reality.
And this is the case whether we think of the
" primary reality " upon which we human beings
are said to " react," in our knowledge and in our
action, or of the supreme reality of God's existence,
of which such an interesting speculative account
is given in the essay referred to. Nor is there in
Dr. Schiller, any more than in James, any adequate
conception, either of philosophy as a whole, or of
the theory of knowledge, or of the relation of
Pragmatism as a " method " (it is modestly claimed
to be only such, but the position is not adhered to)
to philosophy as such. 2 " For the pragmatic
theory of knowledge initial principles are literally
apyai, mere starting-points variously, arbitrarily,
casually selected, from which we hope to try to

1 This is an important essay. It reminds the modern reader, for one
thing, of the importance of the natural theology of Aristotle. It is an
anticipation, too, in its way, of the tendency of modern physics to
substitute a dynamic for a static conception of matter, or atoms, or
substance. In it Dr. Schiller points out how Aristotle's doctrine of
a perfect and self-perfecting Activity [an fripyeia that is not mere
change or motion, but a perfect "life" involving the disappearance
of "time" and imperfection] is in a sense the solution of the old
[Greek] and the modern demand for the substance or essence of things.
We shall take occasion (in speaking of the importance to Philosophy of
the concept of activity, and in speaking of the Philosophy of Bergson)
to use the same idea, to which Dr. Schiller has given an expression in this
essay, of God as the eternal or the perfect life of the world.

2 For a favourable estimate of the services of Dr. Schiller in regard
to Pragmatism and Humanism the reader may consult the articles of
Captain Knox in the Quarterly Review, 1909.


advance to something better. Little we care what
their credentials may be. . . . And as far as the
future is concerned, systems of philosophy will
abound as before, and will be as various as ever, but
they will probably be more brilliant in colouring
and more attractive in their form, for they will
certainly have to be put forward and acknowledged
as works of art that bear the impress of a unique
and individual soul." 1

The main result of pragmatist considerations
in the case of Professor Dewey is perhaps that re-
consideration of the problems of logic and know-
ledge in the light of the facts of genetic and
functional psychology which has now become
fairly general on the part of English and American
students of philosophy. It is through his influence
generally that pragmatists seem always to be
talking about the way in which we " arrive at '

1 Studies in Humanism, p. 19. The remarks made in this para-
graph will have to be modified, to some extent, in view of the recent
(191 1) appearance of the third edition of Dr. Schiller's Riddles of the
Sphinx. This noteworthy book contains, to say the very least, a great
deal in the way of a positive ontology, or theory of being, and also many
quite different rulings in respect of the nature of metaphysic and of the
matter of its relation to science and to common sense. It rests, in the
main, upon the idea of a perfect society of perfected individuals as at
once the true reality and the end of the world-process — an idea which
exists also, at least in germ, in the pluralistic philosophy of Professor
James ; and we shall indeed return to this practical, or sociological,
philosophy as the outcome, not only of Pragmatism, but also of
Idealism, as conceived by representative living thinkers. Despite, how-
ever, these many positive and constructive merits of this work of Dr.
Schiller's, it is for many reasons not altogether unfair to its spirit to con-
tend that his philosophy is still, in the main, that of a humanistic prag-
matism in which both " theory " and " practice " are conceived as
experimentally and as hypothetically as they are by Professor Dewey.


our beliefs, about ideas as " instruments " for the
interpretation and arrangement of our experience,
about the " passage " from cognitive expectation
to " fulfilment," about ideas as " plans of action "
and mental habits, about the growth and the
utility of the truth, about the " instrumental "
character of all our thinking, about beliefs as more
fundamental than knowledge, and so on.

