Metaphysics with a Human Face: William James and the Prospects of Pragmatist Metaphysics

Metaphysics with a Human Face: William James and the Prospects of Pragmatist Metaphysics

Sami Pihlström

Abstract. This essay contributes to the debate over whether there is, or can be, any place for metaphysics in pragmatism, in William James’s pragmatism, in particular. The paper defends the possibility of pragmatist metaphysics, seeking to show how interesting forms of such metaphysics with a grounding in key Jamesian texts can, pragmatically, be put to work. This task is interesting from the perspective of both James scholarship and the ongoing re-evaluation and critical transformation of the pragmatist tradition. Furthermore, we need metaphilosophical discussion of the possibility and prospects of metaphysics in a situation in which many philosophers believe metaphysics to be dead and buried, partly thanks to the classical pragmatists and their followers. Thus, the present paper examines critically the widespread idea that pragmatism is an inherently non- or even anti-metaphysical philosophy (a view held not only by radical neopragmatists like Richard Rorty but also by scholars of classical pragmatism such as Charlene Haddock Seigfried).
1. Introduction
    This essay engages in the debate over whether there is, or can be, or should be, any role for metaphysics to play in pragmatism—in William James’s pragmatist philosophy, in particular. The recent exchange between Charlene Haddock Seigfried and William Myers is one of the backgrounds of my inquiry, though their controversy focuses more on John Dewey’s pragmatism than on James’s.1 More generally, I will critically defend the possibility of “pragmatist metaphysics”, articulating it in a way slightly different from its usual articulations. Instead of arguing, against Seigfried, in any detailed historical manner about James’s or Dewey’s commitments to metaphysics, I will try to show how interesting forms of pragmatist metaphysics —with a grounding in key Jamesian texts—can, pragmatically, be put to work. Thus, this paper is a contribution both to James scholarship and to the ongoing re-evaluation and critical transformation of the pragmatist tradition, as well as to the metaphilosophical discussion of the possibility and prospects of metaphysics in a situation in which many people believe metaphysics to be dead and buried (partly thanks to the classical pragmatists and their followers).
    It is frequently claimed that pragmatism is an inherently non- or even anti-metaphysical philosophy. Such allegations are not only found in the radical neopragmatism advanced by Rorty.2 Seigfried, a much more reliable guide to the pragmatist tradition, urges pragmatists to reject metaphysics and to base their reflections on lived experience. According to her, the classical pragmatists (especially James and Dewey) “didn’t just reject the traditional subject areas of metaphysics” but by grounding their analyses “in the concrete conditions of everyday life” offered a “genuine alternative to metaphysics”.3 James, in particular, contrasted metaphysical systems (especially rationalist ones) with “the world of facts of empiricism”, emphasizing the “concreteness” of those facts.4
    There are thus reasons to believe that pragmatism in general and Jamesian pragmatism in particular are anti-metaphysical philosophical orientations. Yet, given both classical and contemporary pragmatists’ deep interest in metaphysics and innovative work in that field, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, the pragmatist tradition contains numerous views and arguments—many of them due to James—highly critical of metaphysics (and epistemology) as traditionally conceived. For example, pragmatists are typically anti-essentialists and anti-foundationalists; moreover, standard metaphysically realistic conceptions of reality and truth have been attacked by pragmatists, early and late—with good reason. James was a vigorous critic of metaphysical realism, as will be noted below. It would, however, be a mistake to conclude that metaphysics as such has been, or would have to be, entirely abandoned on the basis of such legitimate criticisms. On the contrary, this paper tries to show how a humanized form of metaphysics emerges from Jamesian pragmatism. The world, according to the “pragmatic realism” to be developed and defended, is a humanly structured world; metaphysics ought to be understood as an inquiry into the fundamental (yet revisable) categories of such a human reality.
    My inquiry will proceed as follows. Section 2 will outline two different conceptions of metaphysics, proposing that pragmatism is closer to “Kantian” than “Aristotelian” metaphysics. This proposal will be substantiated in sections 3-7, which offer examples of Jamesian pragmatist metaphysics at work, both in his own philosophy and in the work of some more recent thinkers influenced by him. Section 8 briefly returns to the dispute between Seigfried and Myers, further elaborating on the idea that pragmatist metaphysics is “transcendental”, before final conclusions in section 9. 4
   I should note that I am not going to discuss in any detail James’s own metaphysical system, radical empiricism.5 I am more interested in the picture of metaphysics that can be based on his pragmatism than on his own metaphysical beliefs. I am not even convinced that radical empiricism, claiming that reality ultimately consists of “pure experience”, is consistent with pragmatism, which rejects all such ultimate accounts of the fundamental constituents of the world. I will, however, leave this issue aside here, in order to be able to focus on the pragmatic conception of metaphysics James helps us to defend. 5
2. Different conceptions of metaphysics
    There are two chief rival views of general metaphysics6 to be found in the history of recent philosophy. I simply call these the “Aristotelian” and the “Kantian” conception. The Aristotelian metaphysician, starting from Aristotle’s famous view of “first philosophy” as a science of “Being qua Being”, an inquiry into “first principles”, tries to identify the basic ontological categories of Being itself, of a world ontologically independent of human conceptual categorization. In contrast, the Kantian thinker—the transcendental philosopher —rejects such a claim, urging that we cannot know anything about Being as such, or about the things in themselves. The world’s or Being’s “own” categorical structure is forever, necessarily, beyond our cognitive reach. Thus, when studying ontological categories, we study the forms of our thought about reality, our conceptual schemes, the basic features of our experiencing and talking about the world, and so on. We cannot directly examine the world itself, but we can examine the way(s) we take the world to be. 6
    Both Aristotelian and Kantian metaphysicians, despite their enormous differences, are convinced that metaphysics is vitally needed, because the most basic categories in terms of which we inevitably experience reality cannot be adequately accounted for by means of the specialized vocabularies of the diverse special sciences. A more general inquiry is required. The crucial difference between the two camps of metaphysicians (which, obviously, can here be described only in extremely broad strokes) is the difference between the assumption that such fundamental categories are provided by the world as it is in itself, independently of our experience, and the contrasting view that such a postulation of an sich metaphysical categories of being makes little sense.7 7
  The contemporary debate over the nature and possibility of metaphysics can largely be situated within the area defined by these two poles. For example, Michael J. Loux sets what he calls transcendent metaphysics and (Kantian) critical metaphysics against each other, describing the latter as an attempt to delineate “the most general features of our thought and knowledge” and to identify “the most general concepts at work in our representation of the world, the relationships that obtain among those concepts, and the presuppositions of their objective employment”.8 Thus, according to the Kantian conception, metaphysics seeks to characterize our conceptual scheme or framework rather than the world itself.9 This project is transcendental, having to do with the conditions required for our cognitions to be about reality at all; no transcendent reality beyond our cognitive capacities is, however, a possible object of experience.
    Loux defends traditional Aristotelian metaphysics against Kantian, in his view anti-realist, alternatives. Another leading recent metaphysician, E.J. Lowe, similarly includes the “neo-Kantian” view among the anti-metaphysical positions he criticizes.10 Peter Loptson, in turn, suggests that “[o]ne of the very deepest and most important divisions in post-Kantian philosophy” lies between “those who regard as viable, at least in principle, an essentially unitary project of theorizing about the world and its diverse constituents (including middlesized physical objects, such things as quarks and fields, abstract entities, and free rational conscious agency), and those who think otherwise”, labelling these positions “unitarianism” and “anti-unitarianism”, respectively.11 9
    I could give several other examples. Indeed, if one browses recent metaphysical literature, including textbooks and anthologies intended for classroom use,12 one finds an almost unanimous commitment to Aristotelianism, as contrasted to the Kantian picture. Accordingly, most contemporary metaphysicians seem to be metaphysical realists—to use Hilary Putnam’s expression, without any explicit commitment to the meaning(s) Putnam used to attach to this notion.13 For example, such leading analytic thinkers as D.M. Armstrong and David Lewis are, quite clearly, metaphysical realists. As they theorize about the basic ontological categories they find necessary to postulate —whether these are universals and states of affairs, as in Armstrong’s case, or concretely existing possible worlds, as in Lewis’s case14 —they see themselves as “limning the true and ultimate structure of reality” (to use W.V. Quine’s appropriate phrase). In Putnamian terms, they attempt to adopt a “God’s-Eye View” on the world, seeking to formulate an “absolute conception” of reality, a non-perspectival conception given from a perspective which is no genuine perspective at all.15 The ontological categories these metaphysicians postulate are, clearly, intended as the world’s, Being’s, or Nature’s own, although any reasonable philosopher admits that our attempts to categorize transcendent reality in terms of its own categories are as fallible as any other human cognitive projects. Even the strongest metaphysical realists admit that we can only more or less reasonably hope to be able to represent the ontological structure of the world as it is in itself, never claim to be sure of having succeeded in our efforts. 10
    William James, obviously, was no Kantian; he saw his own pragmatism as continuing the tradition of empiricism, going “round” Kant rather than “through” him. However, pragmatism, I believe, can be (re)interpreted as a way of emphasizing the practice-ladenness of ontological commitments and thus, in Kantian terms, the transcendental role that practices of various kinds play in enabling our categorizations of reality.16 It is only within purposive human practices that reality is, for us, in a way or another. It is only within such practices that objects (or entities falling under any ontological categories) can be identified and reidentified. Practices, or human habits of action—which can be seen as analogous to Wittgenstein’s language-games or forms of life —do not, of course, construct the world (only a very radical pragmatist would claim they do), but their role in the constitution of the world of experienceable objects is transcendental in a manner analogous to Kant’s categories, or perhaps roughly in the way in which phenomenologists’ transcendental ego or consciousness functions as the necessary background for the emergence of a meaningfully experienceable objective reality.17 11
    Pragmatism, then, ends up with a conception of the mind-dependence, or better, conceptualization-dependence and (therefore) practice-dependence, of ontological categories. Ontology is, for pragmatists as much as for Kantians and Wittgensteinians, essentially a human project of categorizing the world, not (as in traditional Aristotelian metaphysics) a project of discovering the categories that are already there, embedded in the structure of the world itself, independently of human categorization. The central pragmatist novelty in this discussion is the insight that this categorization and conceptualization contain an irreducibly practical dimension: it is in and through our practices of coping with the world that the world gets structured by us. It is the task of ontology, general metaphysics, to examine the transcendental conditions for the possibility of the various structures reality may receive through our categorizing activities. It is clear that pragmatists should reject metaphysics in the strongly realist sense taken for granted in most contemporary works in this field. But it does not follow that metaphysics in the Kantian sense ought to be rejected, too. Metaphysics in general ought to be carefully distinguished from a specific (though extremely wide-ranging) metaphysical commitment, the commitment to metaphysical realism. Pragmatism rejects, or should reject, the latter—though not all (Peircean) pragmatists seem to do so18 —but not the former. 12
   These preliminiaries help me to reflect on the tension between the “return” of metaphysics, especially in analytic philosophy after the collapse of logical empiricism,19 and the conviction among several authors that we are in our postmodern, neopragmatist philosophical culture living “after metaphysics”. This is a curious situation in the “history of ontology” (to adopt a Heideggerian and/or Foucaultian expression).20 The pragmatist construal of transcendental reflection in ontology can settle this tension: there is a sense in which metaphysics is over (namely, as metaphysical realism—and good riddance), but in another sense it is well and alive, as we can still go on ontologizing about the way(s) the world for us is, or might be, in a pragmatist-cum-transcendental sense. Our situation in the history of ontology is thus both “post-metaphysical”, as neopragmatists, especially Rorty, might put it, and (genuinely) metaphysical. Now, I want to argue that, among the pragmatist classics, James saw this very clearly, and that we still have a lot to learn from him. 13
What I will propose, with James, also builds a bridge between the conception of metaphysics found in the analytic tradition, on the one hand (viz., ontology as category theory),21 and in the Heideggerian or more generally phenomenological tradition, on the other. In the latter, metaphysical views are usually put forward with reference to human perspectives, especially what Heidegger called Dasein, thus rejecting the metaphysically-realist absoluteness of ontological categories, that is, the idea of a uniquely given ontological structure of the independent, pre-categorized world. This, ultimately, amounts to a synthesis of realism and idealism—and this, it seems, is pretty much what pragmatist metaphysics is all about. However, here we do need to employ these traditional terms in order to offer an intellectual cartography of our field of dispute; pace Seigfried, the pragmatist cannot entirely avoid employing such standard terminology, although s/he should not simply define her/his position in such potentially misleading terms. As so often, pragmatism can build bridges, seek a middle way, strive for a synthesis between implausible extremes. 14
3. James’s pragmatic method: extracting the ethical core of metaphysical disputes
    It is clear that Charles Peirce was a great speculative metaphysician, engaged in his vast project of cosmological system-building.22 To this extent it is trivially true that the tradition of pragmatism has not, as a whole, been hostile to metaphysics. Dewey, in turn, developed a metaphysics of non-reductive pragmatic naturalism, which might, somewhat controversially, be interpreted in terms of the recently debated concept of emergence.23 Instead of reviewing these classical pragmatists’ ideas or recent attempts to revive them, I will, however, offer examples of James’s tolerance toward metaphysics.24 By this phrase we may mean his distinctive use of the pragmatic method, understood as a method of “distilling” or “extracting” the core of a metaphysical dispute, pragmatically interpreted. This method was applied by James to metaphysical issues such as free will vs. determinism, theism vs. naturalism (materialism, atheism), the absolute, and—most importantly—pluralism vs. monism. In an important way, my interpretation and appropriation of James’s strategy is different from the views traditionally attributed to him. 15
    Several James scholars recognize that Jamesian pragmatism was by no means a method thoroughly dismissive of metaphysics. James was not a proto-positivist aiming to get rid of metaphysics for good, although he did sharply criticize traditional metaphysical systems, especially the absolute idealist and monistic Hegelian philosophies popular in his days. On the contrary, he was a philosopher most profoundly interested in perennial metaphysical questions, including the ones regarding monism and pluralism, determinism and freedom, and (of course) the reality of God and immortality. What his pragmatic method was designed to do was to lead us to an increased appreciation of the pragmatic content of these issues. According to this famous maxim, “[t]o attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object [�] we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve—what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare. Our conception of these effects, whether immediate or remote, is then for us the whole of our conception of the object, so far as that conception has positive significance at all.”25 16
    James was not only tolerant in his metaphysical views, emphasizing a pragmatic pluralism and recognizing the equal acceptability of several alternative metaphysical perspectives, each good for its own underlying purposes, each to be evaluated pragmatically in terms of the experiential “goods” (potentially) delivered by it. He was also tolerant toward metaphysics itself, attempting to explicate, reinterpret, and eventually resolve metaphysical questions by means of his pragmatic method, always tracing the (conceivable) concrete, practical consequences our metaphysical concepts or conceptions may have in our lives.26 This procedure requires a piecemeal approach to metaphysical issues in their wide variety, instead of a wholesale treatment within an all-inclusive system. Throughout our investigations, it remains an open issue whether the problems examined are in the end genuine or not; yet at the initial stage of inquiry, we must see them as “legitimate” worries:

The serious work of metaphysics is done over the separate single questions. If these should get cleared up, talk of metaphysics as a unified science might properly begin. […] These problems are for the most part real; that is, but few of them result from a misuse of terms in stating them. ‘Things,’ for example, are or are not composed of one stuff; they either have or have not a single origin; they either are or are not completely predetermined, etc. Such alternatives may indeed be impossible of decision; but until this is conclusively proved of them, they confront us legitimately, and some one must take charge of them and keep account of the solutions that are proposed, even if he does not himself add new ones. The opinions of the learned regarding them must, in short, be classified and responsibly discussed.27

Of course Jamesian pragmatism, as pragmatism in general, rejects a number of traditional metaphysical doctrines and assumptions, such as essentialism, immutable “timeless truths”, “first philosophy” prior to empirical inquiry, and metaphysical realism postulating a built-in structure of the world as it is “in itself”. Obviously, pragmatists should not simply formulate their ideas in terms of pre-given metaphysical concepts or oppositions (e.g., realism vs. idealism). However, we should not conclude that standard metaphysical terminology, such as “realism” and its alternatives, is to be rejected altogether. James (in the company of many other pragmatists) offers us a novel, pragmatic form of metaphysics, one deeply grounded, in Seigfried’s words, “in the concrete conditions of everyday life”.28 18
    However, it is not enough to say that James was tolerant toward metaphysics and tried to understand the true pragmatic meaning of metaphysical problems and disputes. It is also essential to note that the core of this pragmatic effort was, for him, ethical. The substantial meaning of metaphysical views the pragmatist aims at uncovering is moral, or more generally valuational.29 The true pragmatic insights into the structure and content of metaphysical disputes are to be achieved, according to Jamesian pragmatism, by means of an ethical evaluation of the rival metaphysical positions in terms of their potential humanly significant outcome. What will our human life in this human world be like, if we conceptualize our world in terms of a particular metaphysical position? This is the core pragmatic question. It is by no means ethically indifferent to us whether or not, say, the world is such that freedom or immortality is real.30 This constant pragmatic need for the ethical evaluation of metaphysical concepts, problems, disputes, and theories is, on my reading, the heart of James’s pragmatic method—though certainly not Peirce’s, who was interested in narrower, scientific applications of the pragmatic maxim. 19
    As John P. Murphy explains, the human worth of a philosophical view is, for James, a (or even the) crucial criterion for its acceptability:

[I]t is a basic principle of James’s philosophy […] that the conditions of acceptability of a philosophy are just as important (perhaps even more important) as its truth conditions. James’s point is that, in the last analysis, it is always our nature—human nature—not the nature of reality in general, which must decide what we are to think about the nature of reality in general. So, philosophies that do not satisfy these human demands […] will not be accepted; and, hence, the question of their truth or falsity will be beside the point.31

Two corrections, however, are needed to this important passage. First, it is, from the perspective of Jamesian pragmatism, impossible to distinguish the “truth conditions” of a philosophical view from its humanly—ethically—significant acceptability conditions. To find out that a metaphysical view about, say, freedom or immortality is humanly acceptable, or satisfies some of our deepest natural human needs, is eo ipso to find out that it is pragmatically true, in James’s sense. Conversely, to find out that a metaphysical position is such that we cannot live on the basis of it, or cannot really believe it to be true while continuing to engage in the world in the habitual ways we simply cannot give up (e.g., for ethical reasons), is to find out that it is pragmatically false. This sounds radical but is in fact a direct consequence of the basic pragmatist view that beliefs, including metaphysical beliefs, are habits of action and must be critically evaluated in terms of their potential consequences for action. 21
    Secondly, the Jamesian pragmatist should not be committed to the view that the concept of “the nature of reality in general”, as standardly employed, even makes sense. The nature of reality in any humanly meaningful sense is always subordinated to the (transcendental) categorizing and conceptualizing activities we engage in within our practices, seeking to satisfy our pragmatic needs. Indeed, the pragmatic method, in its Jamesian employment, should lead us to doubt all appeals to the nature of reality in general, precisely because it is our “human nature” that is always already implicated in any pragmatically meaningful attempt to say something about reality (cf. section 7 below). This is to embrace a thoroughly “humanistic” pragmatism, though not necessarily in the sense of F.C.S. Schiller’s “humanism”, which was a radicalization of James’s pragmatist ideas.32 22
    The ethical construal of the pragmatic method opens up the possibility of articulating Jamesian pragmatism in Kantian transcendental terms. We may say that the human worth or acceptability of a philosophical view, e.g., a metaphysical statement about freedom or immortality, is transcendentally grounded in our human nature, in the needs and interests we attempt to satisfy in engaging in our practices.33 These natural human needs amount to a “naturalized” transcendental condition for the possibility of any genuine commitment to the way the world is, or can be, taken to be (by us). However, as any particular need can always be questioned or overrun by another need, James’s metaphysics offers us continuous ethical challenge instead of any simple harmony with the world. We will have to go on living our insecure lives in the fragile circumstances we find ourselves in, with no final metaphysical guarantees. 23
    James’s conception of metaphysics does not, then, liberate us from the responsibility of evaluating, over and over again, the pragmatic needs our practices or forms of life satisfy. The pragmatic evaluation of metaphysical views the Jamesian pragmatist encourages us to engage in is a holistic process, taking ethical aspects into account at every stage.34 No ethically neutral truth conditions can determine the acceptability of a metaphysical belief; no ethically neutral method of pragmatic evaluation can do so, either. Nor can (allegedly) metaphysically neutral ethical needs or principles decide what the world is like. It is always, in Jamesian terms, the “whole man” in us that engages in the holistic examination of beliefs and practices, being always already committed, as an inseparable mixture, to a whole bunch of (revisable and challengable) ethically loaded factual-valuational beliefs about the way the world, for her/him/us, is. 24
    My account of the place of metaphysics in Jamesian pragmatism is very different from the reading of James recently defended by Wesley Cooper, which begins from a sharp distinction between James’s “two levels”: the metaphysical and the empirical.35 While Cooper views radical empiricism, the metaphysics of pure experience, as James’s metaphysical basis for pragmatism, the underlying conception of the ultimate nature of reality that pragmatism is based on, I insist that a truly Jamesian pragmatist must reject any such grounding of pragmatism in an allegedly more fundamental metaphysical theory. Any metaphysics, even James’s preferred radical empiricism, must be a pragmatic construction, satisfying certain “human demands” or needs. No metaphysics can be more basic than the ethically engaged evaluation of the conceivable practical results, in terms of future experience, that the pragmatic method urges us to pursue.36 It is pragmatism itself, then, that is required for any metaphysics, including radical empiricism (or James’s metaphysical speculations about freedom, immortality, and other vital topics), to be humanly possible and meaningful. If this interpretation—or, rather, reconstruction—leads us to uneasiness because there is no firm bedrock upon which pragmatism could be erected, then we can only turn to pragmatism itself in attempting to live with such uneasiness. 25
   Except for my somewhat unorthodox (and to some extent admittedly un-Jamesian) willingness to employ the Kantian transcendental vocabulary in my characterization of pragmatist metaphysics, I am not merely offering a rational reconstruction of James’s views. There is textual support to be found for my contention that he was (i) tolerant toward metaphysics and (ii) analyzed metaphysical disputes by means of the pragmatic method whose essence is ethical. When James tells us expressis verbis that the pragmatic method is “a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable”,37 he clearly assumes that those disputes are significant, even terminable, when treated pragmatically. When James informs us that the “whole function of philosophy ought to be to find out what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world-formula or that world-formula be the true one”,38 it is virtually impossible to read his words without assuming that both “difference” and “instants of our life” are intended in an ethically pregnant sense. In contrast, the “Absolute Mind” James attacks remains “indifferent” to the particular facts of our world.39 26
    Furthermore, consider the opposition between materialism (atheism) and theism.40 This dispute could hardly be more relevant ethically, as it is about whether the world is “guided” by its “higher” or “lower” elements,41 whether our need for an “eternal moral order” is satisfied or not.42 The analysis and resolution of the dispute in terms of (possible) future experience43—a paradigm case of James’s pragmatic method at work—only reinforces the point. James’s question, “what does the world promise?”,44 is deeply ethical, demonstrating his conviction that metaphysics, the attempt to theorize about the way(s) the world is (for us), would be blind without ethics, or ethical reflection on the way(s) the world ought to be (though it would perhaps be empty without our scientific and everyday experiences putting us in touch with natural, worldly facts). For James, “[t]he absolute things, the last things, the overlapping things, are the truly philosophic concerns” that “all superior minds feel seriously about”.45 The ethical core of James’s pragmatism, or pragmatic pluralism, is also explicit in The Meaning of Truth: “Ethically the pluralistic form of [humanism] takes for me a stronger hold on reality than any other philosophy I know of—it being essentially a social philosophy, a philosophy of ‘co‘ […].”46 The evidence for my reading of pragmatism as an investigation of metaphysical issues grounded in ethical considerations is, then, clear enough. 27
4. The pragmatist “middle path” and the antinomial conflicts of reason
    Nothing I have said is meant to deny that James was also a critic of a number of traditional metaphysical theses and problems, sometimes of their very intelligibility. The force of his criticism can be highlighted by briefly comparing his approach to Kant’s resolution of the “Antinomy of Reason” in the “Transcendental Dialectic” of the First Critique.47 28
    After having introduced his pragmatic method, James goes on, in the third lecture of Pragmatism, to explore pragmatically “some metaphysical problems”. The first of these is the problem of substance. James applauds Berkeley’s criticism of the concept of a material substance and Locke’s and Hume’s equally pragmatic criticism of the notion of a spiritual substance. In each case we ought to give up Cartesian and other metaphysical assumptions of fundamental substances underlying experiential reality (e.g., “souls” as spiritual substances), since the work for which such a notion of substance seems to be needed can be done with the characteristics or attributes in terms of which the substance is “known as”.48 James seems to be saying that we need not reject the notion of substance completely, if we are prepared to understand it in terms of such experiential attributes merely. This is, then, a case in which a reconciliation of extremes—that is, traditional substance metaphysics, on the one hand, and a thoroughgoing elimination of whatever job the substance was needed to perform, on the other—is required and pragmatically achieved. 29
    James’s second example is the one already taken up above: the dispute between materialism (or atheism) and spiritualism (or theism). When the pragmatic method is applied, this problem will not be treated in a “stagnant intellectualist fashion” but dynamically, with an eye to the future of the world: “What do we mean by matter? What practical difference can it make now that the world should be run by matter or by spirit?” Here James notes: “It makes not a single jot of difference so far as the past of the world goes, whether we deem it to have been the work of matter or whether we think a divine spirit was its author”.49 Accordingly, the mistake of both extremes, atheistic materialism and traditional theism, is the assumption that the world is “finished”, complete as it is. The dispute is “purely verbal”, if there is no future, no experiences to expect: “[I]f no future detail of experience is to be deduced from our hypothesis, the debate between materialism and theism becomes quite idle and insignificant. Matter and God in that event mean exactly the same thing—the power, namely, neither more nor less, that could make this completed world [�].”50 The middle path, the pragmatic position, can be reached only when the assumption of completeness is given up and it is realized that the merits of the rival standpoints must be investigated with reference to the future they promise, the experiences that may result, if one of them is true and the other false. 30
    James moves on to his third example, the “question of design in nature“.51 Here the metaphysician who inquires into “design” (or the lack thereof) in an abstract way, having in mind a general principle of design, is led astray. “Pragmatically”, we are told, “the abstract word ‘design’ is blank cartridge. It carries no consequences, it does no execution. What sort of design? and what sort of a designer? are the only serious questions, and the study of facts is the only way of getting even approximate answers.”52 The analysis is thus similar to that of the previous problem.53 Again, the pragmatist, as James emphasized throughout his writings, turns her/his gaze away from abstract principles and toward concrete facts of experience. 31
    Finally, James turns to his fourth problem—the most Kantian of the problems he discusses—the problem of free will.54 Again, things go wrong if the problem is stated as a metaphysically realist question about the fundamental structure of reality, considered apart from human experiences and interests. The problem of freedom must rather be tied to our human points of view, particularly to how we are oriented to the future, in order to find out its true pragmatic significance.55 Determinism “assures us that our whole notion of possibility is born of human ignorance, and that necessity and impossibility between them rule the destinies of the world”, but the free will theory “pragmatically means novelties in the world” and is thus “a general cosmological theory of promise“, “a doctrine of relief“,56 and is therefore connected with a broader religious—for James, essentially “melioristic”—metaphysics in which the world is governed by genuine aims and purposes and in which human beings can do their share in the world’s “moral salvation”. 32
    Proceeding to the conclusion of his chapter, James recapitulates his main point:

See then how all these ultimate questions turn, as it were, upon their hinges; and from looking backwards upon principles, upon an erkenntnisstheoretische Ich, a God, a Kausalit�tsprinzip, a Design, a Free-will, taken in themselves, as something august and exalted above facts,—see, I say, how pragmatism shifts the emphasis and looks forward into facts themselves. The really vital question for us all is, What is this world going to be? What is life eventually to make of itself? The centre of gravity of philosophy must therefore alter its place. The earth of things, long thrown into shadow by the glories of the upper ether, must resume its rights.57

