Experience, Reason, and the Virtues: On William James's Reinstatement of the Vague

According to Hilary Putnam, “attention to James’s ethical intentions is essential to an understanding of him . . . [and] understanding both his pragmatism and his radical empiricism.”1 This essay develops Putnam’s insight concerning James’s work through an introduction to the ways in which James’s ethical intentions are essential to his radical empiricism as well as his understanding of how inquiry works. I show that James actually fits within the tradition of virtue theory, asserting that one’s character and disposition make a real difference for inquiry. For example, James suggests that both “patience” and “submission” are necessary “virtues” for “the experimental method” to work (I use the word “humility” ..
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