In the first lecture of Pragmatism, William James infamously divided philosophical temperaments and their associated worldviews into ‘tender-minded’ and ‘tough-minded’ and claimed that it is temperament, more than the official reasons and arguments they cite, that drives philosophers to their conclusions. Nietzsche, likewise, described ‘all great philosophy’ as the ‘unconscious memoir’ of the author and denied that it is truly the ‘drive to knowledge’ that motivates philosophy (Beyond Good and Evil 6). But neither of them intends this point, in itself, as a criticism; it is only when philosophers hide behind (supposedly) objective, compelling arguments and a ‘pure will to truth’ that they come in for ridicule. In fact, they both think that the beneficial function of philosophy is to help people express and make sense of their (in James’s words) ‘more or less dumb’ way of ‘seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos’ by articulating an emotion- and value-laden perspective on the world – not only a perception of the way things are, but a vision of the kind of world in which they can feel at home. This individualist, expressive conception of philosophy aligns with both philosophers’ emphasis on interpretive psychology as a method or even a propaedeutic for philosophy, and with their shared epistemological commitment to the centrality of goals and values in shaping knowledge, which Nietzsche calls his perspectivism and James his pluralist pragmatism.
Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph Schear, Manuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall