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date: 15 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

William James wrote almost nothing that would count today as political philosophy. However, it is clear that much of his work is animated by rather profound concerns with our social lives. In this sense, it may be said that James is a social philosopher. The core of Jamesian social philosophy is the doctrine of value pluralism, which animates all of his moral writings. In these essays, James repeatedly attempts to establish that this pluralism underwrites a policy of social toleration. James’s idea is that the irreducible plurality of goods entails that we each must strive for conditions under which as many goods as possible can flourish. This chapter evaluates James’s pluralist argument for social toleration. Ultimately, the chapter argues that James’s value pluralism does not provide a stable basis for social toleration. But the chapter also argues that James has at his disposal a far more promising epistemic argument for social toleration that he left largely undeveloped.

Keywords: pluralism, political philosophy, value pluralism, toleration, epistemic argument

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