Copyright
William Caldwell.

Pragmatism and idealism online

. (page 5 of 21)
Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 5 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and idealism in the realm of ethics, which transcends altogether any-
thing as yet attempted in this direction by Pragmatism.

1 See the instructive reports to the Philosophical Review by Dr.
Ewald of Vienna upon Contemporary Philosophy in Germany. In the
1907 volume he speaks of this renewed interest, "on a new basis," in
the work of the great founders of transcendentalism as an " important
movement partly within and partly outside of Neo-Kantianism," as
" a movement heralded by some and derided by others as a reaction,"
as the " fulfilment of a prophecy by von Hartmann that after Kant
we should have Fichte, and after Fichte, Schelling and Hegel." The
renewed interest in Schelling, and with it the revival of an interest in
university courses in the subject of the Philosophy of Nature (see
the recent work of Driesch upon the Science and Philosophy of the
Organism) is all part of the recent reaction in Germany against Posi-
tivism.

2 We may associate, I suppose, the new German journal Logos, an
international periodical for the " Philosophie der Kultur," with the
same movement.



THE PRAGMATIST MOVEMENT 49

Returning now to America and England,
although Pragmatism is eminently an American *
doctrine, it would, of course, be absurd to imagine
that Pragmatism has carried the entire thought
of the United States with it. 2 It encountered there,
even at the outset, at least something of the con-
tempt and the incredulity and the hostility that it
met with elsewhere, and also much of the American
shrewd indifference to a much - advertised new
article. The message of James as a philosopher,
too, was doubtless discounted (at least by the well-
informed) in the light of his previous brilliant work
as a descriptive psychologist, and also, perhaps, in
the light of his wonderfully suggestive personality. 3

What actually happened in America in respect
of the pragmatist movement was, first of all, the
sudden emergence of a magazine literature 4 in

1 See Chapter VII. upon " Pragmatism as Americanism."

2 See an article in the Critical Review (edited by the late Professor
Salmond, of Aberdeen), by the author upon " Recent Tendencies in
American Philosophy." The year, I think, was either 1904 or 1905.

3 See p. 180.

4 Without pretending to anything like a representative or an ex-
haustive statement in the case of this magazine literature, I may mention
the following : Professor Perry of Harvard, in his valuable articles
for the Journal of Philosophy and Psychology, 1907, vol. iv., upon " A
Review of Pragmatism as a Philosophical Generalization," and a

Review of Pragmatism as a Theory of Knowledge " ; Professor
Armstrong in vol. v. of the same journal upon the " Evolution of
Pragmatism " ; and Professor Lovejoy in the 1908 vol. upon the
' Thirteen Pragmatisms." These are but a few out of the many that
might be mentioned. The reader who is interested in looking for more
such must simply consult for himself the Philosophical Review, and
Mind, and the Journal of Philosophy and Psychology, for some years
after, say, 1903. There is a good list of such articles in a German
Doctor Thesis by Professor MacEachran of the University of
Alberta, entitled Pragmatismus eine neue Richtung der Philosophic,

4



50 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

connexion with the Will-to-Believe philosophy
of James and the California address, and in con-
nexion (according to the generous testimony of
James) with Deweyism or " Instrumentalism."
Much of this tiresome and hair-splitting magazine
discussion of " ideas as instruments of thought,"
and of the " consequences " (" theoretical " or
" practical " or what not) by which ideas were to
be " tested," was pronounced by James, in 1906,
to be largely crude and superficial. It had the
indirect merit, however, of yielding one or two
valuable estimates of the many inconsistencies
in Pragmatism, and of the many different kinds
of Pragmatism or instrumentalism that there
seemed to be, and of the value of Pragmatism as
a " theory of knowledge," and asa" philosophical
generalization." The upshot of the whole pre-
liminary discussion was (1) the discovery that,
Pragmatism having arisen (as Dewey himself put
it) out of a multitude of conflicting tendencies
in regard to what we might call the " approach '
to philosophy, would probably soon " dissolve
itself " back again into some of the streams out
of which it had arisen, 1 and (2) the discovery that
all that this early " methodological " pragmatism
amounted to was the harmless doctrine that the



Leipzig, 1910. There is also a history of pragmatist articles in the 1907
(January) number of the Revue des Sciences, Philosophiques et Theo-
logiques.

