Durkheim's pragmatism lectures: A contextual interpretation

Sociological Theory 15 (2):126-149 (1997)
Abstract
This article attempts to understand Emile Durkheim's 1913-14 lectures on pragmatism and sociology by situating them in the socio-intellectual context of the time. An analysis of books and journal articles from the period reveals that the ideas of the Anglo-American pragmatic philosophers Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and F.C.S. Schiller were very popular in pre-World War I France. The French term le pragmatisme, however, was used to refer not only to the thought of these philosophers, but also to the work of French thinkers, such as Henri Bergson and the Catholic Modernists Maurice Blondel and Edouard Le Roy, who wrote extensively about human action. Pragmatism, because of its associations with Bergsonian spiritualism and the theology of the Modernists, came to have religious connotations for many French intellectuals. Durkheim had a similar understanding of pragmatism and his critique of the pragmatists cannot be fully grasped unless these religious connotations are considered. The article concludes by discussing several implications of this interpretation for sociological theory
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