Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/577

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571
WHAT PRAGMATISM IS

WHAT PRAGMATISM IS, AS I UNDERSTAND IT
By THOMAS MITCHELL SHACKLEFORD

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

ONE who undertakes to tell what pragmatism is has a hard task to perform. Before he gets through with it, he may find himself in a like plight with old Kaspar in' trying to tell his grandchildren of the battle of Blenheim. You will remember that in response to little Peterkin's request, "Now tell us what 'twas all about," and to his question, "And what good came of it at last?" Kaspar could only declare "That 'twas a famous victory."

To begin with, not only has no history of the origin, rise and spread of pragmatism yet been written, but no full, complete, systematic statement of what it really is, what it does and what it may be expected to do is to be found anywhere. A systematic exposition of this "new philosophy" remains an unfulfilled want. We can not be said to have anything like an adequate treatise. Dr. Schiller's "Humanism" and "Studies in Humanism" consist of a number of detached essays, largely controversial in character, written at different times between the years 1892 and 1907, on various occasions and for special purposes. Professor Dewey's "Studies in Logical Theory" also consists of detached essays from himself and seven of his co-workers, and Professor James's "Pragmatism" is made up of eight popular lectures, published in the same form in which they were delivered, without notes and without revision. All of these are most excellent books, well written, entertaining and bearing directly upon the new philosophical movement, only they are not, and do not pretend to be, what most of the critics seem to have rather hastily assumed—full or complete expositions or treatises. Much other literature upon the subject may be found scattered through the various philosophical periodicals. In fact, so voluminous has this literature grown of late years and the movement has evoked so much hostile criticism, that the uninformed reader would be justifiable in thinking "pragmatism a complete system set forth for centuries in hundreds of ponderous volumes."

However, for all practical purposes, it still remains as true as in 1905, when Professor James wrote concerning the movement:

It suffers badly at present from incomplete definition. Its most systematic advocates, Schiller and Dewey, have published fragmentary programs only.

So, a few months later, an able and somewhat sympathetic reviewer complained: