Saturday, May 12, 2012

Summer Reading List on Classical Pragmatism

Some colleagues from afar asked for a selection of introductory material for classical pragmatism concerning truth, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of science.

Much of the listed material is free online.  You may also acquire The Essential Peirce and The Essential Dewey, each in two volumes.

C.S. Peirce
“How to Make Our Ideas Clear”
  • The basis of the pragmatist theory of meaning.
  • Meaning is anticipated consequences of action.
  • Predecessor for James' "truth works"

“The Fixation of Belief”
  • Science and experiment as the method of justifying belief.

“Question Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man”
  • Destruction of faculty and introspective psychology.
  • Predecessor of formalization of abduction.

“Some Consequences of Four Incapacities”
  • Further destruction
"On a New List of Categories"

  • The fundamentals of Peirce's ontology ... and just about all his thought.

“Review: Fraser’s Edition of the Works of George Berkeley” in North American Review
  • Seminal articulation of Peirce’s scholastic realism.

Topics missing:

  • synechism
  • tychism
  • evolutionary metaphysics

William James
“The Sentiment of Rationality”
  • Quasi-Humean take on rationality as a sentiment.

“A World Of Pure Experience”
  • Contra Lockean empiricsm, experience is a unity; discrimination is derivative.
  • Relations are real and can be felt, contra modern empiricsm.
  • Basic ideas of “radical empiricism”
  • Basis of Husserlian phenomenology

“Does Consciousness Exist?”
  • No, it is an event.

from the Psychology, “The Stream of Thought” chapter.
  • Psychological assumptions behind epistemology and truth
  • Basis of Husserlian phenomenology.

from Pragmatism, “Pragmatisms Conception of Truth”
  • Famous “truth is what works” essay.
  • the question of truth is shifted  to the question of the meaning of truth.
  • He means this as an informal abduction.

“The Will to Believe”
  • Most famous essay.
  • Proposes informal logic of justification by “faith.”

John Dewey

“The Reflex Arc Concept in Philosophy”
  • External stimuli are relative to ongoing action.

“Propositions, Warranted Assertability, and Truth
  • Principle epistemological statement.
  • Thought is abductive.

From Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
  • The first three chapters on “The Matrix of Inquiry”
  • Dewey’s logic is his theory of inquiry and is his epistemology.
  • This explain 1) what logic is, and the 2) material-biological and 3) cultural matrix of inquiry.

Experience and Nature, Chps. 1-3 and 5-8
  • Dewey’s emergent naturalist processive metaphysics.

Recommended Secondaries
James Gouinlock, John Dewey’s Philosophy of Value
  • It’s on ethics, but is great for understanding the metaphysical and epistemic background.

David Hildebrand, Dewey: A Beginner's Guide
  • Analytic-friendly introduction


  1. I have been editing this, btw.

  2. I have created a permanent page that is going to be continuously updated.