Professor Dewey has also written many more
or less popular, but none the less highly valuable,
short studies upon the application of an instru-
mentalist conception of philosophy to education
and to social questions. One of his last pieces of
service in this connection is a volume in which he
associates Pragmatism with the general revolution
effected in the entire range of the mental and moral
sciences by Darwinism, with the present tendency
in philosophy to turn away from ultimate questions
to specific problems, and with the reform which, in
his opinion, is necessary in our educational ideals *

These three leading exponents of Pragmatism
may be regarded as meeting the objections to
philosophy urged respectively by the " man of
affairs," by the " mystical, religious " man, and
by the "man of science." 2 By this it is meant
that the man of affairs will find in James an
exposition of philosophy as the study of different
ways of looking at the world ; the mystical, religious

1 See p. 106.
2 See Professor Bawden's book upon Pragmatism.



man will find in Schiller a treatment of philosophy
as the justification of an essentially spiritual
philosophy of life ; and that the scientific man will
find in the writings of Dewey and his associates a
treatment of philosophy as nothing else than an
extension into the higher regions of thought of the
same experimental and hypothetical method with
which he is already familiar in the physical

In this version of the work of the three leading
pragmatists it is assumed, of course, that the
pragmatist philosophy is the only philosophy that
can show to the average man that philosophy can
really do something useful — can " bake bread,"
if you will, can give to a man the food of a man.
It is assumed, too, that it is the only philosophy
which proceeds scientifically, that is to say, by
means of observation and of hypotheses that
work," and by subsequent deduction and by
verification." And again, that it is the only
philosophy that gives to man the realities upon
which he can base his aspirations or his faith in
distinction, that is to say, from the mere abstrac-
tions of Rationalism in any form.

By way of a few quotations illustrative of the
fundamental contentions of the pragmatists, we
may select the following : " Ideas become true
just in so far as they help us to get into satisfactory
relation with other parts of our experience, to
summarise them and get about among them by con-
ceptional short-cuts instead of following the inter-


minable succession of particular phenomena. Any
idea upon which we can ride, so to speak ; any
idea that will carry us prosperously from any one
part of our experience to any other part, linking
things satisfactorily, working securely, simplify-
ing, saving labour — is true for just so much,
true in so far forth, true instrumentally." x " The
true is the name of whatever proves itself to be
good in the way of belief, and good for definite
and assignable reasons." 2 From Professor Dewey :
" Thinking is a kind of activity which we perform
at specific need, just as at other times we engage
in other sorts of activity, as converse with a friend,
draw a plan for a house, take a walk, eat a dinner,
purchase a suit of clothes, etc. etc. The measure
of its success, the standard of its validity is pre-
cisely the degree in which thinking disposes of the
difficulty and allows us to proceed with the more
direct modes of experiencing, that are henceforth
possessed of more assured and deepened value." 3
From Dr. Schiller's book, Studies in Humanism :
" Pragmatism is the doctrine that when an
assertion claims truth, its consequences are always
used to test its claims ; that (2) the truth of an
assertion depends on its application ; that (3) the
meaning of a rule lies in its application ; that
(4) all meaning depends on purpose ; that (5) all
mental life is purposive. It [Pragmatism] must
constitute itself into (6) a systematic protest

1 Pragmatism, p. 58. 2 Ibid. 76.

8 Studies in Logical Theory, p. 2.


against all ignoring of the purposiveness of actual
knowing, alike whether it is abstracted from for
the sake of the imaginary, pure, or absolute
reason of the rationalists, or eliminated for the
sake of an equally imaginary or pure mechanism
of the naturalists. So conceived, we may describe
it as (7) a conscious application to logic of a teleo-
logical psychology which implies ultimately a
voluntaristic metaphysic."

From these citations, and from the descriptive
remarks of the preceding two paragraphs, we may
perhaps be enabled to infer that our Anglo-
American Pragmatism has progressed from the
stage of (1) a mere method of discussing truth and
thinking in relation to the problem of philosophy
as a whole, (2) that of a more or less definite and
detailed criticism of the rationalism that overlooks
the practical, or purposive, character of most of
our knowledge, to that of (3) a humanistic or
"voluntaristic" or "personalistic" philosophy, with
its many different associations and affiliations. 1
One of the last developments, for example, of this
pragmatist humanism is Dr. Schiller's association
of philosophy with the metaphysics of evolution,
with the attempt to find the goal of the world-
process and of human history in a changeless
society of perfected individuals.