1 That this has really taken place can be clearly seen, I think, if
we inspect the official programmes of the Proceedings of the American
Philosophical Association for the last year or two.



THE PRAGMATIST MOVEMENT 51

meaning of any conception expressed itself in the
past or future conduct or experience of actual, or
possible, sentient creatures.

We shall again take occasion * to refer to this
comparative failure of Pragmatism to give any-
systematic or unified account of the conse-
quences by which it would seek to test the truth
of propositions. Its failure, however, in this
connexion is a matter of secondary importance
in comparison with the great lesson 2 to be drawn
from its idea that there can be for man no objective
truth about the universe, apart from the idea of
its meaning 3 or significance to his experience and
to his conscious activity.

What is now taking place in America in this
second decade [i.e. in the years after 1908] of the
pragmatist movement is apparently (1) the
sharpest kind of official rationalist condemnation
of Pragmatism as an imperfectly proved and a
merely " subjective ' and a highly unsystematic
philosophy ; (2) the appearance of a number of
instructive booklets 4 upon Pragmatism and the
pragmatist movement, some of them expository
and critical, some of them in the main sympathetic,
some of them condemnatory and even con-
temptuous, and some of them attempts at further

1 P- 144- 2 See p. 149.

3 See Chapter VI . , p. 1 49, upon the doctrine and the fact of ' ' Meaning. ' '
* Professor Pratt, What is Pragmatism ? (Macmillan & Co., 1909) ;
H. H. Bawden, The Principles of Pragmatism, a Philosophical Inter-
pretation of Experience, Boston, 1910 (a useful book presenting what
may be called a " phenomenological " account of Pragmatism) ; Moore,
Pragmatism and Its Critics.



52 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

constructive work along pragmatist lines ; (3)
indications here and there of the acceptance and
the promulgation of older and newer doctrines
antithetic and hostile to Pragmatism — some of
them possibly as typically American as Pragmatism
itself.

As a single illustration of the partly constructive
work that is being attempted in the name and
the spirit of pragmatism, we may instance the line
of reflection entered upon by Professor Moore 1 in
consequence of his claim that to Pragmatism the
fundamental thing in any judgment or proposition
is not so much its consequences, but its " value."
This claim may, no doubt, be supported by the
many declarations of James and Schiller that the
" true," like the " good " and the " beautiful,"
is simply a " valuation," and not the fetish that
the rationalists make it out to be. It is doubtful,
however, as we may try to indicate, whether this
tl value " interpretation of Pragmatism can be
carried out independently of the more systematic
attempts at a general philosophy of value that are
being made to-day in Germany and America and
elsewhere. And then it would be a matter of no
ordinary difficulty to clear up the inconsistency
that doubtless exists between Pragmatism as a
value philosophy and Pragmatism as a mere
philosophy of " consequences." It is " immediate,"
and " verifiable," and " definitely appreciated '
consequences, rather than the higher values

1 In Pragmatism and Its Critics (Univ. of Chicago Press).



THE PRAGMATIST MOVEMENT 53

of our experience that (up to the present time)
seem to have bulked largely in the argumentations
of the pragmatists.

And as an illustration of a doctrine that is both
American and hostile to pragmatism, we may
instance the New Realism 1 that was recently
launched in a collective manifesto in The Journal
of Philosophy and Scientific Methods. This
realism is, to be sure, hostile to every form of
" subjectivism " or personalism, and may in a
certain sense be regarded as the emergence into
full daylight of the realism or dualism that we
found to be lurking 2 in James's " radical empiri-

1 The manifesto has now become a book, The New Realism (Mac-
millan). For a useful account of the New Realism and the Old see
Professor Perry, Present Philosophical Tendencies, Part V.

2 The following are my reasons for saying that the " New Realism "
was already to some extent lurking in the " radical empiricism " of
James, (i) Although teaching unmistakably the " activity " of mind,
James seemed to think this activity " selective " rather than " creative "
(falling in this idea behind his much-admired Bergson). (2) Despite
this belief in the activity of the mind, he had the way of regarding
consciousness as (to some extent) the mind's " content " — an atti-
tude common to all empirical psychologists since Hume and the
English associationists. And from this position (legitimate so far from
the psychological point of view) he went on to the idea (expressed in a
troublesome form in the article, " Does Consciousness exist ? ") that
consciousness is not an entity or substance — of course it is not in the
ordinary sense of " entity." (3) Then from this he seemed to develop
the idea that the various " elements " that enter into consciousness to
be transformed into various " relationships " do not suffer any sub-
stantial change in this quasi-subjective " activity." Therefore, as
Professor Perry puts it (Present Tendencies, p. 353), " the elements or
terms which enter into consciousness and become its content may
now be regarded as the same elements which, in so far as otherwise related,
compose physical nature [italics mine]. The elements themselves, the
' materia prima,' or stuff of pure experience, are neither psychical nor
physical." It is in this last absurd sentence [simply a piece of quasi-
scientific analysis, the error of which Critical Idealism would expose



54 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

cism." It is, therefore, as it were, one of the
signs that Pragmatism is perhaps breaking up in
America into some of the more elemental tendencies
out of which it developed — in this case the
American desire for operative (or effective) realism
and for a " direct " * contact with reality instead
of the indirect contact of so many metaphysical
systems.

It is only necessary to add here that it is to the
credit of American rationalism of the Neo-Hegelian
type that it has shown itself, notably in the
writings of Professor Royce, 2 capable, not only of
criticising Pragmatism, but of seeking to incor-
porate, in a constructive philosophy of the
present, some of the features of the pragmatist
emphasis upon " will " and " achievement " and
" purpose." It is, therefore, in this respect at
least in line with some of the best tendencies in
contemporary European philosophy.

Lastly, there are certain tendencies of recent
English philosophy with which Pragmatism
has special affinities. Among these may be
mentioned : (i) the various general and specific



in a moment] that the roots, I think, of " new realism " are to be found
— a doctrine whose unmitigated externalism is the negation of all
philosophy.

1 See p. 164 and p. 230.

2 I refer to his Aberdeen " Gifford Lectures " on " The World and
The Individual," and to a well-known address of his upon " The
Eternal and the Practical " in the Proceedings of the American Philo-
sophical Association. In this latter pamphlet he shows that Prag-
matism and the philosophy of Consequences are impossible without
" the Eternal " and without Idealism.



THE PRAGMATIST MOVEMENT 55

criticisms x that have been made there for at least
two generations on the more or less formal and
abstract character of the metaphysic of our
Neo-Kantians and our Neo-Hegelians ; (2) the
concessions that have recently been made by pro-
minent rationalists to the undoubtedly purposive,
or " teleological," character of our human think-
ing, and to the connexion of our mental life
with our entire practical and spiritual activity.
Many of these concessions are now regarded as
the merest commonplaces of speculation, and we
shall probably refer to them in our next chapter.
Then there is (3) the well-known insistence of some
of our foremost psychologists, like Ward and Stout, 2
upon the reality of activity and " purpose " in
mental process, and upon the part played by
them in the evolution of our intellectual life, and
of our adjustment to the world in which we find
ourselves. And (4) the ethical and social ideal -

1 The criticisms of which I am thinking are (to select but a few from
memory) Green's well-known admission in respect of Hegelianism, that
it would have " to be done all over again " ; Mr. Bradley's admission
that he is " not a Hegelian " and (recently) that he has " seen too much
of metaphysics " to place any serious weight upon its reasonings ;
Jowett's complaint (in the " life " by Campbell) that the Oxford
Hegelianism of his day was teaching students to place an undue reliance
upon "words" and "concepts" in the place of facts and things •
Dr. Bosanquet's admission (many years ago) that, of course, " gods
and men" were more than " bloodless categories " ; Professor Pringle
Pattison's criticism of Hegel in his Hegelianism and Personality ;
Professor Baillie's criticisms at the end of his Logic of Hegel ; Mr. Sturt's
criticism of Neo-Hegelianism in his Idola Theatri, etc.

2 See the following, for example, from Professor Stout : " Every
agreeable or disagreeable sensation has a conative or quasi-conative
aspect" (Manual of Psychology, p. 233). Also: " Perception is never
merely cognitive " (ibid. p. 242) ; it has a " conative character and a
feeling tone," etc.



56 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

ism of such well-known members of our Neo-
Hegelian school as Professors Jones, Mackenzie,
and Muirhead. These scholars and thinkers
are just as insistent as the pragmatists upon
the idea that philosophy and thought are, and
should be, a practical social " dynamic " — that
is to say, " forces " and " motives " making for
the perfection of the common life. (5) A great
deal of the philosophy of science and of the philo-
sophy of axioms and postulates to be found in
British writers, from Mill and Jevons to Karl
Pearson and Mr. A. Sidgwick 1 and many others.

