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What is truth? The Story of Philosophy Series.
February 6, 2022 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm GMT
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William James (1842-1910) was the father of American psychology as a formal discipline, a well known public philosopher and one of the founders of pragmatism. And through his pragmatic lens, he offers us an intriguing interpretation of truth.
In the same way that we cannot define beauty, as it varies with our subjective experience, James believed there is no definitive truth for all. He did not hold the common view that truth is an objective thing out there. There is no way things truly are.
For James, truth, like beauty, is an adjective rather than a noun, used to describe the human experience. Truth happens to an idea and is not fixed. As demonstrated clearly by science, ideas are constantly replaced by a new truth and so, truth must be whatever is most useful right now.
His peers thought differently. Dewey argued that truth (although he tended to stay away from the word) is nothing more than a resolution of a problematic situation. Rorty, at his most extreme, held that truth is merely what our peers will let us get away with saying.
Join us as we explore James’ and our own interpretations of truth.
Here are some questions to spark your curiosity.
- Is it possible to get to an objective truth?
- What are the different interpretations of truth we have come across? In what way are they each useful to us and society as a whole?
- Is it important to have a joint definition of truth?
- James believed that the general public (including philosophers) could be divided into two categories – the tender minded, who are more willing to accept something as true without hard evidence, and the tough minded, who are more sceptical and require proof. This has clear implications on what we believe to be true. Are you tender or tough minded? How does it impact your search for truth?
This is the final salon of an 11-month Interintellect series exploring the evolution and story of Western philosophers and their ideas through ‘The Story of Philosophy’ by Will Durant. Together, we discovered key philosophers by reading the relevant chapter of Durant’s book and additional texts. Click here to find out more about this salon series. Perhaps you will feel inspired to use our journey as the basis of your own exploration.
The group will be most valuable if we all set out to contribute in the spirit of vigorous and open discussion. Our salons’ duration ranges between 2.5-3 hours. We look forward to seeing you there.
William James’s Pragmatic Theory of Truth, Kevin Currie-Knight (an articulate YouTuber)
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