Pragmatism and Prophecy: H. G. Wells and the Metaphysics of Socialism

17 Apr 2018

Read throughout the world, H. G. Wells was one of the most famous political thinkers in the early twentieth century. During the early 1900s he elaborated a bold, idiosyncratic, and controversial cosmopolitan socialist vision. In this article I offer a new reading of Wells’s political thought. I argue that he developed a distinctive pragmatist philosophical orientation, which he synthesised with his commitments to evolutionary theory. His pragmatism had four main components: a nominalist metaphysics; a verificationist theory of truth; a Jamesian “will to believe”; and a vision of philosophy as an exercise oriented to improving practice. His political thought was shaped by this philosophical orientation. Wells, I contend, was the most high-profile pragmatist political thinker in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Such an understanding requires a re-evaluation of both Wells and the history of pragmatism.