William James on Truth and Invention in Morality

European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 2 (2):127-161 (2010)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In what follows I shall investigate how the notions of truth and invention inform our moral life. In particular, I will show how this idea has been explored by William James in his seminal essay The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life (MPML), by far his most clear-cut piece of moral philosophy. I will claim that the dialectics of the essay cannot be apprehended independently from the understanding of the moral psychology and epistemology James elaborates in his writings on pragmatism and the philosophy of mind. In fact, once framed in the relevant perspective, the essay conveys a very different and more radical position that the one usually acknowledged. In MPML James engages in an inquiry into the nature of moral thought and its ability to meet the difficulties of the moral life it should address. The essay criticizes a certain image of moral reflection by questioning its underlying assumptions about the nature of mindedness and the place of truth in the moral life. I shall thus articulate the discussion of James’ essay along two directions, one methodological and one substantive. They are, respectively, the anti-foundational and anti-theoretical character of moral reflection, and the rethinking of the relationship we have with our interiority that is relevant for ethics as informed by the notion of truth.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The ethics of energy: William James's moral philosophy in focus (review).Sami Pihlström - 2010 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 46 (4):646-650.
William James's lost souls in Ursula le Guin's utopia.Linda Simon - 2004 - Philosophy and Literature 28 (1):89-102.
Essays in pragmatism.William James - 1948 - New York,: Hafner Pub. Co.. Edited by Alburey Castell.
Theology and Christian ethics.James M. Gustafson - 1974 - Philadelphia,: United Church Press.
The essential William James.William James - 2011 - Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. Edited by John R. Shook.
The moral philosopher and the moral life.William James - 1891 - International Journal of Ethics 1 (3):330-354.


Added to PP

104 (#168,442)

6 months
5 (#641,095)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

References found in this work

Virtue and Reason.John Mcdowell - 1979 - The Monist 62 (3):331-350.
The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy.William James - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers & Ignas K. Skrupskelis.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1987 - Behaviorism 15 (2):179-181.

View all 12 references / Add more references