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Pragmatism with PurposeSelected Writings$
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Peter Hare, Joseph Palencik, Douglas Anderson, and Steven A. Miller

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264322

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264322.001.0001

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A Critical Appraisal of James’s View of Causality

A Critical Appraisal of James’s View of Causality

Chapter:
(p.85) Four A Critical Appraisal of James’s View of Causality
Source:
Pragmatism with Purpose
Author(s):

Edward H. Madden

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823264322.003.0004

This chapter offers a critical appraisal of William James's view of causality. As early as the 1870s, James insisted that properties and events are not always logically and physically independent of each other, contrary to what the British empiricists were thinking. If connections are always de facto as David Hume claimed, then the concepts of potentiality and possibility become metaphysical phantoms. The chapter agrees that James saw the issues of causality in the proper light and correctly estimated the direction in which their solutions lie; that he was right in arguing that potentiality and counterfactuality are irreducible ontological concepts and that the Humean is unable to make sense of them; and that both his earlier and later efforts to supply the needed alternative analysis provide genuine insights into a more adequate view. In order to understand and appreciate James's view of causality, the chapter examines how it fits with other major themes of his mature philosophy.

Keywords:   causality, William James, potentiality, possibility, counterfactuality, philosophy, David Hume

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