THE SKEPTIC – William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an original American thinker in and between the disciplines of physiology, psychology, and philosophy. James was the first educator to offer a psychology course in America, at Harvard, earning him the title of “Father of American psychology.”
James also was instrumental in developing the highly influential ideas of pragmatism.
Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
James’ book The Varieties of Religious Experience is an investigation of different forms of religious experience. James was likely not convinced that there is a God, a soul, and immortality in the typical Christian understanding. But he was sympathetic to religious experiences and argued in his essay The Will to Believe that people have the right to believe, and thus may very well arrive at a personal, faith-based notion of the meaning or value of life.
In the following YouTube video, neopragmatist Richard Rorty presents the question of whether religion is compatible with science. Rorty tries to restate some of William James’ and John Dewey’s arguments on the topic. To make the issue, he discusses the case of an evolutionary biologist who is also a religious believer. A bit long at an hour and a half, but of importance to those who wonder or even care about religion and science.