William James and W. E. B. Du Bois believed that an artful life could produce new and world-changing religious ideals. As cosmopolitan scholars who studied in the United States and Europe, both men confidently interlaced original interpretations of Shakespeare, Wagner, and Goethe into their academic accounts of individual and social behavior. Beyond their patronage of the arts, James and Du Bois also saw themselves as scientists and artists who had the responsibility to create new pathways and religious ideals at a time when many European and American intellectuals depicted Western civilization as the endpoint of history.

This article explores the pragmatic visions of science, art, and religion respectively offered by James and Du Bois. Pragmatism, here, refers to an active mode of study that looks closely at the interaction between specific thoughts and behaviors in particular situations without assuming a standard of truth which influences or evaluates human life from...

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