SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Intellectualism and Regulative Ideals: On Misak’s James

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In her The American Pragmatists, Cheryl Misak presents a version of one of the classic narratives in the history of Pragmatism: C. S. Peirce founds Pragmatism with some deep insights about the nature of truth and objectivity, only to have William James misunderstand what he was doing, and pass off as Pragmatism an overly subjectivist and relativistic version of the doctrine.
Like all such narratives, this one isn’t without a grain of truth. James does, indeed, have seem to make room for a ‘subjective’ notion of truth that Peirce (and most other philosophers) reject, but this paper I’ll suggest that this ‘subjectivism’ comes his more fallibilist take on the regulative assumptions both philosophers took to govern our notion of objective truth rather than, as Misak suggests, his ‘subjectivist’ commitments in “The Will to Believe”.


Henry Jackman    
York University


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