    When the pragmatist performs this turning around, or shift of emphasis, s/he, however, lets the opposing traditional viewpoints each have their say. The Jamesian pragmatist employs the insights of the old metaphysical disputes, drawn from both sides, in order to locate the weak points of the opposing theses. The reason why this is possible is precisely the future-oriented, dynamic procedure of pragmatist inquiry. The metaphysical puzzles are not viewed as conflicts between two views complete and finished as they stand. Rather, the metaphysical problem is always an individual human being’s—in the end, my—attempt to come to terms with the different considerations reason offers in favor of the antinomially conflicting positions in the midst of experience. It is such a concrete, individual inquirer who asks, “What is life eventually to make of itself?”, and in the process of such an inquiry there is no permanent stopping place. The dialectics between opposing theses cannot simply go on forever, because one must live forward, encounter new experiential facts. It is for this reason that the original conflict can be transcended and the pragmatic middle ground may gradually (or suddenly) emerge. Typically, such a middle ground is opened when it is realized that the conflict has been premised on misleading background assumptions. 34
    Now, the four metaphysical disputes James examines are not identical to the four antinomial conflicts of reason Kant examines in his chapter on the “Antinomy of Pure Reason”. Even the one also explicitly taken up by Kant, the problem of freedom vs. determinism,58 is discussed by James in a loose, informal manner very different from Kant’s strictly argumentative presentation following the thesis/antithesis structure.59 James, moreover, was generally critical of, even outright hostile to, many of Kant’s in his view unnecessarily complex ideas,60 some of which he found paradigmatic examples of abstract principles oblivious of concrete experience and facts. Yet, it must be noted that Kant, no less than James, wanted to liberate philosophy from the supposed “glories of the upper ether” which his pre-critical, especially rationalist (Leibnizian-Wolffian), predecessors had believed to be able to reach. 35
    In their different ways, both Kant and James insist on the need to locate and abandon a mistaken assumption —i.e., metaphysical realism, or what Kant called “transcendental realism” —that sets the kind of metaphysical issues we have examined on the wrong track from the very beginning. This is, as we have seen, the assumption that there is a prior, metaphysically fundamental fact of the matter about, say, the world as a totality or about freedom. Although reason entirely naturally falls into “transcendental illusion” by seeking the “unconditioned” ground of conditioned phenomena,61 harmful metaphysical errors result only when this tendency of reason is connected with transcendentally realistic assumptions, particularly the assumptions that there is an absolutely independent world an sich with its ready-made, pre-categorized ontological structure, that it makes sense to talk about such a fundamental reality, and that it could even be an object of human representation and cognition. These assumptions, closely resembling the ones Putnam later rejected under the label of “metaphysical realism”, are attacked equally forcefully, though by means of quite different arguments, by Kant and James alike. 36
    James’s criticism of traditional metaphysical problems and theories and his ethical seriousness about metaphysical problems, when pragmatically considered, are, we may now observe, parts of the same essentially Kantian attempt to avoid dogmatic extremes in metaphysics, to pragmatically occupy the humanly habitable middle ground by giving up the presuppositions that lead the disputes astray. This criticism of pre-critical metaphysics is in fact closely connected with the ethically oriented attempt to bring to the fore the true pragmatic core of metaphysical issues. 37
5. Pragmatic pluralism in Jamesian neopragmatism
   Turning for a moment from James himself to later philosophers influenced by him, we might read a neo-Jamesian pragmatist like Putnam as similarly challenging the standard divisions between and the order of priority among philosophical subdisciplines, especially metaphysics (which Putnam now rather calls “ontology”) and ethics.62 As James argued, our ethical needs may legitimately influence our metaphysical commitments. Again, if we really pragmatically need to commit ourselves to a certain worldview, then that view may, because of such a need, be held as (prima facie) true. In a Jamesian spirit, Putnam urges that we need to develop “moral images of the world” in which metaphysical and ethical elements are entangled.63 38
    In a recent book, he claims, with Emmanuel Levinas, that there is something seriously wrong with the ontological pursuit as such, especially with the attempt to ground ethics in “being”, because of the “totalizing” nature of such attempts.64 Yet, it may be suggested, contra Putnam’s “ethics without ontology”, that ontology can be retained within a more inclusive and more fundamental ethical framework, that is, that ontology can—with some help drawn from James—be pragmatically reoriented in a manner that turns it less totalizing. Arguably, a Jamesian conception of metaphysics, given its ethical basis, can avoid the charge sometimes made against Western metaphysics (or ontology) more generally, namely, that ontologizing—about, say, the notion of substance or the relation between the self and the world—opens the doors to injustice, even murder and genocide, by failing to account for genuine “otherness”.65 39
    While the Jamesian pragmatist should applaud Putnam’s “ethics without ontology” as an articulation of a key pragmatist theme, the autonomy and irreducibility of serious human practices, especially ethics,66 s/he should not entirely reject ontological theorizing, when interpreted in a Kantian-like transcendental sense. Ethics, and more generally philosophical inquiry into human values, may be a fundamental part of such a non-metaphysically-realist conception of metaphysics “with a human face”.67 Values are a crucial aspect of the human reality (transcendentally) investigated in such a pragmatist ontology. The pragmatist may, for example, maintain that values “exist” as cultural entities irreducible to physical or mental entities. Part of saying that tables, chairs, or semantic entities need not be seen as “occult”, as Putnam often says, is to say that these entities do exist as genuinely as electrons and magnetic fields, though in a pragmatic sense. (Even electrons and other theoretical entities postulated in science exist in a pragmatic sense, as elements of the highly workable scheme of physics.) The same holds for values, whose existence is irreducibly cultural. 40
    As an example of pragmatist metaphysics that even Putnam—or James himself, for that matter—might be able to endorse, we may take a brief look at Sandra Rosenthal’s “speculative pragmatism”, a metaphysical system inspired by classical pragmatism. Whereas traditional metaphysics deals with “categories of being”, as explained above in section 2, the speculative pragmatist (not unlike Kant) understands categories as “the most fundamental principles of ordering by the mind”, “deeply embedded—though nonetheless alterable —a priori structures that reflect the purposive attitudes in terms of which we approach the independent element [of reality]”.68 The reality we “produce” by imposing our categories is not independent of the “projected meanings” we use to classify experience; it is a “worldly reality” that “emerges from the projection of meanings upon that which is independently there and which reveals itself through such meanings”.69 Rosenthal defines metaphysics as “a description of the basic contours or delineations made within our lived experience”.70 This characterization would undoubtedly be available to James, so why not to Putnam, too? Moreover, Rosenthal’s struggle with realism is closely reminiscent of James’s and Putnam’s: while our categories must be applicable to an “independently real” universe, “[w]e cannot get outside our intentional relatedness to the independently real to examine it in its character as independent. The characterization of the features of independent reality as independent of human experience can itself be only a categorization within experience to make experience more intelligible.”71 The independence of reality, the fact that we cannot just make up the way things are, is part of the way we pragmatically structure the world, part of the way the world is for us. 41
    Accordingly, the “independent reality” is independent in the empirical, factual, or causal sense, yet transcendentally constituted by our categorization of it as independent (though this is not Rosenthal’s way of expressing herself). The Jamesian pragmatist can, and should, agree. Putnam, as a pragmatist, should also endorse the view that the “independent reality” is a pragmatic postulation. He, as any Jamesian philosopher, should and probably would agree with Rosenthal that no metaphysical knowledge transcending the “meaningfulness that can emerge only through some interpretive structure” is available because the “radically nonspectator position” of speculative pragmatism cannot be abandoned.72 Hence, even a pluralist neopragmatism such as Putnam’s, apparently strictly anti-metaphysical, is compatible with a suitably understood, pragmatized metaphysics of human reality. 42
    Putnam, then, is as ambiguous as James himself between rejecting ontology altogether and rejecting only “Ontology” (with a capital “O”) and preserving less metaphysically-realist, less hubristic ontological inquiry into the pragmatically constituted human world. This ambiguity may have something to do with what might be regarded as his more fundamental ambiguity—which I see as analogous to the “divided self” of his pragmatist hero, James.73 This is the tension between, on the one side, constructive philosophical theorizing, including ontological theorizing (which, in Putnam’s case, results in pragmatic realism and pluralism), and, on the other side, the wish to write an obituary not only for Ontology74 but for constructive, systematic philosophy in general, with a therapeutic appeal to the “ordinary” along the lines of the later Wittgenstein and his followers. It is not clear that such appeals to the ordinary are philosophically neutral or “ordinary” (everyday) matters; they may, even ontologically, amount to something quite extraordinary.75 In any case, Putnam’s tension resembles the one Gale perceives in James’s inner division between “Promethean” pragmatism and religious mysticism—which is not to say that we should simply endorse Gale’s reading of James. 43
6. Functionalism, emergence, and the metaphysics of truth(making)
