Each of us holds assumptions about the nature of reality. Whether one is a member of a tribe living in the depths of the Amazon uncontacted by outsiders who believes that the world is flat and full of spirits, or a postmodern academic living in the depths of New York City who believes in reductionist materialism and the socially constructed quality of reality, we all must necessarily hold beliefs about the world. To act is to act on premises, often unconscious, but premises nonetheless. As William James particularly understood, this pragmatic insight is an ancient one expressed in different inflections by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. But as James also understood, this mode of thought did not come to consciousness in the main streams of philosophical discourse until the decades surrounding the beginning of the twentieth century, largely through the work of James and his intellectual forebears, followers, and associates. Put simply, the premises we bring to bear in our interpretation of reality deeply condition the kinds of meaning that can be produced from the immediate experience of that reality.
[This is an excerpt from The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View]