It is often said that the ontological argument fails because it wrongly treats existence as a first-level property or predicate. This has proved a controversial claim, and efforts to evaluate it are complicated by the fact that the words ‘existence is not a property/predicate’ have been used by philosophers to make at least three different negative claims: (a) one about a first-level phenomenon possessed by objects like horses, stones, you and me; (b) another about the logical form of assertions of (...) existence; and (c) still another about a second-level phenomenon possessed by concepts when they are instantiated. I argue that only the last of these claims, originally voiced by Kant, is both plausible and relevant to the ontological argument. And I try to show that the relevance of the Kantian version comes from its providing the underlying justification for a different, and far less controversial, criticism of the ontological argument. (shrink)
: In rejecting Descartes's ontological proof for the existence of God, Gassendi maintained that existence is not a property and Kant said that it is not a "real predicate." It is commonly supposed that both are making the same claim. Some have even thought that they advance essentially the same argument for that same claim. I believe none of this is correct. Gassendi and Kant offer different arguments. And they are arguing for different conclusions. These differences stem from a more (...) fundamental one: they mean different things by existence. (shrink)
By whatever and by however many predicates we may think a thing – even if we completely determine it – we do not make the least addition to the thing when we further declare that this thing is. Otherwise, it would not be exactly the same thing that exists, but something more than we had thought in the concept; and we could not, therefore, say that the exact object of my concept exists.
Frege argued that 1) in making existence assertions we ascribe (or deny) the second-Level property, 'not being empty', To a first-Level concept. He inferred from this that 2) existence is a second-Level property, The property 'not being empty'. He therefore rejected the ontological proof of the existence of God because, He claimed, It depends on the assumption that existence is a first-Level, And not a second-Level, Property. In this paper it is argued, First, That frege is unsuccessful in his attempt (...) to establish claim 1). Moreover, Claim 2) does not follow from claim 1)--One could accept claim 1) and still maintain that existence is a first-Level property. Thus, Even if the ontological proof does depend on the assumption that existence is a first-Level property, Frege's objection to that proof fails. (shrink)
Let us call the Dependency Theses (DT) the view, first stated by Kant, that certain versions of the cosmological argument depend on the ontological argument. At least two different reasons have been given for the supposed dependence. Given the DT, some of Aquinas' views about God's essence, and about our knowledge of God's existence, can seem, at least at first, to be inconsistent. I consider two different ways of defending Aquinas against this suspicion of inconsistency. On the first defence, based (...) on a widespread understanding of his notion of 'necessary being', Aquinas' views fall outside the scope of the DT. The success of this defence is doubtful. There is, however, another defence to be found in Aquinas' work, one directed not to avoiding, but actually to rejecting, the DT. In this second defence, the DT is not a correct assessment even of those views that do fall within its scope. Its success means that Aquinas had available a principled refutation of the DT some five hundred years before it was first formulated. (shrink)
In a recent issue of "Religious Studies" Kevin Corcoran has criticized my arguments for the impossibility of theistic experience (i.e. an experience which is phenomenologically of God). Building on, and amending, criticisms already levelled against my views by Nelson Pike (in the latter's "Mystic Union"), Corcoran argues that my views are based on an account of what it is for an experience to be 'phenomenologically of' an individual (or kind of thing) which leads to 'wildly implausible' results. I here try (...) to show that Corcoran's criticisms are based on a misunderstanding of my views. (shrink)
The relationship between William James and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) has recently been the subject of intense scholarly research. We know for instance that the later Wittgenstein's reflections on the philosophy of psychology found in James a major source of inspiration. Not surprisingly therefore, the pragmatist nature of the philosophy of the later Wittgenstein is increasingly acknowledged, in spite of Wittgenstein’s adamant refusal of being labeled a “pragmatist”. In this brief paper I merely want to piece together some of the (...) available evidence of Wittgenstein’s high regard for William James, not only for his thoughts, but even more so for his character. (shrink)
In this short paper I try to present William James’s connection with the Argentinian writer Macedonio Fernández (1874-1952), who was in some sense a mentor of Borges and might be considered the missing link between Borges and James.
