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The Meaning of Truth


the requirement. It will be true of that reality.
'THE TRUE, to put it very briefly, IS ONLY THE EXPEDIENT IN THE WAY
OF OUR THINKING, JUST AS THE RIGHT IS ONLY THE EXPEDIENT IN THE WAY
OF OUR BEHAVING. Expedient in almost any fashion, and expedient in
the long run and on the whole, of course; for what meets expediently
all the experience in sight won't necessarily meet all farther
experiences equally satisfactorily. Experience, as we know, has ways
of BOILING OVER, and making us correct our present formulas.'
This account of truth, following upon the similar ones given by
Messrs. Dewey and Schiller, has occasioned the liveliest
discussion. Few critics have defended it, most of them have scouted
it. It seems evident that the subject is a hard one to understand,
under its apparent simplicity; and evident also, I think, that
the definitive settlement of it will mark a turning-point in the
history of epistemology, and consequently in that of general
philosophy. In order to make my own thought more accessible to those
who hereafter may have to study the question, I have collected in
the volume that follows all the work of my pen that bears directly
on the truth-question. My first statement was in 1884, in the
article that begins the present volume. The other papers follow in
the order of their publication. Two or three appear now for the
first time.
One of the accusations which I oftenest have had to meet is that of
making the truth of our religious beliefs consist in their 'feeling
good' to us, and in nothing else. I regret to have given some excuse
for this charge, by the unguarded language in which, in the book
Pragmatism, I spoke of the truth of the belief of certain
philosophers in the absolute. Explaining why I do not believe in the
absolute myself (p. 78), yet finding that it may secure 'moral
holidays' to those who need them, and is true in so far forth (if to
gain moral holidays be a good), [Footnote: Op. cit., p. 75.] I
offered this as a conciliatory olive-branch to my enemies. But they,
as is only too common with such offerings, trampled the gift under
foot and turned and rent the giver. I had counted too much on their
good will--oh for the rarity of Christian charity under the sun! Oh
for the rarity of ordinary secular intelligence also! I had supposed
it to be matter of common observation that, of two competing views
of the universe which in all other respects are equal, but of which
the first denies some vital human need while the second satisfies
it, the second will be favored by sane men for the simple reason
that it makes the world seem more rational. To choose the first view
under such circumstances would be an ascetic act, an act of
philosophic self-denial of which no normal human being would be
guilty. Using the pragmatic test of the meaning of concepts, I had
shown the concept of the absolute to MEAN nothing but the
holiday giver, the banisher of cosmic fear. One's objective
deliverance, when one says 'the absolute exists,' amounted, on my
showing, just to this, that 'some justification of a feeling
of security in presence of the universe,' exists, and that
systematically to refuse to cultivate a feeling of security would be
to do violence to a tendency in one's emotional life which
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