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Humanism And Truth
by [?]

[Footnote: Reprinted, with slight
verbal revision, from Mind, vol. xiii, N. S., p. 457 (October,
1904). A couple of interpolations from another article in Mind,
‘Humanism and truth once more,’ in vol. xiv, have been made.]

RECEIVING from the Editor of Mind an advance proof of Mr. Bradley’s
article on ‘Truth and Practice,’ I understand this as a hint to me
to join in the controversy over ‘Pragmatism’ which seems to have
seriously begun. As my name has been coupled with the movement, I
deem it wise to take the hint, the more so as in some quarters
greater credit has been given me than I deserve, and
probably undeserved discredit in other quarters falls also to my

First, as to the word ‘pragmatism.’ I myself have only used the term
to indicate a method of carrying on abstract discussion. The serious
meaning of a concept, says Mr. Peirce, lies in the concrete
difference to some one which its being true will make. Strive to
bring all debated conceptions to that’ pragmatic’ test, and you will
escape vain wrangling: if it can make no practical difference which
of two statements be true, then they are really one statement in two
verbal forms; if it can make no practical difference whether a given
statement be true or false, then the statement has no real meaning.
In neither case is there anything fit to quarrel about: we may
save our breath, and pass to more important things.

All that the pragmatic method implies, then, is that truths should
HAVE practical [Footnote: ‘Practical’ in the sense of PARTICULAR, of
course, not in the sense that the consequences may not be MENTAL as
well as physical.] consequences. In England the word has been used
more broadly still, to cover the notion that the truth of any
statement CONSISTS in the consequences, and particularly in their
being good consequences. Here we get beyond affairs of method
altogether; and since my pragmatism and this wider pragmatism are
so different, and both are important enough to have different names,
I think that Mr. Schiller’s proposal to call the wider pragmatism by
the name of ‘humanism’ is excellent and ought to be adopted. The
narrower pragmatism may still be spoken of as the
‘pragmatic method.’

I have read in the past six months many hostile reviews of
Schiller’s and Dewey’s publications; but with the exception of Mr.
Bradley’s elaborate indictment, they are out of reach where I write,
and I have largely forgotten them. I think that a free discussion of
the subject on my part would in any case be more useful than a
polemic attempt at rebutting these criticisms in detail. Mr. Bradley
in particular can be taken care of by Mr. Schiller. He repeatedly
confesses himself unable to comprehend Schiller’s views, he
evidently has not sought to do so sympathetically, and I
deeply regret to say that his laborious article throws, for my mind,
absolutely no useful light upon the subject. It seems to me on the
whole an IGNORATIO ELENCHI, and I feel free to disregard
it altogether.

The subject is unquestionably difficult. Messrs. Dewey’s and
Schiller’s thought is eminently an induction, a generalization
working itself free from all sorts of entangling particulars. If
true, it involves much restatement of traditional notions. This is a
kind of intellectual product that never attains a classic form of
expression when first promulgated. The critic ought therefore not to
be too sharp and logic-chopping in his dealings with it, but should
weigh it as a whole, and especially weigh it against its possible
alternatives. One should also try to apply it first to one instance,
and then to another to see how it will work. It seems to me that it
is emphatically not a case for instant execution, by conviction of
intrinsic absurdity or of self-contradiction, or by caricature of
what it would look like if reduced to skeleton shape. Humanism is in
fact much more like one of those secular changes that come upon
public opinion overnight, as it were, borne upon tides ‘too deep for
sound or foam,’ that survive all the crudities and extravagances of
their advocates, that you can pin to no one absolutely essential
statement, nor kill by any one decisive stab.