The year of the centennial of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges is probably the right time to exhume one of the links that this universal writer had with William James. In 1945, Emece, a publisher from Buenos Aires, printed a Spanish translation of William James’s book Pragmatism, with a foreword by Jorge Luis Borges.
The original 1907 text of James' Pragmatism is accompanied with a series of critical essays from scholars including Moore and Russell. In the introduction Olin evaluates the strength of the criticisms made against James.
William James's theory of emotion is often criticized for placing too much emphasis on bodily feelings and neglecting the cognitive aspects of emotion. This paper suggests that such criticisms are misplaced. Interpreting James's account of emotion in the light of his later philosophical writings, I argue that James does not emphasize bodily feelings at the expense of cognition. Rather, his view is that bodily feelings are part of the structure of intentionality. In reconceptualizing the relationship between cognition and affect, (...) James rejects a number of commonplace assumptions concerning the nature of our cognitive relationship with the world, assumptions that many of his critics take for granted. (shrink)
This book is my new scholarly edition of William James, A Pluralistic Universe. The original text has been recovered, annotations to the text added to identify James' authors and events of interest, there is a new bibliography chiefly based on James' sources, a brief chronology of James' career, and I have added an expository and critical Introduction and a comprehensive analytical index.
As suggested in the subtitle, A New Philosophical Reading, the editor aspires in his Introduction and his notes to “facilitate a deeper understanding and a critical evaluation (...) of this crucial and difficult philosophical work” (p. ix). This was the last important book which James published during his lifetime. With it James aims at a critical evaluation of Hegelian monism and an exploration of the philosophical and theological alternatives. “Our world of some one hundred years on”—the editor says (p. ix)—“is (...) much the better for James’ contribution, and understanding William James on pluralism deeply contributes even now to America’s self-understanding.”. (shrink)
In 1907 William James was invited to give the Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College, Oxford. Initially he was reluctant to do so since he feared undertaking them would divert him from developing rigorously and systematically some metaphysical ideas of his own that had preoccupied him for some time. In the end, however, he relented and in the spring of 1908 gave the lectures which were subsequently published as A Pluralistic Universe. As it happened, though, in the course of these (...) lectures James presented some of those metaphysical ideas, though in a popular and informal style appropriate to lecturing. Later on he did get down to working out a systematic metaphysics in proper academic style, but the project was cut short by his untimely death in 1910. The incomplete Some Problems of Philosophy, posthumously published in 1911, recapitulates some major themes of A Pluralistic Universe. (shrink)
ABSTRACT. May scientists rely on substantive, a priori presuppositions? Quinean naturalists say "no," but Michael Friedman and others claim that such a view cannot be squared with the actual history of science. To make his case, Friedman offers Newton's universal law of gravitation and Einstein's theory of relativity as examples of admired theories that both employ presuppositions (usually of a mathematical nature), presuppositions that do not face empirical evidence directly. In fact, Friedman claims that the use of such presuppositions is (...) a hallmark of "science as we know it." But what should we say about the special sciences, which typically do not rely on the abstruse formalisms one finds in the exact sciences? I identify a type of a priori presupposition that plays an especially striking role in the development of empirical psychology. These are ontological presuppositions about the type of object a given science purports to study. I show how such presuppositions can be both a priori and rational by investigating their role in an early flap over psychology's contested status as a natural science. The flap focused on one of the field's earliest textbooks, William James's Principles of Psychology. The work was attacked precisely for its reliance on a priori presuppositions about what James had called the "mental state," psychology's (alleged) proper object. I argue that the specific presuppositions James packed into his definition of the "mental state" were not directly responsible to empirical evidence, and so in that sense were a priori; but the presuppositions were rational in that they were crafted to help overcome philosophical objections (championed by neo-Hegelians) to the very idea that there can be a genuine science of mind. Thus, my case study gives an example of substantive, a priori presuppositions being put to use—to rational use—in the special sciences. In addition to evaluating James's use of presuppositions, my paper also offers historical reflections on two different strands of pragmatist philosophy of science. One strand, tracing back through Quine to C. S. Peirce, is more naturalistic, eschewing the use of a priori elements in science. The other strand, tracing back through Kuhn and C. I. Lewis to James, is more friendly to such presuppositions, and to that extent bears affinity with the positivist tradition Friedman occupies. (shrink)
