The Jamesian Project & how it answers the question: What is Philosophy?

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    • #1418
      Avatar photoGary Jaron
      Moderator

        William James is important to our understanding of life and philosophy because he helps us to navigate in our world.

        Here is how you can use James to answer the question: What is Philosophy?

        James would say, well what is it that people who call themselves philosophers do?

        To understand why James would give us that answer, you need to realize and understand what I call the Jamesian Project. The Jamesian Project is what I believe overall explains all of James’s writings. I believe that there is a system for James and what he is doing. What James is doing is the Jamesian Project. That project is that James is interested in the varieties of human experience. James wants to know and understand what people actually do. James doesn’t care about what philosophers think humans ought to do. James is descriptive and not proscriptive when it comes to people’s activities.

        Thus James says: Philosophy is what philosophers do.

        Here is my continuum of Philosophy. I think that James would agree with my description of the continuum of philosophy if James had bothered to think about this question.

        One end of the continuum is Philosophy asks the question: How do you live a good life? This is philosophy as a wisdom tradition.

        At the other end of the continuum is Philosophy asks the question: How do things work? This is philosophy as a knowledge tradition.

        James is in the middle of this continuum. He asks What do you find meaningful in your life activities?

        If finding out how things work is important and meaningful to you then you go off and read and study certain types of philosophers and scientists. If knowing how things work doesn’t matter to you, it fails the Jamesian Pragmatic test: Does this idea/concept make a difference in how you will act and live your life? Then, James says, don’t bother reading that kind of philosophic material, since it doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t make a difference to you in your life.

        If ‘when you answer the question, What do you find meaningful in your life activity?’; and your answer to that question is that you want to live a good life, then go read a different set of philosophers and theologians.

        James tells us where on the continuum of Philosophy you will find yourself because reading that kind of material answers for you the Jamesian Pragmatic test concerning the question of what is philosophy. It helps orient yourself in life activities by helping you to realize what material makes a difference to you.

      • #1421
        Avatar photoGary Jaron
        Moderator

          If I am right about my understanding and description of what James has been doing in his writing is what I call the Jamesian Project, then to understand William James don’t bother to read Richard M. Gale’s book: The Divided Self of Willam James. Gale completely doesn’t understand who James is and what James is doing. Gale in that book is completely and utterly wrong about James. Gale thinks that what James is doing is to understand himself. This is wrong, and thus Gale fails to understand William James.

          If am right about my understanding and description of what James is doing, if my description of the Jamesian Project is that James is seeking to uncover the varieties of human experience, then you do need to read Charlene Haddock Seigfried’s book: Willaim James’s Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy. Since she is describing correctly what James is doing.

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