    Following Rosenthal, we may see emergence as a fundamental metaontological category in pragmatist metaphysics: all reality—not just mental or cultural entities—that is for us in a way or another is an emergent construct arising out of our transcendental-pragmatic constitutional activities. Equipped with the concept of emergence, though unable to define it with any precision here, we may return to James, especially some metaphysical aspects of his notorious conception of truth. I find it useful to compare James’s position to the functionalist theory of truth defended by Michael P. Lynch in his book, True to Life (2004),76 and other recent publications. Lynch’s functionalism says that truth is a functional second-order property of beliefs, roughly in the sense in which functionalists in the philosophy of mind treat mental properties as functional properties of an organism. Just like a functional mental property can be realized by different physical states (even in very different physical organisms), without being identical to any physical property, different “first-order” properties of beliefs can play the functional role of truth, which cannot be reduced to any of those first-order properties. This idea is attractive in many ways, but with James I want to go further, proposing that truth is not only a functional property of beliefs but, more strongly, a particular kind of functional property: an emergent property. The truth of beliefs or theories77 emerges from the natural properties of thought and inquiry grounding those beliefs and theories. Truth, then, is a dynamic property, requiring practices of inquiry as its base. 44
    The reason I am invoking these ideas is that they may quite naturally be seen as rearticulating James’s pragmatism. While truth-theorists, including Lynch, understandably avoid formulating their views in controversial Jamesian terms, we should perceive that James’s pragmatism about truth is (pace Lynch) in many ways close to the functionalist position. For instance, both emphasize the phenomenon of multiple realizability. Truth, according to James, is not “satisfaction” or workability in abstracto but in a variety of concrete different ways. The pragmatist, James says, “observes truth at its work in particular cases”; truth, then, “becomes a class-name for all sorts of definite working-values in experience”, instead of being an “abstraction”, as in “rationalism” or “intellectualism”.78 Sure, there are also differences between pragmatism and functionalism, e.g., regarding the Jamesian view that truth “happens to an idea” instead of being “a stagnant property inherent in” an idea (or some other truthbearer).79 But again, this suggestion comes close to functionalism, if we keep in mind that this “happening” can be realized in many different ways in our truth-seeking practices. James’s theory is “an account of truths in the plural, of processes of leading, realized in rebus“; “truth” is “simply a collective name for verification-processes”, comparable to the way in which “health” or “wealth” are collective names for quite a variety of things that realize them or play the relevant roles.80 The “workableness” of truth “means particular workings, physical or intellectual, actual or possible”, inside concrete experience.81 Truth “in the singular” is just a “collective name for truths in the plural”, which consist of “series of definite events”.82 In order to “define what you mean by calling [statements and beliefs] true”, you must refer to their “functional possibilities”, or “functional workings”, which may “differ in every single instance”.83 45
Not only multiple realizability but more specifically the “emergence theory” of truth I am here outlining was anticipated by James: “Truths emerge from facts; but they dip forward into facts again and add to them; which facts again create or reveal new truth […]”.84 If facts, as James thinks, are partly constituted by our human (habits of) action, by our purposive practices in terms of which we structure reality, the Jamesian view comes close to the claim that truth is an emergent property of our truth-seeking practices, as those practices constitute “the facts” (or things) our truths are true about.85 Moreover, pragmatic truth is always “true for him who experiences the workings”,86 within one or another practice or experiential context. 46
    Not only truth, functionally conceived, but perhaps even the concept of truthmaking—an increasingly popular methodological weapon among realist metaphysicians—can be accommodated within Jamesian pragmatism.87 If so, a full-blown metaphysics of truth very different from metaphysical realists’ and correspondence theoreticians’ accounts could be based on James’s central views. James, as noted, famously argued for a dynamic conception of truth according to which truths are “made” rather than found, i.e., made in the course of human experience: truth “happens to an idea”, instead of being a timeless, abstract, unchanging relation eternally obtaining between a true idea and something that exists independently of it (and which the truth, according to the most naive versions of realism, simply “copies”). Thus, ideas or beliefs (or other truthbearers) are not eternally true but “become true just in so far as they help us to get into satisfactory relation with other parts of our experience“.88 “Truth is made, just as health, wealth and strength are made, in the course of experience”.89 Even the regulative notion of “absolute truth” designates something that “will have to be made, made as a relation incidental to the growth of a mass of verification-experience, to which the half-true ideas are all along contributing their quota”.90 47
    In passages like this, the notion of truthmaking is at least metaphorically employed, albeit within an overall position very different from, say, Armstrong’s metaphysical realism in which truthmaking is a core methodological concept.91 James, seeking the “cash-value” of truths “in experiential terms”,92 has little patience with the view, held in his days by Bertrand Russell, among others, that truths correspond to or are made true by objects or states of affairs that exist independently of those truths. Instead, the making of truths in and through experience amounts to the making of reality: the world—as experienced and understood by us humans—is a human construction, at least up to a point.93 The direction of determination is not, or not merely, from the world to the true beliefs that are about it; human subjects of (true) belief, with their pragmatic needs and habits of action, partly determine what the world is like. 48
    Let us—turning from the concept of truth to the other pole of the truthmaking relation, the concept of reality (the world)—take a look at a few other key passages in which James employs the concept of “making”. In A Pluralistic Universe, he claims, with Henri Bergson, that “[w]hat really exists is not things made but things in the making” and talks about “put[ting] yourself in the making” of things “by a stroke of intuitive sympathy”.94 In this sense, reality is something we help to create, to which we always inevitably make an “addition” —in a word, something “still in the making”.95 Anything we may call a thing is “carved out” by us.96 Here, of course, the relevant “making” relation is not the Armstrongian realist truthmaking relation obtaining between a true proposition and the independent piece of reality which necessitates its truth.97 Yet, the “making” of reality James talks about seems to be something the “world” itself does, too, insofar as we, as experiencers and cognizers of reality, are parts of the world we help to structure. Truth- or worldmaking would be impossible without our transcendental contribution to the way(s) the world is, but empirically speaking we are undeniably parts of the world as well. 49
    The world can thus be said to make truths true, but only through us, for whom there is a world (or truth) in the first place. There is, perhaps, some sort of primary reality independently of us, but that reality makes nothing true, any more than Kant’s Ding an sich does; it is a mere abstraction of thought, or, in James’s words, something “absolutely dumb and evanescent, the merely ideal limit of our minds”.98 From James’s point of view, one might argue that if realist (Aristotelian or Armstrongian) metaphysicians regard that kind of metaphysically primary reality as the source of truthmakers, they erroneously claim something about a reality which can have no structure for us at all. Any structured reality—any reality whose elements could make anything true—must, according to pragmatism, be a humanly categorized reality. (This, again, is a transcendental “must”, stating a condition of intelligibility we cannot overlook.) All categorization, moreover, arises as a response to specific needs (to be further analyzed along pragmatist lines); accordingly, if the world or reality is to make any truths true, it must already have been “made”, and must be continuously remade, by us world-categorizing concept-users whose categorizing activities are themselves constrained by and oriented toward certain human needs, goals, interests, or purposes. The world which makes our truths true is itself continuously “in the making”. 50
    Jamesian pragmatists, thus, can (though need not) employ a concept of truthmaking, although such a concept must, in pragmatism, be employed within an overall metaphysics very different from metaphysical realism —a more processual, dynamic, practice-embedded metaphysics that refuses to draw any principled dichotomies between the world as it is in itself and the world as it is experienced by humans engaging in their unending diversity of practices and habits of action. Such a metaphysics can still be realist, though only pragmatically realist, insofar as it does not reject the claim that there is something “out there” that we never made up ex nihilo. Pragmatists, emphasizing our need to struggle with the concrete facts of worldly existence, should be the first to note that truthmaking is not, naively, a “making up” of truths. We live in a concrete natural world, shaping the world through our experiences, and it is this very world, to some extent shaped by us but irreducible to our contingent and changing structurings of it, that makes true whatever we claim to be true, insofar as our claims to truth are (pragmatically) justified. 51
7. Scientific realism within Jamesian pragmatism?
    I will take up one final example of the tension between metaphysics and anti-metaphysics, as it emerges in James. Pragmatist philosophy of science, though often seen as instrumentalist and therefore essentially anti-metaphysical (with some justification for this interpretation in James’s and Dewey’s writings), can be (re)interpreted as a form of pragmatic scientific realism, again to be clearly distinguished from metaphysical realism.99 Science does not, according to this view, describe the world as it is in itself, but scientific theories are not mere instruments for the prediction of observable phenomena, either. 52
     Peirce, given his account of truth as the “final opinion” of an idealized research community using the scientific method, is a classic of what is known as scientific realism. The same can hardly be said about James. On the contrary, it is easy to see James as a precursor of instrumentalism, one of the major anti-realist orientations in twentieth century philosophy of science. In Pragmatism, we find, for instance, the following remarks:

