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opportunism and a modern Machiavellism, a
method of attaining contentment in one's life
and of dominating one's fellow-creatures by play-
ing upon their fancies and prejudices as does the
religious charlatan or the quack doctor or the

The reader who may care to contemplate all

1 See Bourdeau, Pragmatisme el Modemisme, and W. Riley in the
Journ. of Phil. Psy., April and May 191 1 ; the James article, Journ. of
Phil., 1906 ; Journ. of Phil., 1907, pp. 26-37, on Papini's " Introduction
to Pragmatism " ; The Nation (N.Y.), November 1907, on " Papini's
view of the ' daily tragedy ' of life."

2 Reported to have been inaugurated by a Franco-Italian poet,
Martinetti. Of the question of any possible connexion between this
" Futurism " with the present Art movement bearing the same name I
know nothing definite.


this radical, pragmatist enthusiasm for the New
Reformation in a more accessible, and a less
exaggerated, form had better perhaps consult
the recent work of Mr. Sturt of Oxford on the
Idea of a Free Church. In this work the principles
of Pragmatism are applied, first, critically and in
the main negatively, to the moral dogmas of
traditional Christianity, and then positively to
the new conception of religion he would substitute
for all this — the development of personality in
accordance with the claims of family and of
national life. A fair-minded criticism of this
book would, I think, lead to the conclusion
that the changes contemplated by Mr. Sturt are
already part and parcel of the programme of
liberal Christianity, whether we study this in the
form of the many more or less philosophical
presentations of the same in modern German
theology, or in the form of the free, moral and
social efforts of the voluntary religion of America
and England. In America many of the younger
thinkers in theology and philosophy are already
writing in a more or less popular manner upon
Pragmatism as a philosophy that bids fair to
harmonize " traditional " and " radical ' con-
ceptions of religion. One of these writers, for
example, in a recent important commemorative
volume, 1 tries to show how this may be done by
interpreting the " supernatural," not as the " trans-

1 I refer to the recent volume dedicated by some of his old pupils
to Professor Garman — a celebrated teacher of philosophy in one of the
older colleges of the United States.


experimental," but as the " ethical " in experience,
and by turning " dogmatic " into " historical
theology." And it would not be difficult to find
many books and addresses in which the same idea
is expressed. The more practical wing of this same
party endeavours to connect Pragmatism with
the whole philosophy and psychology of religious
conversion, as this has been worked over by
recent investigators like Stanley Hall, 1 Starbuck, 2
and others, and, above all, by James in his striking
volume The Varieties of Religious Experience*

The fact, of course — and I shall immediately
refer to it — that Pragmatism has been hailed in
France as a salutary doctrine, not merely by
Liberals and Evangelicals, but by devout Catholics
and Anti-modernists, is perhaps enough to give
us some pause in the matter of its application in the
sphere of theoretical and practical religion. It is
useful, it would seem, sometimes to " liberate '
the spirit of man, and useful, too, at other times
to connect the strivings of the individual with the
more or less organized experiences of past ages.

Turning, then, to France, it is, judging from
the claims of the pragmatists, and from some of

1 The two large volumes on the Psychology of Adolescence.

1 The Psychology of Religion.

3 Even such a book — and it is no doubt in its way a genuine and
a noteworthy book — as Harold H. Begbie's Twice-born Men is pointed
to by this wing as another instance of the truth of pragmatist principles
in the sphere of experimental religion. Schopenhauer, by the way,
was inclined to estimate the efficacy of a religion by its power of
affecting the will, of converting men so that they were able to over-
come the selfish will to live. See my Schopenhauer's System in its
Philosophical Significance.


the literature bearing upon this entire subject, 1
fairly evident that there has been a kind of associa-
tion or relationship between Pragmatism and the
following tendencies in recent French philosophy :
(1) the " freedom " and " indeterminism " philo-
sophy of Renouvier 2 and other members of the

1 See, for example, the declaration of James and Schiller (in the
prefaces to their books and elsewhere) in respect of their attitudes to
the work of men like Renouvier, Poincare, Milhaud, Wilbois, Le Roy,
Blondel, Pradines, the valuable reports of M. Lalande to the Philosophical
Review (1906-7-8), the articles of Woodbridge Riley in the Journal of
Philosophy (191 1) upon the continental critics of Pragmatism, the
books of Bourdeau, Hebert, Rey, Tonquedoc, Armand Sabatier, Schinz,
Picard, Berthelot, those of Poincare, Renouvier, Pradines, and the
rest, the older books upon nineteenth-century French philosophy by
men like Fouillee, Levy-Bruhl, etc. There are also valuable references
upon the French pragmatists in Father Walker's Theories of Knowledge
(in the Stoneyhurst Series), and in Professor Inge's valuable little book
upon Faith and its Psychology.

