Pragmatism and radical empiricism

Inquiry 42 (3 & 4):371 – 383 (1999)
Abstract
A rational reconstruction of James's doctrine of pure experience is attempted, showing how it can be formulated in terms of a Ramsey sentence so that its credibility is comparable to contemporary functionalism about the mind. Whereas functionalism treats only mental predicates as theoretical terms and quantifies over physical objects, Jamesian 'global-functionalism' treats both mental and physical predicates as theoretical terms and quantifies over pure experience. Rehabilitated in this way, the doctrine of pure experience is a fit partner for Jamesian <span class='Hi'>pragmatism</span>. When James says that <span class='Hi'>pragmatism</span> guides us in the course of our experience, this 'experience' must be understood as ultimately pure experience. Pure experience is just what appears , pre-conceptually, and Ramsey-sentence analysis shows how James's employment of the pre-conceptual demonstrative that can refer to pure experience with conditions of identity given by its physical or mental properties, while being itself 'colourless', neither mental nor physical. It is concluded that functionalists about the mind have reason to be global-functionalists about mind and body, in just the way that James's doctrine of pure experience lays out; and Jamesian pragmatists should also accept his radical empiricism.
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