Ideas of William James, by Theme

[American, 1842 - 1910, Born in New York. Brother of the novelist Henry James. Died at Chocorua.]

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
It is wisdom to believe what you desire, because belief is needed to achieve it
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 1. Philosophy
All good philosophers start from a dumb conviction about which truths can be revealed
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysical Systems
A complete system is just a classification of the whole world's ingredients
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 5. Objectivity
A single explanation must have a single point of view
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 3. Non-Contradiction
Man has an intense natural interest in the consistency of his own thinking
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 6. Ockham's Razor
Our greatest pleasure is the economy of reducing chaotic facts to one single fact
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 2. Defining Truth
You can only define a statement that something is 'true' by referring to its functional possibilities
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 9. Rejecting Truth
Truth is just a name for verification-processes
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 3. Correspondence Truth critique
In many cases there is no obvious way in which ideas can agree with their object
3. Truth / D. Coherence Truth / 1. Coherence Truth
Ideas are true in so far as they co-ordinate our experiences
New opinions count as 'true' if they are assimilated to an individual's current beliefs
3. Truth / E. Pragmatic Truth / 1. Pragmatic Truth
True ideas are those we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify (and false otherwise)
If the hypothesis of God is widely successful, it is true
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 8. Facts / c. Facts and truths
Realities just are, and beliefs are true of them
7. Existence / E. Categories / 2. Categorisation
Classification can only ever be for a particular purpose
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 6. Nihilism about Objects
A 'thing' is simply carved out of reality for human purposes
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / e. Substance critique
'Substance' is just a word for groupings and structures in experience
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 5. Aiming at Truth
Truth is a species of good, being whatever proves itself good in the way of belief
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 3. Pragmatism
Pragmatism accepts any hypothesis which has useful consequences
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / b. Pro-coherentism
We find satisfaction in consistency of all of our beliefs, perceptions and mental connections
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 1. Observation
Scientific genius extracts more than other people from the same evidence
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 6. Falsification
Experimenters assume the theory is true, and stick to it as long as result don't disappoint
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 2. Aim of Science
Theories are practical tools for progress, not answers to enigmas
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 3. Instrumentalism
True thoughts are just valuable instruments of action
Pragmatism says all theories are instrumental - that is, mental modes of adaptation to reality
14. Science / C. Induction / 3. Limits of Induction
We can't know if the laws of nature are stable, but we must postulate it or assume it
14. Science / C. Induction / 6. Bayes's Theorem
Trying to assess probabilities by mere calculation is absurd and impossible
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / j. Explanations by reduction
We have a passion for knowing the parts of something, rather than the whole
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / b. Purpose of mind
The mind has evolved entirely for practical interests, seen in our reflex actions
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 7. Animal Minds
Dogs' curiosity only concerns what will happen next
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / e. Cause of consciousness
Consciousness is not a stuff, but is explained by the relations between experiences
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 3. Eliminativism
'Consciousness' is a nonentity, a mere echo of the disappearing 'soul'
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 3. Emotions / a. Nature of emotions
Rage is inconceivable without bodily responses; so there are no disembodied emotions
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality / a. Rationality
How can the ground of rationality be itself rational?
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality / b. Human rationality
It seems that we feel rational when we detect no irrationality
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / b. Concepts as abilities
We return to experience with concepts, where they show us differences
22. Metaethics / A. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / d. Biological ethics
Evolution suggests prevailing or survival as a new criterion of right and wrong
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 4. Unfairness
Imagine millions made happy on condition that one person suffers endless lonely torture
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / d. Selecting the cause
Understanding by means of causes is useless if they are not reduced to a minimum number
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 3. Divine Perfections
If there is a 'greatest knower', it doesn't follow that they know absolutely everything
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 4. Divine Contradictions
It is hard to grasp a cosmic mind which produces such a mixture of goods and evils
28. God / B. Proving God / 1. Proof of God
If the God hypothesis works well, then it is true
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / c. Teleological Proof critique
The wonderful design of a woodpecker looks diabolical to its victims
Things with parts always have some structure, so they always appear to be designed
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / d. Religious Experience
Private experience is the main evidence for God
29. Religion / B. Monotheistic Religion / 4. Christianity / a. Christianity
Early Christianity says God recognises the neglected weak and tender impulses
29. Religion / C. Spiritual Disciplines / 3. Buddhism
Nirvana means safety from sense experience, and hindus and buddhists are just afraid of life