1 The outstanding representative in France during the entire
second half of the nineteenth century of " Neo-Criticism " or "Neo-
Kantianism," a remarkable and comprehensive thinker, to whose in-
fluence, for example, James attributed a part of his mental develop-
ment. His review, the Critique Philosophique, was a worthy (idealist)
rival of the more positivistically inclined, and merely psychological,
review of Ribot, the Revue Philosophique. French Neo-Kantianism,
holding, as Renouvier does, that Kant's ethics is the keystone of his
system, is not in general inclined to the " positivism " or the " scientific "
philosophy of some of the German Neo - Kantians. The critical
work of Renouvier proposes some very ingenious and systematic re-
arrangements of Kant's philosophy of the categories, and his freedom-
philosophy must certainly have done a good deal (along with the work
of others) to create the atmosphere in which Bergson lives and
moves to-day. With Renouvier, Neo-Kantianism merges itself too
in the newer philosophy of " Personalism," and he wrote, indeed, an
important book upon this very subject {Le Personnalistne, 1902). In
this work, we find a criticism of rationalism that anticipates Pragmatism,
the author explicitly contending for a substitution of the principle of
" rational belief " instead of the " false principle " of demonstrable
or a priori " evidence." Consciousness, he teaches, is the foundation
of existence, and " personality " the first " causal principle " of the
world (although admitting " creation " to be beyond our compre-
hension). He examines critically, too, the notions of the " Absolute "


Neo-Critical school, and of Boutroux and Bergson,
who, " although differing from each other in
many important respects," all " belong to the
same movement of thought, the reaction against
Hegelianism and the cult of science which has
dominated France since the decline of the meta-
physics of the school of Cousin " \ x (2) the philo-
sophy of science and scientific hypotheses repre-
sented by writers like Poincare, 2 Brunschvicg,

and of the " Unconditioned," holding that they should not be sub-
stantiated into entities. " Belief " is involved in " every act," he
teaches — also another pragmatist doctrine. And like his great pre-
decessor Malebranche, and like our English Berkeley, he teaches
that God is our "natural object," the true "other" of our life. The
philosophy of Personalism, the foundations of which are laid in this work,
is further developed by Renouvier in a comprehensive work which he
published in 1899, in conjunction with M. Prat, on The New Monadology
(La Nouvelle Monadologie). This is one of the most complete presenta-
tions of a philosophy of " Pluralism " that is at the same time a
" Theism " — to be associated, in my opinion, say, with the recent work
of Dr. James Ward upon the Realm of Ends, referred to on p. 162.

1 Philos. Rev. (1906), article by Lalande.

2 H. Poincare (talked of in recent scientific circles as one of the
greatest mathematicians of history) is (he died about a year ago),
so far as our present purpose is concerned, one of the important
scientific writers of the day upon the subject of the " logic of
hypotheses," and of the "hypothetical method" in science — the
method which the pragmatists are so anxious to apply to philosophy.
He seems (see his La Science et VHypothese, as well as the later book,
La Valeur de la Science, referred to by Lalande in his professional reports
to the Philosophical Review) to accept to some extent the idea of the
" hypothetical " character of the constructions of both the mathe-
matical and the physical sciences, believing, however, at the same time
that we must not be " unduly sceptical " about their conclusions,
revealing as they do something of the " nature of reality." He dis-
cusses among other topics the theory of " energetics " of which we speak
below in the case of Ostwald. He insists, too, upon the idea that the
real is known only by " experience," and that this " experience "
includes the comparison of the thoughts of many minds. And yet he
believes to some extent in the Kantian theory of the a priori element
in knowledge (see La Science, etc., p. 64). It is, however, quite un-


