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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 1998

American Philosophy

Marije Altorf
Pages 1-7

Temperament and Metaphysics
A Study on James’s Pragmatism and Plato’s Sophistes

In the first chapter of Pragmatism, William James outlines two philosophical temperaments. He argues that though one's temperament modifies one's way of philosophizing, its presence is seldom recognized. This statement by James led me to Plato's Sophistes, especially the relationship between temperament and being. Although Plato describes certain temperaments, I hold that the main topic is being. The ancients restricted All to real being, e.g., the tangible or the immovable. This reading of the Sophistes puts a different face on the first chapter of Pragmatism. However, if we allow James to speak to present-day philosophers as well as his turn of the century audience, then this reading of the Sophistes will clarify the current philosophical temperament. Neither James nor the contemporary philosopher is satisfied with any restriction on All; for this reason, both lack interest in being. Being, once the richest word, no longer satisfies the philosopher's greedy temperament.

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