William James and John Dewey Pragmatism Influences

Nowadays, people are free to choose religion, traditions, and culture to develop truths that meet their preferences. William James and John Dewey were philosophers who revitalized pragmatism, developing ideas that evidently belonged to the pragmatist tradition (Hookway, 2016). Pragmatisms is a philosophical approach which holds that the truth or meaning of a statement is to be measured by its practical consequences (Pragmatism, 2018). This paper sets to investigate the various ideas by William James and John Dewey concerning the concept of the body and mind and how they relate to the overall human being existence.William James defines psychology as the science of mental life, both its phenomena and its conditions. Phenomena would be feelings, desires, cognition, reasoning, and decisions. Conditions are experiences that the body has (James, 1890/1998). Meaning, before a person can act in a certain manner the mind needs to adjust to that experience. Therefore, and more particularly brain-experiences, must take a place amongst those conditions of the mental life of which Psychology need take account (Brennan, 1998). James believed that self-knowledge, experiences, and beliefs lead to the best possible solution to a problem.

William James described consciousness as a “stream of consciousness”, it’s continuous can change and could be pushed into new directions (James, 1890/1998). The meaning of consciousness is described as an awareness of one’s existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc. (Consciousness, 2018). In other words, the stream of consciousness is the flow of thoughts and experiences continued throughout an individual’s lifetime. As a functionalist James sought to discover ways to improve the match between organisms, their minds and their environments (Brennan, 1998). James believed the pragmatism method to truth one must observe experiences and set high standards to achieve the best outcome. When James talked about his graduation day this supports his pragmatism in his definition of psychology by showing thought, reaction, and emotions. John Dewey was also a pragmatist who believed in the theory of knowledge. Dewey believed that with one’s prior knowledge and experience combined with knowledge and experience of others on the given problem on hand would lead to the best solution to the problem (McDermid, n.d.) According to Dewey the components of the reflex arc where made up of stimuli and movements, meaning the coordinated actions when sufficiently practiced went virtually unnoticed (Dewey, 1896/2014).

The idea of the reflex arc according to Dewey was that sensory stimulus, central connections, and motor responses shall be viewed, as divisions of labor, function factors, within the single concrete (Dewey, 1896/1998). For example, in a knee-jerk reflex arc, the sensory neuron directly connects to the motor neuron in the spinal cord.Individuals react to all stimuli in basically the same way as a reflex making it (ASU, n.d.). You need to detect a change in the environment (a stimulus) and react to the change (a response) in a way that maintains homeostasis. When you do this without thinking, it is called a reflex (ASU, n.d.) For example, Dewey mentioned when a child gets burned that this is a sensorimotor coordination and not just a sensation.Although William James and John Dewy used different approaches, they believed in the method of using one’s knowledge, beliefs, experiences, and consequences to determine a solution for any given problem or obstacle being faced. If one never endures trials or tabulations or even temporary satisfying moments that result in huge consequences; without the experience of either outcome, you can neither comment nor advise on the situation if you have not personally gone through it. This adoption of pragmatism is accompanied by a rejection of a priori metaphysics and of intellectualist accounts of thought (Hookway, 2016).

However, both James and Dewey took an approach that individuals should focus on the practicality of issues while keeping an open mind when making decisions. William James and John Dewey were philosophers who established a pragmatism method in order to determine the importance and truth of a theory that provided a solution to the problem.

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