The Relationship Between Truth and Benefit in Pragmatism (Utilitarianism)June 28, 2021
Pragmatism is a philosophical approach popular in the United States in the late nineteenth century.
This approach is based on the American philosopher and scientist C.S., who wanted to make philosophy more scientific. It started with Peirce (pronounced “poor”). Peirce (1839-1914) believed that for a statement to be true, there had to be some possible experiment or observation to back it up. If you say “glass is brittle”, it means that if you hit it with a hammer, it will shatter into small pieces. This is what makes the phrase “glass is fragile” true. Apart from this fact about what happens when you hit the glass, there is no invisible “brittleness” quality that glass has. The statement “glass is fragile” is correct because of these practical implications. “Glass is transparent” is also a correct statement, because when you look through the glass you can see through it, and this is not because of some mysterious property of the glass. Peirce hated abstract theories that made no practical difference and thought they were meaningless. Truth is ideally what we would end up with if we were able to carry out all the experiments and investigations we wanted to carry out. This is A.J. It is very close to Ayer’s logical positivism.
Peirce’s work was not widely read, but William James’s was. he was an excellent writer as well as, perhaps even better, than his famous brother, the novelist and short story writer Henry James. While they were both teaching at Harvard University, James spent most of his time discussing pragmatism with Peirce. James developed a distinctive form of pragmatism that he popularized in his articles and lectures. For him, pragmatism can be summarized as follows: Right is what works. What he means by “works” is somewhat vague, though. Although one of the earliest psychologists, he was interested not only in science but also in moral right and wrong and religion. In fact, his most controversial writings were about religion. James’ approach is quite different from the traditional view of truth. According to this view, truth means conformity to facts. According to this theory of conformity, what makes a sentence true is that it accurately describes what the world is like.
The sentence “The cat is on the mat” is true when there is a cat on the mat, and false when it is not, for example, if the cat is out looking for a mouse in the garden. According to James’s pragmatic theory of truth, what makes the sentence “there’s a cat on the mat” true is that believing it produces practically useful results for us. It works for us. Thus, for example, believing that there is a cat on the mat results in knowing that we will not play with our pet mouse on the mat until the cat has gone somewhere else.
When we use an example like “cat on the mat”, the consequences of this pragmatic theory of truth do not seem particularly surprising or important. But let’s try this again in the sentence “God exists”. What would you expect James to say about this? Is it true that God exists? What do you think? The main answers are “yes, it’s true that God exists,” “no, it’s not true that God exists,” or “I don’t know.” If you had to answer my question before reading this, you probably would have given these answers. These positions have names: theism, atheism and agnosticism. Those who say, “Yes, it is true that God exists” usually mean that there is a supreme being somewhere, and that the statement “God exists” would be true even if there were no living humans, even if human beings never existed. “God exists” or “God does not exist” are both true and false statements. But it’s not what we think of them that makes them right or wrong. Whatever we think of them, these statements are either true or false. When considering them, we only hope to find the right answer.
James offered a rather different analysis of the phrase “God exists”. He thought the statement in question was true. What makes it true is that it is a useful belief to have. In reaching this conclusion, he focused on the benefits of believing in the existence of God. This was an important topic for him, and so he wrote a book entitled “Types of Religious Experience” (1902), in which he examined the far-reaching effects that religious belief can have. To say that “God exists” is true for James is to say that it is good for the believer to believe in him. This is a surprising position to adopt. This is reminiscent of the argument of Blaise Pascal, who said that agnostics would benefit from believing in the existence of God. True, Pascal believed that the statement “God exists” was true because God really existed, not because people felt better by believing in God, or because they were better people because of that belief. His bet was merely a way of convincing agnostics that what he thought was true. For James, the assumption that belief in God “works satisfactorily” also makes the statement “God exists” true.
To make this clearer