American pragmatism : a religious genealogy by M. Gail Hamner

By M. Gail Hamner

Hamner seeks to find what makes pragmatism uniquely American. She argues that the inextricably American personality of pragmatism of such figures as C.S. Peirce and William James lies in its frequently understated confirmation of the United States as a uniquely non secular state with a God-given project and populated by means of God-fearing citizens.

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He enjoins his scientific peers to regard psychology as a science (as opposed to a philosophy) since it relies as much as does physiology upon the experimental method. Nonetheless, Wundt does not apply “science” wholesale, but adjusts the term to the particular exigencies of studying human minds. 6 Through physiology, psychology gains empirical grounding for what was traditionally explored under the aegis of philosophy. Wundt thus legitimizes psychology both by granting it the same intellectual status as Naturwissenschaft and by stressing the scientificness, that is, the empiricity, of Geisteswissenschaft.

Meaning remains virtual, however; it remains vague and useless until narrowed and focused by an act of interpretation (a human or other “interpretant”) according to particular purposes. 14 Peirce's rejection of nominalism results in his conviction that the philosophical and scientific position of skepticism requires a prior assumption of the possibility of certainty. By denying this possibility, Peirce critiques the sufficiency of efficient causation and bolsters his claim for the personal and cosmic scope of purposiveness.

The contention has a number of theoretical obstacles, however, for although Peirce does share theoretical proclivities with Helmholtz, he also maintains a sharp distance from his German interlocutor. It would be more expected to argue a resonance between Helmholtz and James since James embraces Helmholtz as an authoritative colleague. James relies on the German physicist's experiments and conclusions, and he recognizes their differences as ones within a common psychological enterprise. Moreover, both James and Helmholtz attained wide popularity in their lifetimes and have become mythic figures in intellectual history.

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