2. The Enemies of Pragmatism
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for those students exposed to pragmatism in the customary way, in survey courses in modern philosophy or American intellectual history, it is easy to overlook one of the functional and diverting aspects of its early development . Apart from Charles Sanders Peirce’s programmatic essays from the 1870s, the most common assigned texts date from the first decade of the twentieth century —William James’s Pragmatism (1907) and The Meaning of Truth (1909), essays by John Dewey on knowledge and psychology, Peirce’s “What Pragmatism Is” (1905), and, perhaps, a piece by F. C. S. Schiller on “humanism.” In these works we find the central themes of meaning, method, reality, and truth expounded at length in various ways and styles, for instance, Peirce’s eccentric mix of semiotics and epistemological realism and Schiller’s confrontational insistence on the human element in the most reflective inquiries. Philosophy teachers can mine these materials for provocative ideas and formulations, treating James’s description of the true as “whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief” (P, 42) as an acute expression of modern thought or as a violation of logical distinctions. Intellectual historians might link Dewey’s cognitive psychology to the spread of evolutionary thinking, or James’s “cash-value” approach to ideas to Gilded Age mores. Literary theorists can cite Peirce on interpretation as an anticipation of post-structuralist theory. These are important connections rightly included in the study of pragmatism in its formative phase. But in many prominent statements of the time, especially during the prolific years 1904–1908, the pragmatists addressed more immediate influences, arguments, and adversaries. The texts they responded to included those originating not only many years earlier (The Origin of Species was already a half-century old), but just a few months or weeks before. The antagonists included not only famed figures of ancient and modern philosophy, but contemporary proThe Enemies of Pragmatism Mark Bauerlein 2.   .   .   .   . 42  •  Mark Bauerlein fessors minor in their own time and forgotten today. And the full context of the pragmatists’ expositions comprised not only highlights of meditation through the ages, but also statements in a local, unfolding, and piecemeal setting: the philosophy periodicals circa 1905. The role of the periodicals in the development of pragmatism was crucial. Of more or less recent creation and open to several schools of thought, they provided James, his allies, and their critics an ongoing forum in which to explain, denounce, analyze, and confute the meaning and implications of the movement. They helped pragmatism consolidate as a movement, as a concerted endeavor emphasizing its own newness and drawing battle lines in the philosophical community . They contained full-length articles, reviews of books and notices of articles in other journals, plus critical discussions in a point/counterpoint mode. They hosted meticulous examinations of minute aspects of the philosophy, sometimes running in successive issues a critique of one element in pragmatism, then a response to the critique, then a response to the response. For five years or so, the journals Mind, The Philosophical Review (hereafter PR), and The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods (founded 1904; hereafter JP) offered something related to pragmatism in almost every number, a remarkable fact given that JP was a biweekly and PR a bimonthly (Mind was a quarterly). (Several other periodicals weighed in on pragmatism, such as The Monist and Psychological Review, but with much less frequency.) Some of the most adamant and belittling objections to pragmatism went into their pages. Moreover, some of the most dense and combative rejoinders by the pragmatists appeared there as well, demonstrating that the pragmatists respected the authority of the journals and understood that the criticisms demanded a prompt reply in the same venue. Furthermore, in this heated forensic climate appeared some important clarifications by the pragmatists, statements that still draw attention today. James is the foremost example. As the lectures that became chapters in Pragmatism were taking shape in his mind, he engaged in direct disputes with antagonists in the journals, and his sallies often ended up in later volumes. Chapter 3 in The Meaning of Truth, “Humanism and Truth,” first materialized in October 1904 in Mind. Chapter 4, “The Relation between Knower and Known,” came out of an essay from the Sept 29, 1904, JP, and chapter 5, “The Essence of Humanism,” appeared in JP the following year. Of the longer entries in the posthumous volume Essays in Radical Empiricism, edited by Ralph Barton Perry (who also commented on pragmatism and its...


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