Apart from all this, however, or rather, in
addition to it, it may be truly said that one of the
striking things about recent British philosophical
literature 2 is the stir and the activity that have been
excited in the rationalist camp by the writings of
the pragmatists and the " personal idealists," and
by the critics of these newer modes of thought.
All this has led to many such re-statements of the
problems of philosophy as are to be found in the
books of men like Joachim, 3 Henry Jones, 4 A. E.

1 A. Sidgwick's " Applied Axioms" (Mind, N.S. xiv. p. 42). This
is extremely useful, connecting the recent pragmatist movement with
the work of the English logicians. See in the same connexion the
articles of Captain Knox in the Quarterly Review (April 1909) on
" Pragmatism."

2 During the last ten years Mind has contained articles on the
pragmatist controversy by nearly all our prominent academic authorities:
Dr. Bradley, Dr. McTaggart, Professor Taylor, Professor Hoernle, Dr.
Schiller, Dr. Mellone, Dr. Boyce-Gibson, Mr. Hobhouse, and so on.

8 Particularly in his valuable book on Truth in which the weakness of
the Hegelian conception of truth is set forth along with that of other views.

4 In Idealism as a Practical Creed, in his Browning as a Religious and
Philosophical Teacher, and elsewhere.



THE PRAGMATIST MOVEMENT 57

Taylor, 1 Boyce-Gibson, 2 Henry H. Sturt, 3 S. H.
Mellone, 4 J. H. B. Joseph, 5 and others, and even,
say, in such a representative book as that of Pro-
fessor Stewart upon the classical theme of Plato's
Theory of Ideas. In this work an attempt is made
to interpret Plato's " Ideas " in the light of
pragmatist considerations as but " categories "
or " points of view " which we find it convenient
to use in dealing with our sense experience.

1 In his Elements of Metaphysic, and in many of his recent reviews ;
in his review, for example, of Professor Bosanquet's Individuality and
Value, in the Review of Theology and Philosophy , and in his Mind
(July 1912) review of Professor Ward's Realm of Ends.

2 In his book upon the Philosophy of Eucken, in God With Us, and
elsewhere.

3 In Idola Theatri (an important criticism of Neo-Hegelian writers),
and elsewhere.

4 In Essays in Philosophical Construction, and in his book upon
Logic.

6 In his Introduction to Logic.



CHAPTER III

SOME FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS

We shall now attempt a somewhat detailed
treatment of a few of the more characteristic
tendencies of Pragmatism. The following have
already been mentioned in our general sketch
of its development and of the appearance of the
pragmatist philosophy in Europe and America :
(i) the attempted modification by Pragmatism of
the extremes of Rationalism, and its dissatisfaction
with the rationalism of both science and philo-
sophy; (2) its progress from the stage of a mere
practical and experimental theory of truth to
a broad humanism in which philosophy itself
becomes (like art, say) merely an important
" dynamic " element in human culture ; (3) its
preference in the matter of first principles for
" faith " and " experience " and a trust in our
instinctive "beliefs" ; (4) its readiness to affiliate
itself with the various liberal and humanistic
tendencies in human thought, such as the philo-
sophy of " freedom," and the " hypothetical
method " of science, modern ethical and social

58



SOME FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS 59

idealism, the religious reaction of recent years,
the voluntaristic trend in German post-Kantian
philosophy, and so on. Our subject in this
chapter, however, is rather that of the three or
four more or less characteristic assumptions and
contentions upon which all these and the many
other pragmatist tendencies may be said to rest.

The first and foremost of these assumptions is
the position that all truth is " made " truth,
"human " truth, truth related to human attitudes
and purposes, and that there is no " objective " or
" independent " truth, no truth " in whose estab-
lishment the function of giving human satisfaction,
in marrying previous parts of experience with
newer parts, has played no role." Truths were
" nothing," as it were, before they were " dis-
covered," and the most ancient truths were once
" plastic," or merely susceptible of proof or dis-
proof. Truth is " made " just like " health," or
11 wealth," or " value," and so on. Insistence,
we might say, upon this one note, along with the
entire line of reflection that it awakens in him, is
really, as Dewey reminds us, the main burden of
James's book upon Pragmatism. Equally char-
acteristic is it too of Dewey himself who is for ever
reverting to his doctrine of the factitious character
of truth. There is no " fixed distinction," he tells
us, " between the empirical values of the un-
reflective life and the most abstract process of
rational thought." And to Schiller, again, this
same thought is the beginning of everything in



