Pragmatism Applied

William James and the Challenges of Contemporary Life

Edited by Clifford S. Stagoll & Michael P. Levine

Subjects: Pragmatism, American Philosophy, Philosophy, Ethics
Series: SUNY series in American Philosophy and Cultural Thought
Hardcover : 9781438473376, 292 pages, April 2019
Paperback : 9781438473369, 292 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents


Introduction: Making Pragmatism Pragmatic
Clifford S. Stagoll and Michael P. Levine

Part I. Issues: Putting James to Work

1. Listening to “the Cries of the Wounded”: Jamesian Reflections on the Impasse over Gun Control
James M. Albrecht

2. Revisiting the Social Value of College Breeding
Loren Goldman

3. What Makes the Lives of Livestock Significant?
Erin McKenna

4. Significant Lives and Certain Blindness: William James and the Disability Paradox
Nate Jackson

5. Pragmatism and Progress: Has There Been Progress in Race Relations in the United States?
Damian Cox and Michael P. Levine

Part II. Theory: Clearing The Way

6. Applying Jamesian Pragmatism to Moral Life: Against “Applied Ethics”
Sami Pihlström

7. Understanding Experience with William James
John Ryder

8. James and the Minimal Self
Yumiko Inukai

Part III. Practice: Living with James

9. William James and the Woods
Douglas R. Anderson

10. Taking James to Work: Pragmatism for Managers
Clifford S. Stagoll

11. Habits in a World of Change
James Campbell

List of Contributors

Illustrates how William James’s philosophical pragmatism can help to resolve issues in everyday contemporary life.


William James, one of America's most original philosophers and psychologists, was concerned above all with the manner in which philosophy might help people to cope with the vicissitudes of daily life. Writing around the turn of the twentieth century, James experienced firsthand, much as we do now, the impact upon individuals and communities of rapid changes in extant values, technologies, economic realities, and ways of understanding the world. He presented an enormous range of practical recommendations for coping and thriving in such circumstances, arguing consistently that prospects for richer lives and improved communities rested not upon trust in spiritual or material prescriptions, but rather on clear thinking in the cause of action. This volume seeks to demonstrate how James's astonishingly rich corpus can be used to address contemporary issues and to establish better ways for thinking about the moral and practical challenges of our time. In the first part, James's theories are applied directly to issues ranging from gun control to disability, and the ethics of livestock farming to the meaning of "progress" in race relations. The second part shows how James's theories of ethics, experience, and the self can be used to "clear away" theoretical matters that have inhibited philosophy's deployment to real-world issues. Finally, part three shows how individuals might apply ideas from James in their personal lives, whether at work, contemplating nature, or considering the implications of their own habits of thought and action.

Clifford S. Stagoll is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Michael P. Levine is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Australia. His books include Thinking through Film: Doing Philosophy, Watching Movies (coauthored with Damian Cox).


"This book is the first sustained attempt to take James's call for a lived philosophy at face value, both exploring the extent of James's own philosophical project and furthering it in ever new directions. As is clear from the reading of the various contributions, we are given a taste of what Jamesian philosophy might or should achieve rather than merely presenting what it promises to deliver. And this is clearly novel and extremely intriguing. " — Sarin Marchetti, author of Ethics and Philosophical Critique in William James