Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Dewey and experience

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Dewey argues following James that 'experience' is a "double-barreled" word. Why is it a double-barreled word and what does Dewey claim experience is

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James and the Will to Believe

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

James writes, 

The thesis I defend is, briefly stated, this: Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say, under such circumstances, ``Do not decide, but leave the question open," is itself a passional decision,--just like deciding yes or no,--and is attended with the same risk of losing the truth.

Given this claim, he argues religious belief can be reasonable. What is his argument? Is his argument sound? 

 

Young William James

Young William James

James on the stream of consciousness

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Associationists like David Hume think that experience and thought are built out of simple ideas. There is a chain or train of experience. James disagrees and claims that there is no discontinuity of  and in experience. Why does he think this? 

William James

William James

Peirce on meaning

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Peirce famously wrote, 

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. 

Do you think this is adequate account of the meaning of words or concepts? Why or why? 

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Peirce on fixing belief

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Peirce writes the following in "The Fixation of Belief'', 

The irritation of doubt is the only immediate motive for the struggle to attain belief. It is certainly best for us that our beliefs should be such as may truly guide our actions so as to satisfy our desires; and this reflection will make us reject any belief which does not seem to have been so formed as to insure this result. But it will only do so by creating a doubt in the place of that belief. With the doubt, therefore, the struggle begins, and with the cessation of doubt it ends. Hence, the sole object of inquiry is the settlement of opinion. We may fancy that this is not enough for us, and that we seek, not merely an opinion, but a true opinion. But put this fancy to the test, and it proves groundless; for as soon as a firm belief is reached we are entirely satisfied, whether the belief be true or false. And it is clear that nothing out of the sphere of our knowledge can be our object, for nothing which does not affect the mind can be the motive for mental effort. The most that can be maintained is, that we seek for a belief that we shall think to be true. But we think each one of our beliefs to be true, and, indeed, it is mere tautology to say so. That the settlement of opinion is the sole end of inquiry is a very important proposition. 

The major conclusion of the argument is this: Truth is not the end of inquiry; only the fixation of belief is the only end of inquiry. What is Peirce's argument for this claim? 

Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce

Emerson

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said that Emerson's work provided "America’s declaration of intellectual independence". We can see this in his essays "The American Scholar" and "Self-Reliance." Here are questions:

  1. What is especially "American" about these essays? 
  2. Is self-reliance just selfishness?
  3. Emerson writes, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." What does Emerson mean my this? Do you agree? 
  4. Emerson articulates a form of individualism in these essays and is critical of society. What is society for Emerson? Why is he so critical of it? 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson