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'Pragmatism' contains a series of public lectures held by William James in Boston 1906–7. James provides a popularizing outline of his view of philosophical pragmatism while making highly rhetorical and entertaining lashes towards rationalism and other competing schools of thought. James is especially concerned with the pragmatic view of truth. True beliefs should be defined as, according to James, beliefs that can successfully assist people in their everday life. This is claimed to not be relativism. That reality exists is argued to be a fact true beyond the human subject. James argues, nevertheless, that people select which parts of reality are made relevant and how they are understood to relate to each other. Charles Sanders Peirce, widely considered to be the founder of pragmatism, eventually chose to separate himself intellectually from James, renaming his own theory to ‘pragmaticism’.

First Page:


A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking

By William James (1907)

To the Memory of John Stuart Mill

from whom I first learned the pragmatic openness of mind and whom my fancy likes to picture as our leader were he alive to day.


The lectures that follow were delivered at the Lowell Institute in Boston in November and December, 1906, and in January, 1907, at Columbia University, in New York. They are printed as delivered, without developments or notes. The pragmatic movement, so called I do not like the name, but apparently it is too late to change it seems to have rather suddenly precipitated itself out of the air. A number of tendencies that have always existed in philosophy have all at once become conscious of themselves collectively, and of their combined mission; and this has occurred in so many countries, and from so many different points of view, that much unconcerted statement has resulted. I have sought to unify the picture as it presents itself to my own eyes, dealing in broad strokes, and avoiding minute controversy... Continue reading book >>

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