Pragmatism Mail Bag 2


From a longtime reader:

Two questions:

First, in view of recent Progressive chest-thumping demands for State decisions rooted in “science,” what did William James mean or imply back in 1906/7 when he said:

Surely, in this field of truth it is the pragmatists and not the rationalists who are the more genuine defenders of the universe’s rationality. [William James, Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth, Lecture VI from Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking in William James, Pragmatism and The Meaning of Truth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 113]

Second, what is the philosophical connection between James’ Pragmatism and the purported neo-Hegelianism, organicism, and idealism of Mussolini’s intellectuals? Could it be found in this observation by Prof. Moss from the book review [linked here].

Note, too, that fascist ideology did not presuppose a coherence theory of truth. In the fascist account, what was true consisted in the most recent pronouncements either by il Duce or by his elite, regardless of consistency with past statements; in short, truth was the creative act of the uomo fascista. So coherence becomes irrelevant for fascist ideas, because truth depends on both the time when a statement is expressed and who expresses it. Here, in the idea of truth as willful creation by the elite or the uomo fascista, we can see the influence of 19th-century thinkers, especially Nietzsche.


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