Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/197

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY



MARCH, 1907



A DEFENCE OF PRAGMATISM[1]

I. Its Mediating Office

By Professor WILLIAM JAMES
Harvard University

IN the preface to that admirable collection of essays of his called Heretics, Mr. Chesterton writes these words:

There are some people—and I am one of them—who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run anything else affects them.[2]

I think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds. You know the same of me. And yet I confess to a certain tremor at the audacity of the enterprise which I am about to begin. For the philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter, it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos.

  1. The first of a course of eight lectures on 'Pragmatism: A new name for an old way of thinking,' given before the Lowell Institute, Boston, and the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, Columbia University.
  2. G. K. Chesterton, 'Heretics,' London and New York, 1905, p. 15.