Le Roy, 1 Milhaud, Abel Rey, 2 and others ; (3) the
religious philosophy and the fideism of the followers
of the spiritualistic metaphysic of Bergson, many
of whom go further than he does, and " make
every effort to bring him to the confessional faith " ; 3
and (4) the French philosophy of to-day that

necessary for me to presume to enter into the large subject of the
precise nature of " hypotheses " in the mathematical and the physical

1 A professor of mathematics in Paris and an ardent Bergsonian, and
along with Laberthonniere one of the prominent Catholic defenders
of Pragmatism and Modernism, author of a book on Dogmatism
and Criticism (Dogme et Critique). Not having had the time to examine
this book, as somewhat removed from my immediate subject, I append
for the benefit of the reader the following statements and quotations from
the useful book Faith and its Psychology, by Professor Inge of Cambridge.
It is easy to see that the positions represented therein would give
rise to controversy as to the historicity or fact of Christianity.
" Le Roy gives us some examples of this Catholic Pragmatism. When
we say ' God is personal,' we mean ' behave in our relations with
God as you do in your relations with a human person.' When we say,
' Jesus is risen from the dead,' we mean ' treat him as if he were your
contemporary.' . . . His main theses may be summed up in his own
words. ' The current intellectualist conception renders insoluble most
of the objections which are now raised against the idea of dogma. A
doctrine of the primacy of action, on the contrary, permits us to solve
the problem without abandoning anything of the rights of thought or
of the exigencies of dogma.' " Le Roy, by the way, has published a book
upon the philosophy of Bergson, which is said to be the best book upon
the subject. It has been translated into English.

2 M. Abel Rey, author of a work on the Theory of Physical Science in
the hands of Contemporary Scientists (La Thiorie de la physique chez
les physiciens contemporains). In this book (I have not had the time
to examine it carefully) M. Rey examines the theories and methods
of Newton, and also of modern thinkers like Mach and Ostwald,
reaching the conclusion that the philosophy with which physical science
is most compatible is a " modified form of Positivism," which bears a
striking resemblance to " Pragmatism " and the " philosophy of ex-
perience." The English reader will find many useful references to Rey
in the pages of Father Leslie J. Walker's Theories of Knowledge, in
the " Stoneyhurst Philosophical Series."
8 Ibidem.


definitely bears the name of Pragmatism, that of
M. Blondel, 1 who in 1893 wrote a suggestive work
entitled V Action, and who claims to have coined
the word Pragmatism, after much careful con-
sideration and discrimination, as early as 1888
— many years before the California pamphlet of

The first of these points of correspondence or
relationship we can pass over with the remark that
we shall have a good deal to say about the advant-
age enjoyed by Pragmatism over Rationalism
in the treatment of " freedom " and the " voli-
tional " side of human nature, and also about the
general pragmatist reaction against Rationalism.

And as for the philosophy of science, it has
been shown that our English-speaking prag-
matists cannot exactly pride themselves in the
somewhat indiscriminate manner of James and
Schiller upon the supposed support for their
" hypothetical " conception of science and philo-
sophy to be found in the work of their French
associates upon the logic of science. " The men
of great learning who were named as sponsors of
this new philosophy have more and more testified
what reservations they make, and how greatly
their conclusions differ from those which are
currently attributed to them." 2 Both Brunschvicg
and Poincare, in fact, take the greatest pains in

1 It was impossible to procure a copy of this work of M. Blondel.
I have tried to do so twice in Paris.

a M. Lalande in the Philosophical Review (1906), p. 246.


their books to dissociate themselves from any-
thing like the appearance of an acceptance of the
doctrine of the relativity of knowledge, from the
signs of any lack of faith in the idea that science,
as far as it goes, gives us a true revelation of the
nature of reality.

