William James

Henry Jackman

in The Oxford Handbook of American Philosophy

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219315
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 William James

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William James was, by the time of his death in 1910, America's most celebrated psychologist and philosopher. Nevertheless, he is often unfairly portrayed as simply arguing that it is rational for us to believe anything that makes us feel good, since a belief is ‘true’ whenever believing it promotes our interests. However, James is more justly interpreted as attempting to draw out the consequences of a thoroughgoing naturalism about cognition for our understanding of normative notions like truth, goodness, and rationality. James was almost unique in his time in directly facing the problem of finding a place for value in a world that seemed increasingly to demand a naturalistic understanding, and his doing so without giving up on either the naturalism or the value has made his writings of perennial interest.

Keywords: William James; naturalism; cognition; normative notion; rationality; goodness

Article.  12349 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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