IV
AGENCY AND PURPOSE

The Philosophy of Means

UNDER Pragmatism, in the Baldwin dictionary, we read: "This term is applied by Kant to the species of hypothetical imperative . . . which prescribes the means necessary to the attainment of happiness." In accordance with our thesis, we here seize upon the reference to means, since we hold that Pragmatist philosophies are generated by the featuring of the term, Agency. We can discern this genius most readily in the very title, Instrumentalism, which John Dewey chooses to characterize his variant of the pragmatist doctrine. Similarly William James explicitly asserts that Pragmatism is "a method only." And adapting Peirce's notion that beliefs are rules for action, he says that "theories thus become instruments," thereby stressing the practical nature of theory, whereas Aristotle had come close to putting theory and practice in dialectical opposition to each other. James classed his pragmatism with nominalism in its appeal to particulars, with utilitarianism in its emphasis upon the practical, and with positivism in its "disdain for verbal solutions, useless questions and metaphysical abstractions."

In one sense, there must be as many "pragmatisms" as there are philosophies. That is, each philosophy announces some view of human ends, and will require a corresponding doctrine of means. In this sense, we might ask wherein "Stoic pragmatism" would differ from "Epicurean," "Platonist," or "Kantian" pragmatisms, etc. But modern science is par excellence an accumulation of new agencies (means, instruments, methods). And this locus of new power, in striking men's fancy, has called forth "philosophies of science" that would raise agency to first place among our five terms.

William James, in his book on Pragmatism, quotes Papini, who likens the pragmatist stress to the corridor in a hotel. Each room of the hotel may house a guest whose personal interests and philosophic views

-275-

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A Grammar of Motives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction: the Five Key Terms of Dramatism xv
  • Part One - Ways of Placement 1
  • I - Container and Thing Contained 3
  • II - Antinomies of Definition 21
  • III - Scope and Reduction 59
  • Part Two - The Philosophic Schools 125
  • I Scene 127
  • II - Agent in General 171
  • III - Act 227
  • IV - Agency and Purpose 275
  • Part Three - On Dialectic 321
  • I - He Dialectic of Constitutions 323
  • II - Dialectic in General 402
  • Appendix 445
  • Index 519
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