[A]s the sciences have developed farther, the notion has gained ground that most, perhaps all, of our laws are only approximations. The laws themselves, moreover, have grown so numerous that there is no counting them; and so many rival formulations are proposed in all the branches of science that investigators have become accustomed to the notion that no theory is absolutely a transcript of reality, but that any one of them may from some point of view be useful. Their great use is to summarize old facts and to lead to new ones. They are only a man-made language, a conceptual shorthand […], in which we write our reports of nature […].100

[W]e are witnessing a curious reversion of the common-sense way of looking at physical nature, in the philosophy of science favored by such men as Mach, Ostwald and Duhem. According to these teachers no hypothesis is truer than any other in the sense of being a more literal copy of reality. They are all but ways of talking on our part, to be compared solely from the point of view of their use. The only literally true thing is reality; and the only reality we know is, for these logicians, sensible reality, the flux of our sensations and emotions as they pass.101 54
Scientific theories, then, are for James essentially “instruments, not answers to enigmas“.102 They enable us to cope with the world; their purpose is not to “copy” the facts. Their truth lies in their usefulness. Scientific ideas “agree” with their objects only in the more or less operationalist sense of a practical process of conduction leading from a present idea to a future one: “The term ‘energy’ doesn’t even pretend to stand for anything ‘objective.’ It is only a way of measuring the surface of phenomena so as to string their changes on a simple formula.”103 James does talk about “approximation”, but he does not seem to have in mind the scientific realists’ view of the approximation of truth by means of successive theories increasing in verisimilitude.104 Rather, contrasting approximation with truth as a “literal copy”, he rejects the realist idea that our theories could represent the way things theory-independently are. James’s empiricism, influenced by Mach, Ostwald, Duhem, Poincaré, and others,105 thus led him at least close to the anti-metaphysical position usually called instrumentalism. Another major factor that led James to pursue these ideas was undoubtedly his need to acknowledge both science and religion as equally legitimate, and equally well experientially anchored, perspectives on reality. 55
However, immediately after the second of the above-quoted passages, James points out that the view he discusses “seems to be too economical to be all-sufficient”, because “[p]rofusion, not economy, may after all be reality’s key-note”.106 He also rejects Berkeleyan phenomenalism on pragmatic grounds, emphasizing that “the category of trans-perceptual reality is now one of the foundations of our life”,107 even though (as we saw in section 4 above) he celebrated Berkeley’s attack on material substance. Hence, in James we can observe, instead of a clear acceptance of instrumentalism, a tension between instrumentalist and realist ideas, pretty much as we find in his works a tension between idealist and realist viewpoints, and between scientific and religious perspectives. 56
James was definitely not a scientific realist, if scientific realism is defined as the thesis that scientific theories provide us with the only true (or truthlike) picture of reality, or that the “scientific image” is ontologically prior to, and may eventually replace, the “manifest image” we are acquainted with in our ordinary experience.108 But his views are compatible with scientific realism in the sense of the rejection of unnatural skeptical doubts about the existence of theoretical entities postulated in the actual course of scientific theorization, as long as such theorization is firmly rooted in its humanly natural practical background in which the postulation of theoretical entities plays a pragmatically relevant role in terms of future experience. Of course, all pragmatists should admit that the specific postulations of unobservable entities in (current) scientific theories may turn out to be ill-founded. But as fallibilists we should adopt such a critical, open attitude to any human claims whatsoever. The key pragmatist move is to liberate not only science but also scientific realism—and other philosophical interpretations of science —from foundationalist pursuits of certainty, essences, and other remnants of “first philosophy”. Again, metaphysics is here saved in one (critical) sense though abandoned in another. There is no reason to suppose that Jamesian pragmatism would necessarily be at odds with scientific realism acknowledging the pursuit of truth (also about unobservables) as a key aim of science, provided that this pursuit is given a pragmatic interpretation rather than a metaphysically realist one. 57
Just as in the case of Putnam’s worries about ontology, the issue may here be partly terminological: we are seeking a proper way to use the notion of “scientific realism”. However, again, such a seemingly innocent terminological choice may have wide-ranging pragmatic effects on how we construe some of the central problems in the philosophy of science. 58
8. James and transcendental pragmatism: Seigfried vs. Myers revisited
If the examples discussed in sections 3-7 are plausible, it emerges that Jamesian pragmatism can very well accommodate metaphysics, though not metaphysical realism. It can, in particular, accommodate a transcendental metaphysics, understood as an inquiry into a humanly categorized reality. Indeed, pragmatism yields an important species of transcendental metaphysics, or of transcendental philosophy understood as ontologically relevant. Here, an interesting parallel not only between James and Kant but also between James and Wittgenstein can be noted. Both have been read as leading anti-metaphysicians, but both have also offered us resources for a humanized, pragmatically transcendental metaphysics.109 59
Let us briefly return to the debate between Seigfried and Myers referred to at the beginning of this essay. I hardly need to repeat my claim that the kind of pragmatic reflection on the concreteness of lived experience Seigfried recommends is not incompatible with a transcendental-pragmatic metaphysics of the human world. It remains to be noted, however, that Seigfried’s own allegedly anti-metaphysical appeals to, say, the fact-value entanglement, the reality of relations, or the anti-metaphysically-realist view that reality is not “ready-made” but capable of being approached from multiple perspectives,110 are themselves clear examples of the kind of pragmatically responsible metaphysics I have defended. This has been shown in detail by Myers,111 so I need not dwell on the point here. Myers is, in my view, correct in stating that the pragmatist “not only can but must do metaphysics”, although the traditional ways of engaging in metaphysics must be rejected as misguided first-philosophical pursuits of foundations, absolutes, and timeless truths.112 Where I would like to go beyond Myers, while agreeing with his basic criticism of Seigfried, is in my suggestion of situating pragmatist (primarily Jamesian) metaphysics in the tradition of Kantian transcendental philosophy. This, however, by no means makes pragmatist metaphysics foundationalist or anti-fallibilist. All the virtues of naturalized metaphysics can be maintained. 60
One of my specific proposals at this point is that Myers’s case against Seigfried’s anti-metaphysical construal of pragmatism can be more convincingly formulated, if (i) pragmatism—both old (e.g., James’s) and new (e.g., Putnam’s)—is interpreted transcendentally, as I have suggested, though in a “naturalized” sense,113 and (ii) both Jamesian pragmatism and its transcendental rearticulation are compared to the parallel issue of whether Wittgenstein (especially in his later philosophy) engaged in metaphysics. This, ultimately, goes back to the question of whether Kant, the father of modern transcendental philosophy and (arguably) a grandfather of pragmatism, engaged in metaphysics or, alternatively, in the critique of metaphysics.114 Although I am unable to deal with such interpretive issues here, my answer is that he did, of course, both—as did Wittgenstein. The key novelty in the Jamesian pragmatist’s way of doing both things is her/his attempt to perceive the core of metaphysical issues in their ethical import (as briefly discussed above in section 3). 61
It is often suggested that pragmatism is a mere method, instead of being a metaphysical system. This is right to the extent that James abhorred all closed “systems”. However, it is the pragmatic method itself that makes pragmatism more than a mere method—in a word, as we have seen, a metaphysics of the human world as practice-laden, as a reality possessing a “practical character”, as a “reality-of-use-and-in-use” (as Dewey put it).115 We may express this idea by saying that pragmatism provides us with, or is, a philosophical anthropology.116 As the pragmatic method encourages us to look and see what kind of conceivable practical results follow from our philosophical views, the metaphysics vs. methodology dichotomy collapses practically from within, through our use of the pragmatic method. This distinction may serve, locally and contextually, various pragmatic purposes and may, accordingly, be of genuine heuristic value. But as a general (meta)philosophical distinction, its pragmatic value is virtually non-existent.117 62
Furthermore, the philosophical anthropology that both Jamesian pragmatism and its transcendental rearticulation lead us to—i.e., a metaphysical account of the possible objects of a human world—is, in a word, a transcendental anthropology.118 This form of philosophical anthropology is not naively empirical; nor is it “pure” or aprioristic in the sense in which naturalists are cautious about claims to pure philosophy. It is empirically informed, metaphysically concerned, and methodologically self-reflective. It is, in short, a true mixture of metaphysical and methodological insights, governed by the use of the pragmatic method. 63
I need to address one final worry. Insofar as the pragmatic method can be employed in order to destroy unhelpful dichotomies, such as the one between metaphysics and methodology, or between the world in itself and the world for us, why not also use it to attack the key Kantian distinction between the transcendental (i.e., a method of inquiry or argumentation seeking the necessary conditions for the possibility of some given actualities) and the transcendent (i.e., an illegitimate metaphysics exceeding the limits of cognitive experience set by the use of the transcendental method)?119 Isn’t even my pragmatic defense of metaphysics, my Jamesian attempt to establish a pragmatist metaphysics, in the end committed to the original sin of metaphysics, the aspiration toward transcendent truth and essences? Here we must remember that one of the basic points of Jamesian pragmatism is that the acceptability of any concept or conception, including any conceptual dichotomy, must be evaluated on the basis of its (conceivable) pragmatic effects in particular humanly relevant situations. Now, is a general distinction between metaphysics and methodology helpful in such a pragmatic manner, when applied to cases such as the pragmatic method? My answer is no. But this does not mean that no particular metaphysics vs. method distinction could ever be helpful. The Kantian distinction between the transcendental and the transcendent does, by pragmatic standards, important work by helping us to keep apart the legitimate concern with the conditions for the possibility of experience and the illegitimate attempt to transcend the limits set, however temporarily, pragmatically, and historically contingently, by some particular constellation of such conditions. Therefore, we need not abandon the Kantian distinction, even if we admit, as I have done, that there is a metaphysical element involved in transcendentally reconceptualized pragmatism and pragmatic transcendental anthropology in addition to, and inseparably tied up with, pragmatic methodology. 64
This is one example of the way in which we can reflexively apply the pragmatic method of concept-explication to examine the relevant conceptual contexts of the legitimate uses of this method itself. Jamesian pragmatism, unlike metaphysical realism, is above all a self-reflective enterprise. Such a reflexivity ought to be seen as one of the most urgent themes to be explored by Jamesian philosophers.120 The self-reflection demanded by the pragmatist approach may, and should, lead to a transformation of our concepts of transcendentality, metaphysics, and methodology themselves—and, even more reflexively, to a reconceptualization of pragmatism, the pragmatic method, and the ideal of reflexive philosophical thinking. Such continuous openness to conceptual transformation is especially needed in metaphysics, if metaphysical questions are pursued in a Jamesian pragmatic spirit. 65
9. Conclusion
I conclude that pragmatist metaphysics, as an inquiry into the categorial yet always already humanly categorized nature or basic structure of reality, should be understood as a form of philosophical (transcendental) anthropology. This, as we have seen, is a Kantian way of understanding the basic task of philosophy. James turns out to be a pragmatic philosophical anthropologist par excellence, and this is something that makes him both a Kantian and a metaphysically oriented thinker, though “metaphysically oriented” only in a critical, post-Kantian sense. For James as much as for Kant, philosophy culminates in the question, “What is man?” (or more politically correctly, “What is a human being?”), that is, the key question of philosophical anthropology, which is the starting point for any pragmatically conceivable metaphysical inquiry. This question, instead of, say, “What is Being?”, is the heart of James’s pragmatist metaphysics, which must, therefore, wear a “human face”.121 66
Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Philosophy
University of Tampere


1 See Charlene Haddock Seigfried, “Pragmatist Metaphysics? Why Terminology Matters”, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 37 (2001), 13-21; William T. Myers, “Pragmatist Metaphysics: A Defense”, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 40 (2004), 39-52; and Seigfried, “Ghosts Walking Underground: Dewey’s Vanishing Metaphysics”, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 40 (2004), 53-81.

Optimal hormone levels are essential for feeling you best, both physically and mentally. There are number of online pharmacies which provide you no prescription at your doorstep. Once you insert that new location, the GPS system is going to calculate and choose the best online pharmacy supplying authentic and genuine drugs. In some areas, the new learners have received 10 mg great scores due to this reason.

2 See, e.g., Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (Hassocks: Harvester Press, 1982), and Rorty, Truth and Progress (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

3 Seigfried, “Pragmatist Metaphysics?”, p. 14.

4 Ibid., p. 15.

5 Seigfried does not even regard this part of James’s thought as a metaphysical system. She claims that radical empiricism, because restricting philosophical discussion to “things that are or can be experienced”, does not need metaphysical explanations. (Ibid., p. 16.) Most commentators have, however, read James’s essays on radical empiricism as outlining his own preferred metaphysics. For Seigfried’s earlier discussions of James’s ideas, including radical empiricism and its relation to pragmatism, see Charlene Haddock Seigfried, William James’s Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990).

6 In this paper, I use “metaphysics” and “ontology” more or less interchangeably, meaning by both “general metaphysics” (metaphysica generalis), which must be distinguished from the special areas of metaphysics (metaphysica spe), such as the metaphysics of the mind (or soul), metaphysical cosmology, and the metaphysical speculations about God’s existence.

7 Therefore, it is slightly misleading to describe the “Kantian” metaphysician’s categories as “fundamental” (in a metaphysical sense), because they are not categories of an independent, fundamental reality.

8 Michael J. Loux, Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, 2nd ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 2002 [1st ed. 1998]), p. 7.

9 Ibid., p. 8.

10 E.J. Lowe, The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity and Time (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001 [first published 1998]), pp. 3-8.

11 Peter Loptson, Reality: Fundamental Topics in Metaphysics (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. x.

12 Cf., e.g., Loux, Metaphysics; as well as Jaegwon Kim and Ernest Sosa (eds.), Metaphysics: An Anthology (Malden, MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).