We shall immediately see, however, that this
summary description of the growth of Pragmatism

1 I endeavour to indicate what this Humanism and Personalism
may be in my sixth chapter.


has to be supplemented by a recognition of (1)
some of the different phases Pragmatism has
assumed on the continent of Europe, (2) the
different phases that may be detected in the
reception or criticism accorded to it in different
countries, and (3) some of the results of the
pragmatist movement upon contemporary philo-
sophy. All these things have to do with the
making of the complex thing that we think of
as Pragmatism and the pragmatist movement.


(1) " The opinion that metaphysics is to be largely cleared up
by the application of the following maxim for obtaining clearness
of apprehension : ' Consider what effects that might conceivably
have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception
to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of
our conception of the object ' " (Baldwin's Philosophical Dic-
tionary, vol. ii. p. 321). [We can see from this citation that the
application of its formulae about " consequences " to metaphysics,
or philosophy generally, must be considered as a part, or aspect,
of the pragmatist philosophy.]

(2) " The doctrine that the whole meaning of a conception
expresses itself in practical consequences ; consequences either
in the shape of conduct to be recommended, or in that of experi-
ences to be expected, if the conception be true ; which conse-
quences would be different, if it were untrue, and must be different
from the consequences by which the meaning of other conceptions
is in turn expressed. If a second conception should not appear
to have other consequence, then it must be really only the first
conception under a different name. In methodology, it is certain
that to trace and compare their respective consequences is an
admirable way of establishing the different meanings of different
conceptions" {ibid., from Professor James).

(3) "A widely current opinion during the last quarter of a
century has been that ' reasonableness ' is not a good in itself, but


only for the sake of something. Whether it be so or not seems to
be a synthetical question [i.e. a question that is not merely a
verbal question, a question of words], not to be settled by an
appeal to the Principle of Contradiction [the principle hitherto
relied upon by Rationalism or Intellectualism]. . . . Almost
everybody will now agree that the ultimate good lies in the evolu-
tionary process in some way. If so, it is not in individual re-
actions in their segregation, but in something general or con-
tinuous. Synechism is founded on the notion that the coalescence,
the becoming continuous, the becoming governed by laws, the
becoming instinct with general ideas, are but phases of one and
the same process of the growth of reasonableness " (ibid. p. 322.
From Dr. Peirce, the bracket clauses being the author's).

(4) " It is the belief that ideas invariably strive after practical
expression, and that our whole life is teleological. Putting the
matter logically, logic formulates theoretically what is of regula-
tive importance for life — for our ' experience ' in view of practical
ends. Its philosophical meaning is the conviction that all facts
of nature, physically and spiritually, find their expressions in
' will ' ; will and energy are identical. This tendency is in agree-
ment with the practical tendencies of American thought and
American life in so far as they both set a definite end before
Idealism " (Ueberweg-Heinze, Geschichte der Philosophie, vol.
iv., written and contributed by Professor Matoon Monroe Curtis,
Professor of Philosophy in Western Reserve University, Cleveland,

(5) See also an article in Mind for October 1900, vol. ix. N.S.,
upon " Pragmatism " by the author of this book on Pragmatism
and Idealism, referred to as one of the early sources in Baldwin's
Philosophical Dictionary (New York and London) and in Ueberweg-
Heinze's Geschichte, Vierter Teil (Berlin, 1906).

The conclusion that I am inclined to draw from the fore-
going official statements (and also, say, from another official
article like that of M. Lalande in the Revue Philosophique, 1906,
on " Pragmatisme et Pragmaticisme ") is that the term " Prag-
matism " is not of itself a matter of great importance, and that
there is no separate, intelligible, independent, self-consistent
system of philosophy that may be called Pragmatism. It is a
general name for the Practicalism or Voluntarism or Humanism
or the Philosophy of the Practical Reason, or the Activism, or
the Instrumentalism, or the Philosophy of Hypotheses, or the
Dynamic Philosophy of life and things that is discussed in
different ways in this book upon Pragmatism and Idealism.
And it is not and cannot be independent of the traditional body
of philosophical truth in relation to which it can alone be defined.



In considering some of the results of pragmatist
and voluntarist doctrines in the case of European
writers, to whom the American-English trium-
virate used to look somewhat sympathetically,
we may begin with Italy, which boasted, accord-
ing to Dr. Schiller (writing in 1907), of a youthful
band of avowed pragmatists with a militant
organ, the Leonardo. " Fundamentally," declares
Papini, 1 the leader of this movement, " Prag-
matism means an unstiffening of all our theories
and beliefs, by attending to their instrumental
value. It incorporates and harmonizes various
ancient tendencies, such as Nominalism, with its
protest against the use of general terms, Utili-
tarianism, with its emphasis upon particular
aspects and problems, Positivism, with its disdain
of verbal and useless questions, Kantism, with its
doctrine of the primacy of practical reason,
Voluntarism, with its treatment of the intellect
as the tool of the will, and Freedom, and a positive

1 Joum. of Phil. Psychol., 1906, p. 338.


attitude towards religious questions. It is the
tendency of taking all these, and other theories,
for what they are worth, being chiefly a corridor-
theory, with doors and avenues into various
theories, and a central rallying-ground for them
all." These words are valuable as one of the
many confessions of the affiliations of Pragmatism
to several other more or less experiential, or
practical, views of philosophy. It is perfectly
obvious from them that Pragmatism stands, in
the main, for the apprehension of all truth as
subservient to practice, as but a device for the
" economy " of thought, for the grasping of the
multiplicity and the complexity of phenomena.
It looks upon man as made, in the main, for action,
and not for speculation — a doctrine which even
Mr. Peirce, by the way, now speaks of as " a stoical
maxim which to me, at the age of sixty, does not
recommend itself so forcibly as it did at thirty." x
" The various ideal worlds are here," continues
Papini, according to the version of James, 2 "because
the real world fails to satisfy us. All our ideal
instruments are certainly imperfect. But philo-
sophy can be regenerated ... it can become
pragmatic in the general sense of the word, a
general theory of human action ... so that
philosophic thought will resolve itself into a com-

1 From vol. ii. (p. 322) of Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy. Dr.
C. S. Peirce, formerly a teacher of mathematics and philosophy at
Johns Hopkins University, was made by James into the father or
patron saint of Pragmatism. James confesses to have been stimulated
into Pragmatism by the teachings of Peirce.

2 Journ, of Phil. Psy., 1906, p. 340.


parative discussion of all the possible programmes
for man's life, when man is once for all regarded
as a creative being. ... As such, man becomes
a kind of god, and where are we to draw the
limits ? " In an article called " From Man to
God," Papini, in the Leonardo, lets his imagination
work in stretching the limits of this way of

These prophetic, or Promethean, utterances —
and we must never forget that even to the Greeks
philosophy was always something of a religion or
a life — may be paralleled by some of the more
enthusiastic and unguarded, early utterances of
Dr. Schiller about " voluntarism " or " meta-
physical personalism " as the one " courageous,"
and the only potent, philosophy ; or about the
" storming of the Jericho of rationalism " by the
" jeers " and the " trumpetings " of the confident
humanists and their pragmatic confreres. The
underlying element of truth in them, and, for that
part of it, in many of the similar utterances of
many of our modern humanists, from Rabelais
to Voltaire and from Shelley to Marx and Nietzsche,
is, as we may see, that a true metaphysic must
serve, not only as a rational system for the intellect,
but as a " dynamic " * or motive for action
and achievement, for the conscious activity of
rational, self-conscious beings.

As for the matter of any further develop-

1 See pp. 78, 148 5 and in reference to the last striking presentation
of Absolutism, p. 230.


ments 1 of the free, creative religion hinted by
Papini, we had, in 1903, the solemn declaration
of Professor James that " the programme of the
man-god is one of the great type programmes of
philosophy," and that he himself had been " slow "
in coming to a perception of the full inwardness
of the idea. Then it led evidently in Italy itself
to a new doctrine which was trumpeted there a
year or two ago in the public press as " Futurism," 2
in which " courage, audacity and rebellion " were
the essential elements, and which could not
" abide " the mere mention of such things as
" priests " and " ideals " and " professors " and
11 moralism." The extravagances of Prezzolini,
who thinks of man as a " sentimental gorilla,"
were apparently the latest outcome of this
anarchical individualism and practicalism. Prag-
matism was converted by him into a sophisticated

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Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 2 of 21)