60 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

philosophy, for with an outspoken acceptance of
this doctrine of the " formation " of all truth,
Pragmatism, he thinks, can do at least two things
that Rationalism is for ever debarred from doing :
(i) distinguish adequately " truth " from " fact,"
and (2) distinguish adequately truth from
error. Whether these two things be, or be not,
the consequences of the doctrine in question [and
we shall return 1 to the point] we may perhaps
accept it as, on the whole, harmonious with the
teaching of psychology about the nature of
our ideas as mental habits, or about thinking
as a restrained, or a guided, activity. It is in
harmony, too, with the palpable truism that all
" truth " must be truth that some beings or other
who have once " sought " truth (for some reasons
or other) have at last come to regard as satisfying
their search and their purposes. And this truism,
it would seem, must remain such in spite of, or
even along with, any meaning that there may be
in the idea of what we call " God's truth." By
this expression men understand, it would seem,
merely God's knowledge of truths or facts of which
we as men may happen to be ignorant. But then
there can have been no time in which God can be
imagined to have been ignorant of these or any
other matters. It is therefore not for Him truth
as opposed to falsehood.

And then, again, this pragmatist position about
all truth being " made " truth would seem to be

1 See p. 154.



SOME FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS 61

valid in view of the difficulty (Plato ' spoke
of it) of reconciling God's supposed absolute
knowledge of reality with our finite and limited
apprehension of the same. 2

The main interest, however, of pragmatists in
their somewhat tiresome insistence upon the
truism that all truth is made truth is their hostility
(Locke had it in his day) to the supposed rationalist
position that there is an " a priori " and " objec-
tive " truth independent altogether of human
activities and human purposes. 3 The particular

1 " If God has this perfect authority and perfect knowledge, His
authority cannot rule us, nor His knowledge know us, or any human
thing ; just as our authority does not extend to the gods, nor our know-
ledge know anything which is divine ; so by parity of reason they, being
gods, are not our masters, neither do they know the things of men "
(Parmenides, 134, Jowett's Plato, vol. iv.).

2 This is, of course, a very old difficulty, involved in the problem
of the supposed pre-knowledge of God. Bradley deals with it in the
Mind (July 191 1) article upon " Some Aspects of Truth." His solution
(as Professor Dawes Hicks notices in the Hibbert Journal, January
1912) is the familiar Neo-Hegelian finding, that as a " particular judg-
ment" with a " unique context" my truth is "new," but "as an ele-
ment in an eternal reality " it was " waiting for me." Readers of
Green's Prolegomena are quite ready for this finding. Pragmatists,
of course, while insisting on the man-made character of truth, have not
as yet come in sight of the difficulties of the divine foreknowledge — in
relation to the free purposes and the free discoveries of mortals.

3 There is, it seems to me, a suggestion of this rationalist position
in the fact, for example, that Mr. Bertrana Russell begins his recent
booklet upon The Problems of Philosophy with the following inquiry
about knowledge : " Is there any knowledge in the world which is so
certain that no reasonable man could doubt it ? " I mean that the
initial and paramount importance attached here to this question
conveys the impression that the supreme reality for philosophy is still
some independently certain piece of knowledge. I prefer, with the
pragmatists and the humanists, to think of knowledge as concerned
with the purposes of persons as intelligent beings, or with the realities
revealed in the knowing process. Although there are passages in his
book that show Mr. Russell to be aware of the selves and the psychical
elements and processes that enter into knowing, they do not affect his



62 PRAGMATISM AND IDEALISM

object of their aversion is what Dewey * talks of as
" that dishonesty, that insincerity, characteristic
of philosophical discussion, that is manifested in
speaking and writing as if certain ultimate abstrac-
tions or concepts could be more real than human
purposes and human beings, and as if there could
be any contradiction between truth and purpose."
As we shall reflect at a later stage 2 upon the
rationalist theory of truth, we may, meantime,
pass over this hostility with the remark that it is,
after all, only owing to certain peculiar circum-
stances (those, say, of its conflict with religion
and science and custom) in the development of
philosophy that its first principles have been
regarded by its votaries as the most real of all


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryWilliam CaldwellPragmatism and idealism → online text (page 5 of 21)