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Psychological conceptions and practical results

Stéphane Madelrieux


When dealing with the question of the relation between William James’s pragmatism and his psychology, the usual answer consists in tracing back the pragmatist epistemology and theory of truth to his functionalist conception of mind. The aim of this paper is to outline another relation which often goes unnoticed. My contention is that we can find in James’s work a pragmatist conception of psychology itself as a science, which can be expressed in his formula about psychology being a “practical science of mind”. “Practical”, here, must be understood in two different but complementary meanings. On the one hand, psychology has to become a scientific practice, aiming at the discovery of causal laws and free from all metaphysical speculations (experimentalism). On the other hand, the constitution of psychology as a natural science is the necessary condition for it to have some practical applications, notably to education and medicine. The paper outlines the benefits that could be gained in the overall interpretation of James’ work by understanding such relationship between pragmatism and psychology.


William James; pragmatism; psychology; practical science; education;

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