On William James' Pragmatism

[William] James’s pragmatism insisted that philosophy could still have life-and-death significance. Philosophy D addressed an array of existentially loaded topics, the kind that most academics assiduously avoid: truth, God, evil, suffering, death, and the meaning of life. This was not some dry PowerPoint presentation. ‘The man of genius,’ Emerson tells us, ‘inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers.’ That is what James tried to do: encourage his students to wrestle with life’s most difficult questions. And to do so — bravely — on their own terms. This didn’t mean that students were just left to fend for themselves. Far from it. James was unusually close to them and one of the few professors who entertained questions when he lectured. His students loved him for it.