In a memorable passage near the beginning of William James asks us to imagine a world in which all our dearest social utopias are realized, and then to imagine that this world is offered to us at the price of one lost soul at the farthest edge of the universe suffering eternal, intense, lonely pain. Then he asks.
This paper argues for the view that moral realism is irrelevant to ethics. It recalls Aristotle's claim that the Platonic Form of the Good is irrelevant because it is not the sort of thing we can desire or pursue. Moore's account of ethics in relation to conduct and of the Ideal is woefully inadequate as a morality to live by. Peter Railton's moral realism also involves a very weak first-order moral theory. These failures are due, I claim, to the fact (...) that Plato, Moore and Railton regard morality as a science; it is not a science, it is an art. (shrink)
Moral sceptics maintain that there are no objective moral values, or that there is no moral knowledge, or no moral facts, or that what looks like a statement which makes a moral judgment is not really a statement and does not have a truth-value. All of this is rather, unclear because all of it is negative. It will be necessary to remove some of this unclarity because my aim in this paper is to establish a proposition which may be summarized (...) by saying: even if there are no objective moral values in one sense, there are objective moralvalues in another sense, and the latter values are good enough to do some of the jobs that objective values in the first sense would have done. A useful analogy might be that of a person who has lost her hand and has been given a prosthesis. In one sense the prosthesis is not as real as the hand, in another sense it is just as real ; most importantly, the person can do with the prosthesis enough of what she could do with the hand to make do. (shrink)
William James (1842-1910) was both a philosopher and a psychologist, nowadays most closely associated with the pragmatic theory of truth. The essays in this Companion deal with the full range of his thought as well as other issues, including technical philosophical issues, religious speculation, moral philosophy and political controversies of his time. The relationship between James and other philosophers of his time, as well as his brother Henry, are also examined. By placing James in his intellectual landscape the volume will (...) be particularly useful to teachers and students outside philosophy in such areas as religious studies, history of ideas, and American studies. New readers and nonspecialists will find this the most convenient and accessible guide to James currently available. Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of James. (shrink)