American Philosophy

William James

What was William James’ pragmatic ethics?

James thought that values require beings with emotions and wants. Judgments of value are objective when care for one another results in a standard for a community. This results in a shared or common world. Moral choices determine our character. Besides decisions connected to physical pleasure and pain, there are higher ideals that should direct our future experience, and, if necessary, be modified by that experience. Moral progress results when more inclusive ideals are substituted for less inclusive ones. Nevertheless, all ideals are only “provisional.”


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