Then in regard to (3) the French pragmatist
philosophy or religion we have only to read the
reports and the quotations of M. Lalande to see in
this philosophy the operation of an uncritical
dogmatism or a blind " fideism " to which very
few other philosophers, either in France or in any
other country, would care to subscribe. " La
Revue de Philosophie, which is directed by ecclesi-
astics, recently extolled pragmatism as a means of
proving orthodox beliefs." ..." This system
solves a great many difficulties in philosophy ;
it explains the necessity of principles marvellously."
..." The existence of God, Providence and
Immortality are demonstrated by their happy
effects upon our terrestrial life." . . . " If we can
consider the matter carefully, it will be seen that
the Good is the useful ; for not to be good in any-
thing is synonymous with being bad, and every-
where the true is the useful. It is in this assertion
that Pragmatism consists." 1

And as to the fourth tendency, there is, at its
outset, according to M. Lalande, a more rational
or ethical basis for the fideism of M. Blondel's
book upon action, which starts off with a criticism

1 Ibid. pp. 245-246.



of philosophic dilettantism quite analogous with
that which Mr. Peirce follows in How to Make
Our Ideas Clear. But M. Blondel " does not
continue in the same manner, and his conclusion
is very different. Rejecting all philosophical
formalism, he puts his trust in moral experience,
and consults it directly. He thinks that moral
experience shows that action is not wholly self-
contained, but that it presupposes a reality which
transcends the world in which we participate." x

Finally, maintains M. Blondel, " we are unable,
as Pascal already said, either to live, or to under-
stand ourselves, by ourselves alone. So that, unless
we mutilate our nature by renouncing all earnest-
ness of life, we are necessarily led to recognize in
ourselves the presence of God. Our problem,
therefore, can only be solved by an act of absolute
faith in a positive religion [Catholicism in his case].
This completes the series of acts of faith, without
which no action, not even our daily acts, could
be accomplished, and without which we should
fall into absolute barrenness, both practical and
intellectual." 2

1 I am inclined to attach a great importance to this idea (Kant
obviously had it) of " consulting moral experience directly," provided
only that the " moral " in our experience is not too rigidly separated
from the intellectual. And it would so far, therefore, be only to the
credit of Pragmatism if we could associate it with a rational effort to
do justice to our moral experience, as indeed possibly presupposing a
" reality " that transcends the limits of our mere individuality, a
reality that transcends, too, the subjective idealism that figures but
too prominently in modern philosophy. See my eighth chapter, p. 223,
where I criticize Dr. Bosanquet for not consulting moral experience

2 Phil. Rev., 1906, p. 243.


Now again these words about our being unable
to understand ourselves " by ourselves alone "
contain an element of truth which we may associate
with the pragmatist tendency to believe in a
socialized (as distinguished from an individual-
istic) interpretation 1 of our common moral life,
to believe, that is to say, in a society of persons
as the truth (or the reality) of the universe,
rather than in an interpretation of the universe
as the thinking experience of a single absolute
intelligence. This, however, is also a point which
we are obliged to defer 2 until we take up the
general subject of the relations between Prag-
matism and Rationalism. The other words of
the paragraph, in respect of our absolute need
of faith in some positive religion, are, of course,
expressive again of the uncritical fideism to which
reference has already been made. As an offset
or alternative to the " free " religion of Papini
and James and to the experimental or practical
religion of different Protestant bodies, it is enough
of itself to give us pause in estimating the real
drift 3 of Pragmatism in regard to religious faith and
the philosophy of religion. 4

1 See p. 160. » See p. 200 et. ff. » See p. 64.

* For a later statement upon the philosophy of religion in France
see a report for the Phil. Rev. (vol. xvi. p. 304), by Le Roy. This
whole matter is, of course, a subject in itself of the greatest theoretical
and practical importance. It is enough for our purpose to have in-
dicated the different ways in which Pragmatism and the " Will-to-
Believe " philosophy have been received in France, and the different
issues raised by this reception. The reader who would care to look
at a constructive, philosophical view (by the doyen of French philosophy


