PHIL 115 Lecture Notes - Pragmatism, Meliorism, Human Nature

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Published on 17 Apr 2013
School
Queen's University
Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 115
Professor
Pragmatism
Chapter 1
The present dilemma in philosophy is that it is not as objective or rational as it should be
o Subjectivity of the thinker should be bracketed
Thinking pertains to the object not the subject
No one who claims to know anything in any discipline is completely objective
Tough-minded temperament and tender-minded temperament
o [hard facts, skeptical, not religious, empirical] tough-minded, [idealistic, optimistic,
dogmatic, speculative] tender-minded
We value mathematics and science (tough-minded) more than we value history and poetry
(tender-minded)
Every philosopher ends up with a world view that reflects their temperament
Chapter 2
Pragmatism is a theory of truth and knowledge that bears on actions
Ideas are always in service of our practical projects (actions)
Theories are instruments by which we enhance our practice
o We make predictions and hypotheses to cope with the world
Thinking allows us to do something page 30
What difference does it make?
Everything depends on human actions and the ability to cope with human actions
James rejects that truth has an absolute, incontrovertible foundation
Experience is the basis of knowledge; all knowledge is uncertain and contingent
All human capacities and reason is finite
Knowledge doesn’t have a foundation
Ancient Greeks place a dichotomy and hierarchy on theory and practice
o Regard theory and practice as inseparable
A theory is supposed to solve a problem from our experiences, a specific problem
o Explains every human experience relating to the specific problem, superior to its
competitor
Hypothesis is not true until it passes for true among those who are competent inquirers
There is knowledge and experience of causality
o I have the ability to predict
A true idea allows me to anticipate because of its practical ability to help me cope with the
world
The theory of evolution does not correspond to anything, yet it is true
A statement makes agreeable connection with experience
Pages 98-99,284
We rarely accept a complete conversion of belief
Any new hypothesis needs to be brought into a larger world view and be coherent with it, no
contradiction
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The truth is absolute and objective (empty answer)
o Why would I desire to know it? Value it?
Any theory of truth should be able to tell us why we value it
Truth allows us to get what we want page 42
o Provides consolation, comfort
Chapter 3
James cannot observe the human as an immaterial substance
There is a continuity of my self-consciousness over time Locke
If there is intelligent design in the world, there must be a divine designer
o NO
Is there design in nature?
o The idea of design fails to pass the pragmatic test and therefore must be rejected
Ideas of design makes more of a moral difference gives hope for the future, page 89
Free will allows us to be the bearers of dignity (Kant)
Makes no experiential difference but a moral one
o No difference if my act is of causes or free will
All we require is instinct and utility for moral responsibility
o Don’t need a notion of free will for moral responsibility to exist
Scientific/philosophical inquiry is only important and true if it solves a specific problem
Human nature is progressing/advancing
Chapter 5
Not common sense judgement, but notions of common sense
o Totally uncontroversial, plainly true
We should question common sense historically
o Common sense truths are inventions
We acquire new knowledge by adding to old knowledge, and vice versa
o Rarely does someone do a radical conversion of world view
Common sense is not a sense of eternal truths
o “Recipe” that has been passed down, unquestionable
Page 89 notion of causality, distinction between mind and body…
No self-evident truths that are artifacts
Truths are highly workable instruments
No such thing as the light of nature
Human knowledge is fallible, contingent, and uncertain
February 7, 2013
Assignment #8 critique one idea from James’s book (can disagree or agree), 1 idea of the
philosopher, 1 idea of me, 600 words, due Thursday February 14, 2013
Chapter 6
Pragmatism will go through three stages:
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Document Summary

The present dilemma in philosophy is that it is not as objective or rational as it should be: subjectivity of the thinker should be bracketed. Thinking pertains to the object not the subject. No one who claims to know anything in any discipline is completely objective. [hard facts, skeptical, not religious, empirical] tough-minded, [idealistic, optimistic, dogmatic, speculative] tender-minded. We value mathematics and science (tough-minded) more than we value history and poetry (tender-minded) Every philosopher ends up with a world view that reflects their temperament. Pragmatism is a theory of truth and knowledge that bears on actions. Ideas are always in service of our practical projects (actions) Theories are instruments by which we enhance our practice: we make predictions and hypotheses to cope with the world. James rejects that truth has an absolute, incontrovertible foundation. Thinking allows us to do something page 30. Everything depends on human actions and the ability to cope with human actions.

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