What is Radical Empiricism?June 28, 2021
William James is a psychologist as well as a philosopher, and he sees applications of his ideas in human psychology as well as in information theory. Recognizes that people psychologically need certain beliefs, especially religious ones.
James considers belief in God to be beneficial to the believer if it leads him to a more fulfilling life or helps him overcome his fear of death, although it is not a verifiable fact. These—a more fulfilling life and facing death without fear—become true, are formed as a result of a belief, and decisions and actions are tailored to them.
Along with and very much related to the pragmatic notion of truth, James offers a kind of metaphysics he calls “radical empiricism.” This approach makes reality a dynamic and active process in the same way that truth is a process. Like traditional empiricists before him, James rejects the rationalist notion that the changing world is somehow unrealistic; but he goes so far as to say that “for pragmatism (reality) is still under construction”, as if the truth were to be made permanent.
He believes that this “flow” of reality is not conducive to empirical analysis, both because it is in a constant state of flux and because observing it affects the accuracy of the analysis. In James’ radical empiricism, the ultimate basis of reality from which mind and matter are formed is pure experience.
Radical empiricism claims that a justified argument must be based, directly or indirectly, on experience. Even the axioms of mathematics, even the first principles of logic, that seem to be least related to experimentation, are, according to radical empiricism, empirical assertions. In other words, they are based on experimentation. According to this school of thought, they are nothing but inductive generalizations based on singular arguments with which experiment introduces us.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook