Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I thought I heard them say, “Welcome to…”

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:30 AM


The William James Hotel

Charles A.  Hobbs,

paper at William James Studies

"There are at least two well known examples that James employs to illustrate what is meant by this formulation of pragmatism. Returning here to pragmatic method, the second of these, drawn from the Italian thinker Giovanni Papini, is meant to illustrate how this method is compatible with a number of varying results, that is, how this method is one of pluralism.26 With a remarkable illustration of the meaning of pragmatism, we are asked to understand James's pragmatic method as being like a hotel corridor, one whose doors lead to numerous rooms in which there are thinkers involved with numerous types of projects and pursuits. There could, for example, be a metaphysical idealist in one room and a committed anti-metaphysical thinker in another, both in the same hotel. In any case, James holds that his pragmatic method remains neutral with regard to the various types of thought taking place within the rooms.27

The hotel represents a great deal of the world of thinking.28 The various rooms represent individual philosophies. Of course, the corridor represents pragmatism, which is the connection between these, the philosophical method of choice and action. We might also say that pragmatism affords us our one chance at escaping the isolation of the individual rooms. This corridor method allows one to move from one concept or theory to another concept or theory. It does so insofar as it offers a concrete manner in which to comprehend, enter, or 'penetrate' a given theory, and in which to step outside of the theory so to test and contrast it with other theories. That is, to enter or leave their various rooms, the varying occupants must employ the pragmatic method.

Accordingly, we see that, for James, pragmatism is not a set doctrine. Again, it is a method, one that allows for a great many differing views to co-exist under the same umbrella, for pragmatism '…has no dogmas, and no doctrines save its method.'"29

26 The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, ed. John J. McDermott (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977), p. 380.

27 Following Papini, James says that pragmatic method "Lies in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the next some one on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third a chemist investigating a body's properties. In a fourth a system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms." Ibid.

28 Not included would be dogmatists such as dictators and/or theocrats, for they are fundamentally closed to inquiry.

29 The Writings of William James, p. 380.

1 Comment

  1. […] Continued from December 2, 2009 […]

    Pingback by Hotel Hymns « Log24 — Thursday, December 10, 2009 @ 12:02 PM

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