William James was America’s first laboratory psychologist, one of the founders of American pragmatism, and in general one of the more significant American public intellectuals. He’s also a key figure in the study of religion, providing a critical empiricist framework for analyzing religious traditions and claims in a way that is neither sectarian nor anti-religious, and does not compromise intellectual integrity.
James is one of the key thinkers for Nick, and probably the one Nick thinks is “right” the largest portion of the time.

Jamesian Pragmatism
James’s pragmatism is very different in character from that of, say Dewey; where Dewey tended towards naturalism and realism, James was of an almost relativst turn regarding the nature, function, and properties of truth, limiting his discussion of it primarily to psychological inquiries into its concrete operations and thus, one might say, dealing only with the de facto and not the de jure aspects. In this he prefigures quite nicely the piercing insights of Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.”
For James as for Quine, there are no foundations that is, there is no knowledge or truth that stands on its own, self-evident and irrefutable. Rather, we have beliefs which are formed in various ways and which serve various purposes. All our knowledge, all our truth, is really just a sort of bet, a gamble taking the form of an assumption that such-and-such is true of the world in which we move. If we are right, our actions on the basis of our assumption are supported by the world; things “work.” If we are wrong, than we suffer the consequences. This is true no matter what we believe, or even if we suspend all belief—for the agnostic deprives himself of the possibilities of all beliefs, just as the believer deprives himself of the possibilities of all the other beliefs he could have believed…
h2. James’s Philosophy of Religion
James is unusual in modern philosophy of religion for taking religion seriously. For him, a tenet of faith is a gamble just like the assumptions we make about, say, fire being hot or a matter being composed of atoms or the bus arriving within some approximation of its scheduled time. Religious beliefs, he tells us, are to be judged by their fruits-if their fruits are “good for life”-i.e., if a life led by a person guided by a religion is a good one, the belief may be approved. Obviously this is not a hard and fast determiner of the objective “truth” of religious claims, but it is a reasonable standard for selecting a worldview…
h2. Quotes
  • In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which the ultimate mystery of things works sadly… (“Is Life Worth Living”)
    h2. Works
  • Pragmatism
  • Varieties of Religious Experience
  • The Meaning of Truth
  • Essays on Faith and Morals
    h2. Bibliography
  • Cornel West
    • The American Evasion of Philosophy
      h2. See also:
  • Connectives: John Dewey, Simone Weil, Richard Rorty, Buddhism

    TODO: Expand