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Queen's University
PHIL 115

Week 5 05/02/2013 07:28:00 Pragmatism, Chapter 3 1. Applications to metaphysical problems: 2. Common Sense  We should not take a philosopher‟s word for it when he says “there is an issue with x.”  There must be more reasoning from the philosopher to convince the reader that there is a problem. There must be a pragmatic issue for it to constitute a problem.  Philosophy should always make a tangible, practical difference with how we cope with the world. Human nature:  What is a human being?  Hume: there is no experience of the self, only of the body, mental states, emotions, etc. If there is no experience, there is no knowledge.  Hume: cannot agree with the Cartesian self. This is empty metaphysical speculation.  James must take Hume‟s position seriously to attack it.  Locke‟s self: for what reason do I say that I am the same person right now that I was 5 minutes ago, 10 minutes ago, or 20 years ago? I don‟t know it in the sense that my properties and characteristics were the same in the past.  Answer: I know that I am the same person as I was in the past since there is a continuity in my self-consciousness through my memory. I remember who I was ten years ago.  James considers Locke‟s belief of the self as a good position for the empiricist and pragmatist.  Design argument: rejected by Hume and James, but for differing reasons.  There is no proof of God‟s existence, whether by nature or reason.  What is the evidence of „design?‟ What difference does it make to our experience of the world if we believe that there is design in nature or not? (p. 58)  The belief in the existence of a designer could give us a hope for a more positive future, James says hesitantly.  Free will vs. determinism: James considers us free. But what difference does it make if we take a side?  The notion of free will enhances human dignity.  Dignity, reason, and freedom are inseparable.  This will make a moral difference rather than a difference of experience. There is no other difference.  All that morality presupposes is instinct and utility. If someone does what is right, he will be rewarded.  It cannot be an empty conviction.  We say an idea is true because it solves a problem that it is intended to solve, not just any problem.  Thinking begins with a problem, and only about that problem. It does not consider others that may be solved.  It is important that we believe in progress. Chapter 5: Pragmatism and Common Sense Common sense is defined as concepts and distinctions by James.  We tend to think of these notions as totally uncontroversial.  Common sense is nothing of the kind; it is something that must be questioned.  We must question how our common sense notions passed on to social acceptance.  James: common ideas are inventions, artefacts. They were made for a pragmatic reason.  Stock: we acquire new knowledge by adding it to old knowledge. Everything added to soup stock modifies the flavour of the stock, and the stock modifies the ingredients.  Common sense is not a set of eternal truths. They are a set of truths that have been handed down for many generations.  (85) The notion of a thing or object, the distinction between same and different, the notion of kinds, the distinction between mind and body, time and space, the distinction between subject and object, the notion of causality, the distinction between the real and the apparent.  James: there are no self-evident truths. There are true ideas which may be new or old, but are true on the grounds that they enhance our ability to cope with the world. 1. (94): We have seen reason to suspect it 2. We must be fallibilists regarding knowledge. All pragmatists are fallibilists. The status of knowledge is that it is always contingent and nothing is necessary. If this is so, we need to be a lot more open-minded about truths, including common sense ideas. February 8, 2013 Pragmatism and Humanism James defends humanism. He introduces a distinction: truth vs. the truth  He wants the most pragmatically workable hypothesis that generates consensus among the most competent inquirers of a subject.  The truth and particular truths vs. the laws and particular laws: When people say things like “you must obey the law” or “nobody is above the law,” what is the law? Nobody has ever experienced either the truth or the law. o You come into conflict with particular laws through misconduct, but the law is non-existant. o Likewise, the truth is an abstraction. Laws and truths can be used
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