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 XI
PLURALISM, INDETERMINISM AND RELIGIOUS
FAITH

§ 1. WITH pragmatism as a theory of knowledge -- a definition of truth, and a critique of intellectualism, there is allied a more or less clearly defined metaphysics. While this metaphysics is by no means systematic, it is distinct and characteristic enough to afford an interpretation of life, and even a religion. Since pragmatism, like idealism and realism, is primarily a theory of knowledge, and a metaphysics only by implication, we shall do well to follow this logical order in our exposition.

Pluralism as the Sequel to Empiricism. The Additive Character of Knowledge

As furnishing the basis for a metaphysics and philosophy of religion, pragmatism may best be summed up by the term 'empiricism.' Pragmatism is empirical, in the first place, in that it limits the term 'knowledge' to the particular cases of human knowledge that may be brought under observation. Its theory of knowledge is a description of the manner in which you and I know, in this or that concrete situation. This is both the only knowledge which can profitably be in question, since it is the only knowledge that can be examined; and also the only knowledge on which we can count. Every theory that may be held is some particular body's particular theory. Even a theory concerning infinite or divine knowledge is first of all your theory or mine. And it follows that unless human knowledge is to be credited, we must be sceptics. In other words, if we exclude the sceptical alternative, and say that we mean nothing more by knowledge than the most reliable knowledge available, then we must identify knowledge with human knowledge. Such is knowledge -- for better

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