This new edition of William James’s 1909 classic, A Pluralistic Universe reproduces the original text, only modernizing the spelling. The books has been annotated throughout to clarify James’s points of reference and discussion. There is a new, fuller index, a brief chronology of James’s life, and a new bibliography—chiefly based on James’s own references. The editor, H.G. Callaway, has included a new Introduction which elucidates the legacy of Jamesian pluralism to survey some related questions of contemporary American society. -/- (...) A Pluralistic Universe was the last major book James published during his life time. It is a substantial philosophical work, devoted to a thorough-going criticism of Hegelian monism and Absolutism—and the exploration of philosophical and social-theological alternatives. Our world of some one hundred years on is much the better for James’s contributions; and understanding James’s pluralism deeply contributes even now to America’s self-understanding. At present, we are more certain that American is, and is best, a pluralistic society, than we are of what particular forms our pluralism should take. Keeping an eye out for social interpretations of Jamesian pluralism, this new philosophical reading casts light on our twenty-first century alternatives by reference to prior American experience and developments. -/- . (shrink)
‘William L. Rowe on Philosophy of Religion’ edited by Nick Trakakis, collects 30 papers of William Rowe's important work in the philosophy of religion. I review this collection, and offer an objection of one of Rowe's arguments.
: William James's "The Will to Believe" has been criticized for offering untenable arguments in support of belief in unvalidated hypotheses. Although James is no longer accused of suggesting we can create belief ex nihilo, critics continue to charge that James's defense of belief in what he called the "religious hypothesis" confuses belief with hypothesis adoption and endorses willful persistence in unvalidated beliefs—not, as he claimed, in pursuit of truth, but merely to avoid the emotional stress of abandoning them. (...) I argue that James's position in "The Will to Believe" can be defended provided we give up thinking of it as ethics of belief and think of it instead as an ethics of self-experimentation. Subjective data (including wants, needs, and desires) are relevant to rational consent to participation in research. (shrink)
It was William Blake's insight that the Christian churches, by inverting the Incarnation and the dialectical vision of Paul, have repressed the body, divided God from creation, substituted judgment for grace, and repudiated imagination, compassion, and the original apocalyptic faith of early Christianity. Blake's prophetic poetry thus contributes to the renewal of Christian ethics by a process of subversion and negation of Christian moral, ecclesiastical, and theological traditions, which are recognized precisely as inversions of Jesus, and therefore as instances (...) of the forms of evil that God-in-Christ overcomes through Incarnation, reversing the Fall. Blake's great epic poems, particularly Milton (1804–08) and Jerusalem (1804–20), embody his heterodox representation of the final coincidence of Christ and Satan through which, at last, all things are made new. (shrink)
This book explores Wittgenstein's long engagement with the work of the pragmatist William James. In contrast to previous discussions Russell Goodman argues that James exerted a distinctive and pervasive positive influence on Wittgenstein's thought. For example, the book shows that the two philosophers share commitments to anti-foundationalism, to the description of the concrete details of human experience, to the priority of practice over intellect, and to the importance of religion in understanding human life. Considering in detail what Wittgenstein learnt (...) from his reading of Principles of Psychology and Varieties of Religious Experience the author provides considerable evidence for Wittgenstein's claim that he is saying 'something that sounds like pragmatism'. This provocative account of the convergence in the thinking of two major philosophers usually considered as members of discrete traditions will be eagerly sought by students of Wittgenstein, William James, pragmatism and the history of twentieth-century philosophy. (shrink)
William James (1842-1910) was both a philosopher and a psychologist, nowadays most closely associated with the pragmatic theory of truth. The essays in this Companion deal with the full range of his thought as well as other issues, including technical philosophical issues, religious speculation, moral philosophy and political controversies of his time. The relationship between James and other philosophers of his time, as well as his brother Henry, are also examined. By placing James in his intellectual landscape the volume (...) will be particularly useful to teachers and students outside philosophy in such areas as religious studies, history of ideas, and American studies. New readers and nonspecialists will find this the most convenient and accessible guide to James currently available. Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of James. (shrink)
William James is remembered as the philosopher of pragmatism, but he was principally the founder of modern scientific psychology. During the period of his most intense scientific involvement James developed a trenchant critique of science. This was not a rejection of science but an attempt to identify limitations of the contemporary conceptualization of science. In particular, James emphasized the failure of science to understand its basis in human emotions. James developed a scientific theory of emotions in which the importance (...) of emotion in cognition and decision-making is central. James’ appreciation of the significance of emotions in science has continuing value. Nevertheless, his characterization of science in terms of its method introduces tensions in his account that an emphasis on the social dimensions of science, which he implicitly acknowledged, tends to resolve. (shrink)
Academic popularizers of the new field of evolutionary psychology make notable appeals to William James to bolster their doctrine. In particular, they cite James’ remark that humans have all the “impulses” animals do and many more besides to shore up their claim that people’s “instincts” account for their flexibility. This essay argues that these scholars misinterpret James on the instincts. Consciousness (which they find inscrutable) explains cognitive flexibility for James. The evolutionary psychologists’ appeal to James is, therefore, unwarranted and, (...) given the conditions relevant to the public and professional audiences they address, also ineffective as a rhetorical tool for enlisting new recruits. (shrink)
The project method became a famous teaching method when William Heard Kilpatrick published his article ‘Project Method’ in 1918. The key idea in Kilpatrick's project method is to try to explain how pupils learn things when they work in projects toward different common objects. The same idea of pupils learning by work or action in an environment with objects also belongs to John Dewey's problem-solving method. Are Kilpatrick's project method and Dewey's problem-solving method the same thing? The aim of (...) this article is to analyze and prove that Kilpatrick's project method differs radically from Dewey's problem-solving method. (shrink)
: It is part of the conventional wisdom about the James family that the elder Henry James (1811–82) had a large influence on his son, William James (1842–1910), in the direction of religious interests. But William neither adopted his father's spirituality nor did he regard it as a foil to his own secularity. Instead, after first rejecting the elder James's idiosyncratic faith, he became increasingly intrigued with his insights into the natural world, which were in turn shaped by (...) the Swedenborgian philosophy of correspondences and use, which depict worldly facts as vessels of the spirit. The young science student drew upon this approach to nature as a resource for finding the operation of immaterial aspects within the world. The influence of the father emerges in William's emphasis on the will in human psychology, his eagerness to punctuate the striving of "the will to believe" with sessions of comforting conviction, his readiness to find "'piecemeal' supernaturalism" in subliminal psychology, his incorporation of idealism into his radical empiricism, and his openness to psychical experience. Without accepting the particulars of Henry James's faith, William James shared with his father a conviction that providential action in the universe, usually understood as the work of transcendental forces, was embedded within the natural world and within humankind. (shrink)
William James undertook to steer his way between a rationalistic system that was not empirical enough and an empirical system so materialistic that it could not account for the value commitments on which it rested. In arguing against both the absolutists (gnostics) and the empiricists (agnostics), he defined a position of pluralistic moralism that seemed equally distant from both, leaving himself vulnerable to the criticism that he had rescued morality from scientism only by reducing religion to morals. Such criticism, (...) however, ignores distinctions James made between religion and theology and between monistic theology and dualistic theology. When these distinctions are taken into account, it becomes evident that James can be criticized for reducing religion to morality only from the point of view of either absolute monism or religious humanism and that radical empiricism not only embraces a significant number of nonmoral religious experiences but also leaves open the possibility of belief in the particular historical God of traditional Christianity. (shrink)
William James and Wisconsin, by G.C. Sellery.--The distinctive philosophy of William James, by M.C. Otto.--William James, man and philosopher, by D.S. Miller.--William James and psychoanalysis, by Norman Cameron.--The William James centenary dinner: Introductory remarks, by C.A. Dykstra. William James and the world today, by John Dewey, read by Carl Boegholt. William James in the American tradition, by B.H. Bode.--The Sunday service: William James as religious thinker, by J.S. Bixler.