Present Philosophical Tendencies: A Critical Survey of Naturalism, Idealism, Pragmatism, and Realism Together with a Synopsis of the Philosophy of William James

By Ralph Perry Barton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
IMMEDIATISM VERSUS INTELLECTUALISM1

§ 1. THE pragmatist theory of knowledge, in the limited sense, is an analysis and description of the concrete process of intellection or reflective thought. It is an account of mediate knowledge, or knowledge about -- of that knowledge in which ideas of things are entertained, believed, or verified. Pragmatism finds intellection to be essentially a practical process, or operation. But in the course of his exposition, the pragmatist is perpetually attacking what he calls 'intellectualism;' by which he means the uncritical use of the intellect. The pragmatist describes the intellect, and because he understands it, he can discount it; the "intellectualist," on the other hand, reposes a blind confidence in it. The pragmatist sees around the intellect, and construes reality in terms of its process and circumstances; while the horizon of the intellectualist is bounded by the intellect, and he can only use it and construe reality in terms of the results. Whereas the pragmatist vitalizes the intellect, his opponent intellectualizes life.

Definition of the Issue

It is the old issue between the intellectualistic and voluntaristic views of the soul, revived in a new form; and it appears at first as though it were merely a question as to which of two parties shall have the last word. The intellectualist asserts that the will is a case of knowledge; it is what you know it to be; it must be identified with your idea or definition of it. The voluntarist or pragmatist, on the other hand, protests that knowing -- the having of ideas or the framing of definitions, is a case of willing. And we seem to be launched upon an infinite series of rejoiners.

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1
Portions of this and the following chapter are reprinted from "Notes on the Philosophy of Bergson", Jour. of Phil., Psych., and Scientific Methods, Vol. VIII, 1911, Nos. 26, 27.

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