13 I am not here concerned with the twists and turns in Putnam’s treatments of metaphysical realism. See, e.g., Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), and Putnam, Words and Life, ed. James Conant (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1994); as well as Sami Pihlström, Structuring the World: The Issue of Realism and the Nature of Ontological Problems in Classical and Contemporary Pragmatism, Acta Philosophica Fennica 59 (Helsinki: The Philosophical Society of Finland, 1996), and Pihlström, Pragmatism and Philosophical Anthropology: Understanding Our Human Life in a Human World (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). It is quite clear that Loptson’s “unitarianism”, for instance, is a close relative of metaphysical realism, because the metaphysical realist insists that the world can in principle be accurately described in one total theory from a “God’s-Eye View”.

14 See D.M. Armstrong, A World of States of Affairs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), and Armstrong, Truth and Truthmakers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); as well as David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).

15 These metaphorical notions have been widely used in recent philosophy. On the “absolute conception of the world”, see Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (London: Fontana, 1985); on the possibility of a “view from nowhere”, see Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). The notion of a “non-perspectival”, absolute representation has been criticized by Putnam in a series of works in the 1980s and 1990s (see note 13 above) —and by many others; cf. also Sami Pihlström, Naturalizing the Transcendental: A Pragmatic View (Amherst, NY: Prometheus/Humanity Books, 2003), ch. 5.

16 See ibid., as well as Sami Pihlström, “Synthesizing Traditions: Rewriting the History of Pragmatism and Transcendental Philosophy”, forthcoming in History of Philosophy Quarterly 23 (2006).

17 On this ontological interpretation of pragmatism, see Pihlström, Structuring the World; for some comparisons to Wittgenstein and phenomenology, see Pihlström, Naturalizing the Transcendental, ch. 2. Here I make no claims to interpreting any of the classical or contemporary pragmatists, apart from James, but it should be clear that Putnam’s views on realism are close to the position I am aiming at—although it should be noted that Putnam would not accept the transcendental vocabulary I help myself to. (For some further remarks on Putnam’s neo-Jamesian pragmatism, see section 5 below.)

18 See, for example, the realistic versions of pragmatism defended in Susan Haack, Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), and in Nicholas Rescher, Realistic Pragmatism: An Introduction to Pragmatic Philosophy (Albany: SUNY Press, 2000).

19 For an illuminating discussion of this phenomenon, see the “Introduction” to Robert C. Stalnaker, Ways a World Might Be: Metaphysical and Anti-Metaphysical Essays (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

20 The potential connections between pragmatism and the “historical ontology” defended in Ian Hacking’s Historical Ontology (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2002) would deserve a separate treatment.

21 See, e.g., the works by Loux and Lowe cited above.

22 In her recent defense of an essentially Peircean approach to metaphysics, Susan Haack quotes the following remark by Peirce, noting that this leads to a “reformed, scientific metaphysics”: “[I]nstead of merely jeering at metaphysics, […] the pragmaticist extracts from it a precious essence, which will serve to give life and light to cosmology and physics.” See Haack, “Not Cynicism, but Synechism: Lessons from Classical Pragmatism”, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 41 (2005), 239-253 (the quote is on p. 244). For the original source, see Charles S. Peirce, The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, 8 vols, eds. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (vols 1-6) and Arthur W. Burks (vols 7-8) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931-58), 5.423 (1905). While I sympathize with the idea that pragmatism “extracts” the “essence” of metaphysical disputes, I will cite James rather than Peirce as my favorite philosopher showing how this can be done. And though I agree that pragmatism should not discard metaphysics and should, as Haack argues later in her paper (p. 248), steer clear of both apriorism and scientism, I find Haack’s metaphysical project—just as Peirce’s own—too realistic, metaphysically realistic, in comparison to Jamesian pragmatism.

23 For an historical overview of the relations between pragmatism and emergentism, see Charbel Ni�o El-Hani and Sami Pihlström, “Emergence Theories and Pragmatic Realism”, Essays in Philosophy 3:2 (2002), online: It might be noted that, among Dewey’s followers, Sidney Hook in particular was interested in metaphysics: see Hook, The Metaphysics of Pragmatism (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1996 [first published 1927]). Another, more recent application of pragmatic naturalism and emergentism in metaphysics is Sandra Rosenthal’s system entitled Speculative Pragmatism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986). I will briefly get back to her views.

24 See, for this notion of tolerance, Robert G. Meyers, “Meaning and Metaphysics in James” (1971), in Doris Olin (ed.), William James: Pragmatism, in Focus (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 143-155 (especially pp. 149-151).

25 William James, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, eds. Frederick H. Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers, and Ignas K. Skrupskelis (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1975 [first published 1907]), p. 29. The background of James’s formulation was Peirce’s account in the 1870s. (The relevant essays, “The Fixation of Belief” [1877] and “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” [1878] can be found in Peirce’s Collected Papers, vol. 5.) For a discussion of these two pragmatists’ interpretations of the pragmatic maxim, see Sami Pihlström, “Peirce’s Place in the Pragmatist Tradition”, in Cheryl Misak (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Peirce (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 27-57.

26 For an excellent recent discussion of James’s pragmatic view on metaphysical problems, see Ludwig Nagl, “The Insistence on Futurity: Pragmatism’s Temporal Structure”, in William Eggington and Mike Sandbothe (eds.), The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy: Contemporary Engagements between Analytic and Continental Thought (Albany: SUNY Press, 2004), pp. 11-29. See also Meyers, “Meaning and Metaphysics in James”.

27 William James, Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy, Bison Books edition, ed. Ellen Kappy Suckiel (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996 [first published 1911]), p. 32. Two pages later (p. 34), James concludes: “There must in short be metaphysicians. Let us for a while become metaphysicians ourselves.”

28 Seigfried, “Pragmatist Metaphysics?”, p. 14. That this pragmatist way of taking “concrete experience” as a starting-point need not lead to a wholesale rejection of metaphysics—and that Seigfried’s own paper is full of metaphysical statements—is demonstrated in Myers, “Pragmatist Metaphysics: A Defense”. In particular, I agree with Myers that pragmatist metaphysics, even in the transcendental rearticulation I am proposing, is revisable, fallible, and non-foundationalist. See, however, also Seigfried’s response to Myers in her 2004 paper focusing on Dewey, “Ghosts Walking Underground: Dewey’s Vanishing Metaphysics”; and cf. section 8 below.

29 Cf. also H.S. Thayer, Meaning and Action: A Critical History of Pragmatism (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968), pp. 420-421.

30 This is not to say that there are no metaphysical disputes that are empty from such a pragmatic perspective. For instance, the problem of whether to accept universals or tropes might be such a dispute. But even such overly abstract metaphysical problems may turn out to have pragmatically significant ethical bearings, and whenever confronting such a problem, the pragmatist should be alerted to carefully look for its possible ethical relevance.

31 John P. Murphy, Pragmatism: From Peirce to Davidson (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990), p. 35.

32 For a discussion of the similarities and differences between James’s and Schiller’s pragmatism, in relation to the realism issue, in particular, see Pihlström, Pragmatism and Philosophical Anthropology, ch. 1.

33 For related reflections on the Kantian aspects of James’s philosophy of religion, see Sami Pihlström, “William James on Death, Mortality, and Immortality”, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 38 (2002), 605-628, and Pihlström, “On the Reality of Evil: A Jamesian Investigation”, Streams of William James 4:2 (2002), 12-21.

34 For the holistic epistemology of pragmatism, see Morton White, A Philosophy of Culture: The Scope of Holistic Pragmatism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), as well as my review of White’s book in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 39 (2003).

35 Wesley Cooper, The Unity of William James’s Thought (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2002).

36 Cooper, however, correctly notes that James’s conception of God is tied to his pragmatism and ethics in the sense that the pragmatic meaning of “God exists” lies in the ways in which this belief or idea leads believers to make the world better (ibid., p. 21). The pragmatic rationality of theistic belief is, thus, a form of its epistemic justification with both practical and cognitive elements, without assuming any sharp dichotomy between these two (cf. ibid., pp. 21, 195; see also Pihlström, Pragmatism and Philosophical Anthropology, ch. 6).

37 James, Pragmatism, p. 28.

38 Ibid., p. 30.

39 Ibid., p. 40.

40 Ibid., pp. 48-56.

41 Ibid., p. 49.

42 Ibid., p. 55.

43 Ibid., pp. 50 ff.

44 Ibid., p. 53.

45 Ibid., p. 56. Compare the discussion of free will in terms of its “promise” of “relief” (ibid., pp. 59-62, especially p. 61), or the issue of “the one and the many” (ibid., ch. 4), “the most central of all philosophic problems, central because so pregnant” (p. 64), or the melioristic religion defended in ibid., ch. 8. For James’s last formulations of what metaphysics meant for him, how it is related to science (and religion), and what its central problems are, see his posthumously published Some Problems of Philosophy, chs. 1-2; for James’s Schopenhauerian wrestling with the “problem of being”, the question of why there is anything at all, see ibid., ch. 3. “The question of being is the darkest in all philosophy”, James concludes (p. 46).

46 William James, The Meaning of Truth, eds. Frederick H. Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers, and Ignas K. Skrupskelis (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1978 [first published 1909]), p. 72.

47 See Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1st ed. 1781 = A, 2nd ed. 1787 = B), ed. Raymund Schmidt (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1990), A405 / B432 ff.

48 James, Pragmatism, pp. 46-48. Thus, James writes (p. 47): “Berkeley’s criticism of ‘matter’ was consequently absolutely pragmatistic. Matter is known as our sensations of colour, figure, hardness and the like. They are the cash-value of the term. The difference matter makes to us by truly being is that we then get such sensations; by not being, is that we lack them. These sensations are its sole meaning. Berkeley doesn’t deny matter, then; he simply tells us what it consists of. It is a true name for just so much in the way of sensations.”

49 Ibid., p. 50.

50 Ibid., pp. 51-52.

51 Ibid., pp. 56-59 (original emphasis).

52 Ibid., p. 58.

53 James does sympathize with the theistic idea of design, though not with any of the traditional arguments for God’s existence (including the “argument from design”), when he writes (ibid., p. 59): “If not a blind force but a seeing force runs things, we may reasonably expect better issues. This vague confidence in the future is the sole pragmatic meaning at present discernible in the terms design and designer.”

