Religious beliefs Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 18 May 2017

Religious beliefs

In What Pragmatism Means, James writes that the central point of his own doctrine of truth is, in brief, that “truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and coordinate with it. Truth is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons. ” Richard Rorty claims that James did not mean to give a theory of truth with this statement, and that we should not regard it as such; though other pragmatism scholars such as Susan Haak and Howard Mounce do not share an instrumentalist interpretation of James.

Bruce Kuklick, (Kuklick, tells us that, “James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth. He would seek the meaning of ‘true’ by examining how the idea functioned in our lives. A belief was true, he said, if in the long run it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semi-hospitable world. James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their “Cash Value” was, what consequences they led to.

A belief was not a mental entity which somehow mysteriously corresponded to an external reality if the belief were true. Beliefs were ways of acting with reference to a precarious environment, and to say they were true was to say they guided us satisfactorily in this environment. ” In this sense the pragmatic theory of truth applied Darwinian ideas in philosophy; it made survival the test of intellectual as well as biological fitness. If what was true was what worked, we can scientifically investigate religion’s claim to truth in the same manner.

The enduring quality of religious beliefs throughout recorded history and in all cultures gave indirect support for the view that such beliefs worked. James also argued directly that such beliefs were satisfying—they enabled us to lead fuller, richer lives and were more viable than their alternatives. Religious beliefs were expedient in human existence, just as scientific beliefs were. ” William James gave a further direction to pragmatism, developing it as a theory of truth.

True ideas, according to James, are useful “leadings”; they lead through experience in ways that provide consistency, orderliness, and predictability. John Dewey was another leading pragmatist whose influence on educational and social theory is still prevalent in American society. We learn from (American Pragmatism I), that “James elaborated his theory of pragmatism in works such as Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907) and The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to Pragmatism (1909).

He considered pragmatism to be both a method for analyzing philosophic problems and a theory of truth. He also saw it as an extension of the empiricist attitude in that it turned away from abstract theory and fixed or absolute principles and toward concrete facts, actions, and relative principles. James considered philosophies to be expressions of personal temperament and developed a correlation between “tough-minded” and “tender-minded” temperaments and empiricist and rationalist positions in philosophy.

Theories, he felt, are “instruments” that humans use to solve problems and should be judged in terms of their “cash value” or practical consequences for human conduct.


American Pragmatism I. “Pragmatism”. Adventures in Philosophy. James, William. (1902-1920). “What is Pragmatism”. The Library of America. Lecture II Kuklick, Bruce. “William James”. The Introduction to William James’s Pragmatism. Wikipedia, The Free Dictionary.

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