We shall meantime take leave of French
Pragmatism 1 with the reflection that it is thus
obviously as complex and as confusing and con-
fused a thing as is the Pragmatism of other
countries. It is now almost a generation since

professors) of the whole issue between the pragmatist or " voluntarist "
point of view in religion and the older " intellectual " view, cannot do
better than consult Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy,
by E. Boutroux, a book that is apparently studied everywhere at
present in France. Its spirit and substance may be indicated by the
following quotations, which follow after some pages in which M. Bou-
troux exposes the error of " the radical distinction between theory and
practice." "The starting point of science is an abstraction, i.e. an
element extracted from the given fact and considered separately. We
cannot expect man to be satisfied with the abstract when the concrete is
at his disposal. That would be ' something like offering a printed bill
of fare as the equivalent for a solid meal.' Man uses science but he lives
religion. The part cannot replace the whole ; the symbol cannot
suppress reality." . . . " Not only is science unable to replace religion,
but she cannot dispense with the subjective reality upon which the latter
is grounded. It is pure Scholastic realism to imagine that the objective
and the impersonal suffice apart from the subjective in our experience.
Between the subjective and the objective no demarcation is given
which justifies from the philosophical standpoint the divisions which
science imagines for her own convenience " (p. 329).

1 Since writing these words, I have made (thanks firstly to Dr.
Schiller's review in Mind, July 191 1) the acquaintance of the important
work of M. Pradines upon the Conditions of Action. In the central
conception of this work, that action is " all-including " and that all
knowledge is a form of action, I find an important development of much
that the pragmatists have long been endeavouring to express, and also
in particular a development of the celebrated action philosophy of
M. Blondel. I am inclined, with Dr. Schiller, to regard the volumes of
M. Pradines as apparently the high-water mark of French pragmatist
philosophy in the general sense of the term, although I cannot but at
the same time hail with approval their occasional sharp criticism of
Pragmatism as to some extent " scepticism and irrationalism." I am
inclined to think, too, that the ethical philosophy of M. Pradines has
some of the same defects that I shall venture to discuss later in dealing
with the application (mainly by Dewey) of Pragmatism to moral theory.
Of course his Conditions of Action is by no means as original a production
as Blondel's book upon Action.


we began to hear of a renascence of spiritualism 1
and idealism in France in connexion not merely
with the work of philosophers like Renouvier and
Lachelier and Fouillee 2 and Boutroux, but with
men of letters like De Vogue, Lavisse, Faguet,
Desjardins 3 and the rest, and some of the French
Pragmatism of to-day is but one of the more
specialized phases of the broader movement.

1 Fouillee speaks in his book upon the Idealist Movement and the
Reaction against Positive Science of the year 1851, as the time of the
triumph of " force," of " Naturalism " (Zola, Goncourt, etc.), and of the
revival of Idealism by Lachelier, Renouvier, and Boutroux.

2 See the celebrated work of A. Fouillee, La Psychologie des
idees-forces (Paris, 1890). I confess to having been greatly impressed
by this book when I first made its acquaintance. In particular, I can
think of an idea in Fouillee's book that anticipates even Bergson,
namely the fact that every idea or sensation is an effort that is
furthered or impeded. But Fouillee's works out in this book the active
of the volitional side of nearly every mental power and of the mental
life itself, refusing to separate "mind" and "bodily activity." It
really anticipates a great deal of the whole French philosophy and
psychology of action, including the work of Blondel and Bergson.

3 M. Paul Desjardins (at present a professor of " letters " at Sevres)
was influential in Paris about 1892-93 as the founder of a Union
pour I' Action morale," which published a monthly bulletin. This
society still exists, but under the name (and the change is indeed highly
significant of what Pragmatism in general really needs) L' Union pour
la veritt morale et sociale. I append a few words from one of the
bulletins I received from M. Desjardins. They are indicative of the
spiritualizations of thought and action for which the old society stood.
"II ne s'agit de rien moins que de renverser entierement l'echelle de
nos jugements, de nos attaches, de mettre en haut ce qui etait en bas, et
en bas ce qui etait en haut. II s'agit d'une conversion totale, en
somme. . . ." " La regie commune c'est la mediocrite d'ame, ou
meme ce qu'on pourrait appeler I'athHsme pratique. En effet, Dieu
etant, par rapport a notre conscience, la Volonte que le bien se realise,
ou la Regie vivante, on devient pratiquement, athee, fut-on d'ailleurs
tres persuade par les preuves philosophiques de l'existence de Dieu,
lorsqu'on perd la notion de cette Volonte immuable avec laquelle la
notre se confond activement des quelle mtrite le nom de volontt libre, etc."
In this last sentence there is a distinctly pragmatist note in the sense
of the action philosophy of Blondel and Bergson and the rest.


And as for the special question of the influence

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Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 3 of 21)