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Professor Hebert On Pragmatism
by [?]

Some readers will say that, altho I may possibly believe in realities beyond our ideas Dr. Schiller, at any rate, does not. This is a great misunderstanding, for Schiller’s doctrine and mine are identical, only our exposition follow different directions. He starts from the subjective pole of the chain, the individual with his beliefs, as the more concrete and immediately given phenomenon. ‘An individual claims his belief to be true,’ Schiller says, ‘but what does he mean by true? and how does he establish the claim?’ With these questions we embark on a psychological inquiry. To be true, it appears, means, FOR THAT INDIVIDUAL, to work satisfactorily for him; and the working and the satisfaction, since they vary from case to case, admit of no universal description. What works is true and represents a reality, for the individual for whom it works. If he is infallible, the reality is ‘really’ there; if mistaken it is not there, or not there as he thinks it. We all believe, when our ideas work satisfactorily; but we don’t yet know who of us is infallible; so that the problem of truth and that of error are EBENBURTIG and arise out of the same situations. Schiller, remaining with the fallible individual, and treating only of reality-for-him, seems to many of his readers to ignore reality-in- itself altogether. But that is because he seeks only to tell us how truths are attained, not what the content of those truths, when attained, shall be. It may be that the truest of all beliefs shall be that in transsubjective realities. It certainly SEEMS the truest for no rival belief is as voluminously satisfactory, and it is probably Dr. Schiller’s own belief; but he is not required, for his immediate purpose, to profess it. Still less is he obliged to assume it in advance as the basis of his discussion.

I, however, warned by the ways of critics, adopt different tactics. I start from the object-pole of the idea-reality chain and follow it in the opposite direction from Schiller’s. Anticipating the results of the general truth-processes of mankind, I begin with the abstract notion of an objective reality. I postulate it, and ask on my own account, I VOUCHING FOR THIS REALITY, what would make any one else’s idea of it true for me as well as for him. But I find no different answer from that which Schiller gives. If the other man’s idea leads him, not only to believe that the reality is there, but to use it as the reality’s temporary substitute, by letting it evoke adaptive thoughts and acts similar to those which the reality itself would provoke, then it is true in the only intelligible sense, true through its particular consequences, and true for me as well as for the man.

My account is more of a logical definition; Schiller’s is more of a psychological description. Both treat an absolutely identical matter of experience, only they traverse it in opposite ways.

Possibly these explanations may satisfy M. Hebert, whose little book, apart from the false accusation of subjectivism, gives a fairly instructive account of the pragmatist epistemology.