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Reality, for James, is not an abstract attribute of things but a quality of living, concrete experience. On one hand, James look for the neural basis of the mind which is considered as an object in a world of already made objects.

Nevertheless, it ends by denying that the neural basis of sensation and that of imagination can be radically different. Hence, James starts to prepare the reader to admit a more radical thesis, affirmed in the 19th and 21st chapters, of a strong connection between imagination and perception. If the progress of art and science can be explained by creativity found in the conceptualising power of the mind,. Why may it not have been so of the original elements of consciousness, sensation, time, space, resemblance…?

Why may they not, in short, be pure idiosyncrasies, spontaneous variations, fitted by good luck. WWJ 9: However, this does not mean that there is no object independent of it but rather that the mind is creative, even at the elementary level of sense perception.

This history of consciousness, either biological or cultural, is generally ignored, because we live through the experiences of others. This feeling of reality is a common feature of all kind of experiences, including sensational experience as well as religious experience. In religious experiences, there is something that strikes this feeling of reality, and can even make the conception felt intensely more real than ordinary sense perception:.

This is essential to make room for a psychological or empirical understanding of religious experience.

Reality Lost, Reality Regained? Ethics, Politics and Realism in the Imagination of Raymond Geuss

James feels that concepts are by themselves rather powerless unless they are connected with a reality-feeling or with imagination. Objectivity requires an esthetical dimension in concepts as well as a cognitive content of feelings.


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We find in a draft of the Varieties an interesting autobiographical passage on religious imagination:. I cannot find in myself a trace of personal religion in the sense, in which so many possess it nor any live belief in a conscious spirit of the universe with whom I may hold communion. Secondly, it shows that religious belief and religious experience are simultaneous. In other words, the element of surrendering is not caused by the belief in any divine being, since believing itself required to be already able to imagine actively the content of the belief and cannot be caused by will.

At the same time the act of surrendering is not causing the belief since to surrender, we already need to have a belief in some kind of existing being. This is a strong argument in favour of an understanding of the relation between the will to believe doctrine, and the accent put on religious experiences in the Varieties which could be read as not presupposing any belief. Imagination makes us experience our beliefs to be of realities; and neither imagination nor belief or our feeling of reality is under the control of the will. This is, as I would like to conclude, what gives us good reasons to believe that reality is not mind-dependant.

Objectivity (philosophy) - Wikipedia

This as been recently defended by Slater against a current reading that sees, under the influence of Putnam, James as defending a kind of internal realism in a Kantian manner. Nevertheless, if we take metaphysical realism not in the elaborated sense given by Putnam but simply as posing the existence of mind-independent objects, there are plenty of evidence of it in James affirmation about the supernatural world.

As Slater as shown, James is a religious realist, believing in an unseen and better world, and understanding religion as a way of adapting oneself with this mind- independent unseen world. Religion is therefore not true only because it has a value for human life but because it puts us into contact with non-human higher form of experience which have a value for our life WWJ For example, this passage, at the end of the Varieties is clearly realistic about the existence of ideals and of a supernatural world:.

Name it the mystical region, or the supernatural region, whichever you choose. Yet the unseen region in question is not merely ideal, for it produces effects in this world. But that which produces effects within another reality must be termed a reality itself, so I feel as if we had no philosophic excuse for calling the unseen or mystical world unreal.

It adds some spices to our moral life. Besides being a religious realist, James is thus also an ethical realist Slater Moreover, any objectivism regarding ethical values is grounded in the sort of religiosity that James argues for in The Varieties. If for Dewey, to surrender to a being already there has leaded supernaturalist creeds to weaken the active moral impulse that urge to the realisation of the ideal, it is the contrary for James. The postulation of a divine being encompassing our ideals form the basic esthetical condition under which our moral efforts are at best. In the last chapter of The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life , James indeed try to show how moral objectivism is not possible on purely naturalistic grounds.

Moral objectivity demands the postulating of a God as one of the claimant WWJ 6: If the entities that are postulated are not imagined as real entities, they lack the power to motivate us. But ideas and ideal, in order to become what we are ready to act on, needs not be picturised in an anthropomorphic manner. It may explain how religious perception thoroughly shaped by imagination cannot be reduced a priori to hallucination, provided they are understood as embedded into a form of realistic supernatural world, without a human face.

Dewey J. Gale R. Goodman R. James W. Rockefeller S. Santayana G. The approach has costs and benefits, but for my purposes, it was a useful one. The shift is away from ultimate moral criteria towards practical wisdom, character, narrative, caring, moral luck, pluralism, and psychological realism.

Metaethics: Crash Course Philosophy #32

Rules and principles have a role to play in ethics, but not as ultimate criteria or as decision-procedures. The book is divided into two parts.

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Part I consists of three chapters and reviews pragmatist philosophy of mind, moral psychology, and epistemology. The focus is on character, habit, belief, reason, and intelligence. A nice summary from Chapter Classical pragmatism situates reason within the broad context of the whole person in action.


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  • It replaces beliefs-as-intellectual-abstractions with beliefs-as-tendencies-to-act, pure reason with practical inquiry, and objectivist rationality with imaginative situational intelligence. So too might moral properties ultimately be reducible to scientific features of the world in a way that preserves their objectivity.

    An early proponent of such a naturalistic view is arguably Aristotle himself, who anchored his ethics to an understanding of what biologically makes human life flourish. For a later Aristotelian moral realism, see Paul Bloomfield However, for questions about the extent to which Aristotelianism can truly pair with moral realism, see Robert Heinaman Note also that several other metaethicists who share broadly Aristotelian conceptions of human needs and human flourishing nonetheless reject realism, arguing that even a shared human nature still essentially locates moral values in human sensibility rather than in some trans-human moral reality.

    For examples of such naturalistic moral relativism, see Philippa Foot and David B. Wong Other notable theorists who have advanced Wittgensteinian accounts of the constitutive role that language and context play in our understanding of morality include G.

    Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre , although both are explicitly agnostic about whether this commits them to moral realism or relativism. The naturalistic tradition of moral realism is continued by contemporary theorists such as Alan Gewirth , Deryck Beyleveld , and Michael Boylan who similarly seek to ground moral objectivity in certain universal features of humans.

    Ethics and Imagination

    For commentary and discussion of such theories, see in particular Steigleder , Boylan , Spence , and Gordon Other naturalistic theories have looked to scientific models of property reductionism as a way of understanding moral realism. And, since these non-moral properties are real entities, the resultant view about the values that reduce to them can be considered a form of moral realism—without any need to posit trans-scientific, other-worldly Platonic entities.

    Several other notable examples of scientifically-minded naturalistic moral realism have been defended. Nicholas Sturgeon has similarly argued in favor of a reduction of moral to non-moral properties, while emphasizing that a reduction at the level of the denotation or extension of our moral terms need not entail a corresponding reduction at the level of the connotation or intension of how we talk about morality.

    David Brink has articulated a similar type of naturalistic moral realism which emphasizes the epistemological and motivational aspects of Cornell Realism by defending a coherentist account of justification and an externalist theory of motivation, respectively. A helpful way to understand the differences between all these varieties of moral realism—namely, the Platonic versus the naturalistic versions— is by appeal to a famous argument advanced by G. Moore at the beginning of twentieth-century metaethics. However, Horgan and Timmons point out that we can at the same time imagine that the moral terms on our actual Earth refer to, say, properties that maximize overall happiness as Utilitarianism maintains , while also imagining that the moral terms used on hypothetical Moral Twin Earth refer to properties of universal rationality as Kantian normative theorists maintain.

    But this would show that the moral terms used on actual Earth versus those used on Moral Twin Earth have different meanings, because they refer to different normative theories. This implies that it would be the normative theories themselves that are causing the difference in the meaning of the moral terms, not the natural properties since those are identical across the two worlds.

    And since naturalistic a. Cornell moral realism maintains that moral properties are identical at some level to natural properties, Horgan and Timmons think this thought-experiment disproves naturalistic realism. In other words, if the naturalistic realists were correct about the reduction of moral to non-moral predicates, then the Earthlings and Twin Earthlings would have to be interpreted not as genuinely disagreeing about morality, but as instead talking past one another altogether; and, according to Horgan and Timmons, this would be highly counter-intuitive, since it seems on the surface that the two parties are truly disagreeing.

    Such realists frequently invoke the metaphysical relationship of supervenience to account for the way that moral properties might connect to scientific properties. For one property or set of properties to supervene on another means that any change in one must necessarily result in a corresponding change in the other.

    For instance, to say that the color property of greenness supervenes on grass is to say that if two plots of grass are identical in all biological, scientific ways, then they will be green in exactly the same way too.