Truth and Social Relations

Durkheim and the Critique of Pragmatism

in Durkheimian Studies

Durkheim's lecture course Pragmatisme et sociologie was given in 1913-14, and thus counts amongst the last of his works. It is interesting, not just for this reason, but because here we encounter Durkheim, less in his characteristic empirical sociological mode and more as a philosopher. Here we find him engaging in a logical attack on what was then a popular movement of philosophy and debating the logical issues arising out of pragmatism. William James and the movement of pragmatism had a huge prestige on the European continent and a great influence after the turn of the century and shared a cult of admiration with Bergson (Stuart Hughes 1958:112). Durkheim challenged this on a philosophical level and found what he held to be its weakest point—the question of truth.