According to the Oslo muderer his favourate philosopher was William James.
Of course the ravings of a mass murderer may not be very reliable – but this favouring of William James seems to have gone back quite some time.
Well who was William James?
William James was an American philosopher known (along with Charles Pierce and John Dewey) as a founder of the “Pragmatist” school of philosophy.
This school of thought set itself up in opposition to both Artistotelianism and to the “Scottish Philosophy” favoured by such philosophers as Noah Porter and James McCosh (see the latter’s “The Scottish Philosophy”).
The central point of Pramatism is that (contrary to both Aristoteliamism and the “Scottish” Philosophy) no such thing as objective truth – as William James put it “the right is just the expedient in our way of thinking”.
William James was an influential writer in “Progressive” religious circles – indeed he was cited more than any other philosopher of the early 20th century. As, in opposition, to the “Fundementalists” he held one did not need to hold any particular doctrine (or set of doctrines) to be objectively true in order to hold a post in a Church (which was very useful for ministers, bishops, academics and so on – who wanted to hold such positions of authority, but did not believe the traditional creeds were objectively true).
Almost needless to say this follower of William James (the arch enemy of American “fundementalists”) was described as a “Christian fundementalist” by the Oslo police (the same people who took over an hour to reach victims begging for help on their mobile phones – victims who were a few minutes helecopter time from the H.Q. of the police in Norway). The moron “mainstream media” followed suit. Even ignoring the murderer’s favourable talk about “Christian athieism” (I am not going to go into that).
However, the Oslo murderer was not the first person William James had influenced.
For example Sorel (the sickly “apostle of violence”) based his belief that a doctrine did not actually need to be true for it to be worth killing for on the work of William James – true a “myth” was not objectively true, but then nothing was objectively true. So it was O.K. that a myth was not objectively true.
One could make the philosophical attack that if nothing is objectively true how can Pragmatism be objectively true…… but I do not want to be accused of nit picking.
Evidence was piling up against Marxism by the early 1900s – for example about a century of rising wages (when the theory of Marxism predicted that wages would fall over time – hence Karl Marx’s deliberate distortion of what Gladstone said, Gladstone said that wages were rising and Karl Marx dishonestly cites him as saying that wages are falling). Some Marxists react to the ever increasing pile of evidence against Marxism (on this and other matters) by trying to think of rational ways out.
For example, “Lenin” takes the idea of the radical “liberal” Hobson that the reason wages are going up is because overseas colonies are being plundered – this leads to the “Imperialism” theory of Marxism, still (as “neo colonialism”) popular in academic (and other) circles to this day.
However, other leading Marxists choose to just give up the idea of objective truth all together – if nothing was really true (if “truth” is just whatever one desires to be true) then one can “justify” anything.
Mussolini took this course – giving up classical Marxism (he had been the leading Marxist in Italy – and senior to Lenin in international Marxist ranks) for his own subjective socialism based on his desires (and the desires of others) this bacame known as “Fascism”.
It is worth remembering what Aristotelianism and the “Scottish” school have in common – what they both share with such philosphers Ralph Cudworth (in 17th century England) and Harold Prichard, Sir William David Ross (and the rest of the “Oxford Realists” – argueably going up to Antony Flew).
The universe objectively exists independent of my (or your) mind – if a tree fell in a forest and we were not there it would still make a noise (there would still be an air pressure curve).
One exists – I exist (and so do you). The mind (agency – “free will”, the ability to choose) is not just an “illusion” (if the mind does not exist who is having this “illusion”). We are not just objects we are also subjects – human BEINGS (people).
Other minds (other people) also exist. They are not just thoughts in my (or your) own mind, and they are not just inanimate objects (with no moral moral importance than bits of clockwork).
The universe exists – it is not an illusion. One exists also (the mind is not an “illusion”). Other people (other minds) exist, and one can choose what one does or does not do to them. These actions are REAL (not a dream – because the universe is real), are a matter of CHOICE (because the mind exists), and, therefore, one has moral responsiblity for them – for one is a moral agent (a reasoning mind) and other humans are BEINGS (moral agents – people) also.
Now William James did not go around murdering people – but as his philosophy denies the truth (the objective truth) of all of the above points (holding that “truth” is whatever one wants it to be), it is a perfect philosophy for someone who is going to go out and either support, or commit, mass murder.
For example, does one have to prove any specific crime against people before killing them?
According to Pragmatism – the whole concept of objective truth is wrong, so NO (one does not).
So perfect for Sorel, perfect for Mussolini, and perfect for the Oslo murderer.
“Paul the idea was designed to allow people who did not believe in the objective truth of Christian doctrines to stay Ministers and Bishops – how dare you associate it with mass murder on an island near Oslo”.
Once you discard the notion of truth (or “redefine truth” in a way that makes it without objective meaning) you open the door to horror.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried desperatly to explain this (both in Germany and in the United States) in the 1930s, but the “Progressives” choose to ignore his warnings.
Better (a thousand times better) an athiest who believes in objective truth than a “religious” person who does not.
As for claimed links (in thought) between the Pragmatists and David Hume (more than a century before) and the Pragmatists and the Logical Positivists (of their own time and after) – I am not going to go into all that here.
Other than to say that, my opinion is that David Hume asks QUESTIONS (he is a sceptic) he does not make the claim that objective truth (whether in relation to one’s own existance, the existance of the objective universe, and the objective existance of other reasoning and choosing minds – other PEOPLE) does not exist.
However, I have not studied Hume enough to make a stand – even on this.