By Charlene Haddock Seigfried
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Extra info for William James's Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy
It is not clear from the text how changing the nature of the foundation from insight into being to identifying the belief needed for action could halt further doubt. James seemed to think that by suspending doubt long enough to act we would learn some facts of the human condition and could then by reflecting on them arrive at an irreducible foundation. What makes this project puzzling is that he also took the ability to wonder or doubt to be constitutive of the human condition. 3. "· He argues in "The Sentiment of Rationality" that no philosophical system has demonstrated its own rationality.
To understand the intellect only or primarily in its theoretic aspect distorts its fundamental character of being built out of practical 36 William James's Radical Reconstruction interests. The evolutionary view of cognition provides an antidote to this traditional philosophical bias toward abstract systems by showing that cognition is a fleeting moment in a larger motor phenomenon. No one doubts that cognition in lower animals is anything more than a guide to appropriate action. Unless action of some sort ensues, there is no evidence of that acting for a purpose which most broadly defines intelligence.
This accounts for his uncharacteristic vehemence against those who are not bothered by the lack of secure beginnings: "Renouvier and Hodgson, the two foremost contemporary philosophers, promptly say that of experience as a whole no account can be given, but do not seek to soften the abruptness of the confession or reconcile us with our impotence" (CER, 133; EPH, 62). James's demonstration in "The Sentiment of Rationality" that no foundation in being could in principle be impregnable to subsequent doubt did not lessen his determination to avoid skepticism.