54 Ibid., pp. 59-62. In addition, the fourth lecture is entirely devoted to yet another metaphysical problem, “The One and the Many”, which James famously considered “the most central of all philosophic problems, central because so pregnant” (p. 64). I will neglect that issue here, because it is not a particularly good example of James’s concern with a “middle path” in metaphysics. James, after all, resolutely affirmed pluralism, rejecting monism. This indicates that his attempt to find a via media in metaphysical disputes was itself undogmatic: in some cases he strived for a middle path, in others he did not.

55 Notably, the pragmatist is not only interested in short-term future but, “so far from keeping her eyes bent on the immediate practical foreground, as she is accused of doing, dwells just as much upon the world’s remotest perspectives” (ibid., p. 62).

56 Ibid., pp. 60-61.

57 Ibid., p. 62.

58 This, of course, is Kant’s Third Antinomy (see A444-451/B472-479).

59 Henry E. Allison, in ch. 13 of his Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense—A Revised and Enlarged Edition (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2004 [1st ed. 1983]), offers a clear outline of Kant’s arguments, particularly of the First and Third Antinomies.

60 See my above-cited paper, “Synthesizing Traditions”, for some documentation.

61 See Allison, Kant’s Transcendental Idealism, and especially Michelle Grier, Kant’s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

62 It is unclear whether Putnam uses, or has ever used, the terms “ontology” and “metaphysics” interchangeably. He might view himself as doing metaphysics (in some pragmatically acceptable sense) even when attacking the very project of “Ontology”. Thus, my criticism of his position in this section is partly terminological—but terminological issues tend to be quite substantial in philosophy.

63 See especially Hilary Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987).

64 Hilary Putnam, Ethics without Ontology (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2004), pp. 23-24. Cf. Sami Pihlström, “Putnam’s Conception of Ontology”, forthcoming (with Putnam’s reply) in Contemporary Pragmatism 3 (2006).

65 See, e.g., David Patterson, “The Philosophical Warrant for Genocide”, in John K. Roth (ed.), Genocide and Human Rights: A Philosophical Guide (Basingstoke and London: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 95-104.

66 For a more comprehensive account, see Sami Pihlström, Pragmatic Moral Realism: A Transcendental Defense (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2005).

67 See Hilary Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, ed. James Conant (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1990).

68 Rosenthal, Speculative Pragmatism, pp. 93-94.

69 Ibid., p. 94.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid., p. 96.

72 Ibid., p. 97.

73 As James scholars know, this tension has been excitingly analyzed in Richard M. Gale, The Divided Self of William James (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

74 For Putnam’s “obituary” for Ontology, see his Ethics without Ontology, Part I, ch. 4.

75 Cf. here also Sami Pihlström, “Putnam and Rorty on Their Pragmatist Heritage: Re-reading James and Dewey”, in Elias L. Khalil (ed.), Dewey, Pragmatism, and Economic Methodology (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 39-61.

76 Michael P. Lynch, True to Life: Why Truth Matters (Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2004).

77 Technically, we might treat sentences or propositions as the primary truthbearers, but for the purposes of my emergentist formulation, it is more natural to talk about beliefs and theories, as well as the processes and/or practices within which these are formulated. James usually speaks about “ideas” as true or false.

78 James, Pragmatism, p. 38.

79 Ibid., p. 97.

80 Ibid., p. 104.

81 James, The Meaning of Truth, p. 7.

82 Ibid., p. 109.

83 Ibid., pp. 118, 122, 129. One of the differences between James’s and Lynch’s views is undoubtedly the difference between James’s strong pragmatic pluralism and Lynch’s insistence on truth’s being, nonetheless, an “objective kind” whose instantiation does not depend on our using the corresponding concept. From a Jamesian pragmatist perspective, Lynch, like so many other metaphysical realists, relies on a too strongly realistic distinction between concepts (that we invent) and properties (that we seek to identify and describe by means of those concepts), failing to pay due attention to the fact that any properties we are able to identify are already deeply shaped and structured by our conceptualizing practices. If metaphysical realism in this sense is rejected generally, it ought to be rejected in the case of the property of truth (and the corresponding concept) as well.

84 James, Pragmatism, p. 108.

85 Cf. ibid., ch. 7. While Lynch relies on a metaphysically realist distinction between concepts and properties, the (Jamesian) pragmatist might—both in the case of truth and more generally—claim that properties and concepts emerge together from our discursive practices.

86 James, The Meaning of Truth, p. 97.

87 For a more detailed discussion of this point, see Sami Pihlström, “Truthmaking and Pragmatist Conceptions of Truth and Reality”, Minerva 9 (2005), 105-133, online:

88 James, Pragmatism, p. 34.

89 Ibid., p. 104.

90 Ibid., p. 107.

91 See Armstrong, Truth and Truthmakers.

92 See James, Pragmatism, p. 97.

93 This transcendental constitution of the categorial structure of reality in and through human practices was already discussed in sections 2-3 above.

94 William James, A Pluralistic Universe, eds. Frederick H. Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers, and Ignas K. Skrupskelis (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1977 [first published 1909]), pp. 117-118 (emphases in the original). It was already noted by Ralph Barton Perry in his path-breaking volume, The Thought and Character of William James (Briefer Version, New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1964 [first published 1948, 2-volume ed. originally 1935]), pp. 329-330, that there is a two-way relationship between Pragmatism and A Pluralistic Universe, or between pragmatism and metaphysical pluralism: James defends pluralism (and attacks monism) pragmatically, but conversely pragmatism “affords a special case of pluralistic metaphysics” (p. 329). As Perry says (p. 330): “Pragmatism does not merely provide a method which can be employed in metaphysics—it provides a metaphysics of truth which is consistent with that general metaphysics which James advocates [viz., pluralistic radical empiricism], through bringing the entire process of knowledge within the field of experience.”

95 James, Pragmatism, pp. 121-123.

96 Ibid., p. 122.

97 Cf. Armstrong, Truth and Truthmakers, ch. 2.

98 James, Pragmatism, p. 119. Even so, James did not deny the existence of a “standing reality independent of the idea that knows it” (James, The Meaning of Truth, p. 88). Clearly, he wanted to save the minimal rational core of realism (and the correspondence theory), while defending a picture of truth richer and pragmatically more nuanced than the one he found in his realist rivals’ theories.

99 For some elaboration on this idea, see Sami Pihlström, “How (Not) to Write the History of Pragmatist Philosophy of Science?”, forthcoming in Perspectives on Science.

100 James, Pragmatism, p. 33.

101 Ibid., p. 93. Compare: “There are so many geometries, so many logics, so many physical and chemical hypotheses, so many classifications, each one of them good for so much and yet not good for everything, that the notion that even the truest formula may be a human device and not a literal transcript has dawned upon us. We hear scientific laws now treated as so much ‘conceptual shorthand,’ true so far as they are useful but no farther. Our mind has become tolerant of symbol instead of reproduction, of approximation instead of exactness, of plasticity instead of rigor.” (James, The Meaning of Truth, p. 40.)

102 James, Pragmatism, p. 32; original emphasis.

103 Ibid., p. 103.

104 See, e.g., Ilkka Niiniluoto, Critical Scientific Realism (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

105 See the editors’ notes to James’s Pragmatism, pp. 153-154.

106 Ibid., p. 93.

107 James, The Meaning of Truth, p. 43.

108 For such a strong conception of scientific realism, see Wilfrid Sellars, Science, Perception and Reality (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963); and Raimo Tuomela, Science, Action and Reality (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985); for some criticism, see Pihlström, Structuring the World, ch. 4.

109 See also, for a comprehensive discussion of the relation between these two great thinkers, Russell B. Goodman, Wittgenstein and William James (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

110 Seigfried, “Pragmatist Metaphysics?”, pp. 15-19. See also Seigfried, “Ghosts Walking Underground”, p. 60. I do agree with Seigfried that James criticized both rationalist and empiricist metaphysics (ibid., p. 64), but not with her stubborn insistence that he wanted to dispense with metaphysics altogether.

111 For example, Myers notes that Seigfried’s way of speaking about “what ‘can be’ experienced” in her discussion of James’s radical empiricism is itself metaphysical (Myers, “Pragmatist Metaphysics”, p. 43).

112 Ibid., pp. 49, 42.

113 Cf. Pihlström, Naturalizing the Transcendental.

114 This is what David Carr argues; see Carr, The Paradox of Subjectivity: The Self in the Transcendental Tradition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). See also Allison, Kant’s Transcendental Idealism.

115 John Dewey, Philosophy and Civilization (New York: Milton, Balch & Company, 1931), pp. 39-41.

116 See Pihlström, Pragmatism and Philosophical Anthropology; see also Sami Pihlström, “On the Concept of Philosophical Anthropology”, Journal of Philosophical Research 28 (2003), 259-285. Note, however, that philosophical anthropology need not, and should not, be committed to essentialist assumptions about an ahistorical, immutable “human nature”; our “nature” can be as variable and transformable as our practices or forms of life are. We should also not forget that the pragmatic method, far from being a proto-positivist anti-metaphysical weapon, is tolerant to metaphysics, interpreting metaphysical positions in terms of their potential pragmatic outcome, as was suggested in section 3 above. This tolerance applies, specifically, to metaphysical views about what kind of an entity a human being or a person is, i.e., to philosophical anthropology.

117 For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Sami Pihlström, “Methodology without Metaphysics? A Pragmatic Critique”, Philosophy Today 48 (2004), 188-215.

118 On the notion of transcendental anthropology, see Jonathan Lear, Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1998). Lear’s context is Wittgenstein scholarship.

119 I do not mean to imply that Kant himself always draws this distinction consistently.

120 Cf. here also Pihlström, Pragmatism and Philosophical Anthropology, ch. 10.

121 I am greatly indebted to Peter H. Hare’s advise regarding many of the issues raised in this paper. I also wish to thank an anonymous referee for helpful comments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.