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Preludes to PragmatismToward a Reconstruction of Philosophy$
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Philip Kitcher

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199899555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199899555.001.0001

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A Pragmatist's Progress

A Pragmatist's Progress

The Varieties of James's Strategies for Defending Religion

(p.223) 10 A Pragmatist's Progress
Preludes to Pragmatism

Kitcher Philip

Oxford University Press

This chapter scrutinizes James's evolving attempts to reconcile religion and science. Although James is sometimes modest in aiming to preserve a form of religion independent of claims about supernatural entities, his more typical stance is to strive for more. The striving is evident in his early writings and in the many-sided explorations of The Varieties of Religious Experience. The chapter shows how James's arguments in Varieties, whether we credit him with everyday views about truth and knowledge or whether we attribute to him the conceptions he would explicitly develop in Pragmatism, fall short of the more ambitious target. Nor can the different strategy pursued in “The Will to Believe” succeed in establishing a strong religious commitment. For all the ingenuity and subtlety of James's attempts, the most he can cogently defend is a demythologized version of religion, of the sort advanced by Dewey in A Common Faith.

Keywords:   William James, religion, science, The Varieties of Religious Experience, The Will to Believe

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