When William James spoke about belief to the philosophy clubs of Yale and Brown in 1896, he forewarned his audience of the nature of his comments by describing them as a “sermon on justification by faith” (James 13), titling the talk “The Will to Believe.” Although there is disagreement about the substance of James’s remarks, it is fairly innocuous to assert that James thought they were appropriate because of the prevalence of the “logical spirit” of many (...) of those who practiced academic philosophy that led them to the conclusion that religious faith was untenable. Aware of his audience, James presents his view on the permissibility of religious faith on the terms and grounds familiar to professional philosophers. .. (shrink)
Pragmatic arguments seek to justify the performance of an action by appealing to the benefits that may follow from that action. Pascal’s wager, for instance, argues that one should inculcate belief in God because there is everything to gain and little to lose by doing do. In this chapter I critically examine Pascal’s wager and William James’s famous “Will-to-Believe” argument by first explaining the logic of each argument and then by surveying the objections commonly arrayed against them. Finally, I (...) suggest that among the various versions of the wager found in Pascal’s Pensées is a neglected version that anticipates the Jamesian argument and that avoids the many-gods objection. (shrink)
In 1896 William James published an essay entitled The Will to Believe, in which he defended the legitimacy of religious faith against the attacks of such champions of scientific method as W.K. Clifford and Thomas Huxley. James's work quickly became one of the most important writings in the philosophy of religious belief. James Wernham analyses James's arguments, discusses his relation to Pascal and Renouvier, and considers the interpretations, and misinterpretations, of James's major critics. Wernham shows (...) convincingly that James was unaware of many destructive ambiguitities in his own doctrines and arguments, although clear and consistent in his view that our obligation to believe in theism is not a moral but a prudential obligation -- a foolish-not-to-believe doctrine, rather than a not-immoral-to-believe one. Wernham also shows that the doctrine is best read as affirming the wisdom of gambling that God exists, a notion which James failed to distinguish from believing and which, among other things, he explicitly identified with faith. James's pragmatism, a theory concerning the meaning of truth, is shown to be quite distinct from the doctrine of The Will to Believe. In concentrating on a careful analysis of this doctrine of the will-to-believe, Wernham not only makes a major contribution to understanding James's philosophy, but also clarifies issues in the philosophy of religion and in the analysis of belief and faith. (shrink)
In this paper, I'm giving an account of William James's reception in the columns of Charles Renouvier's journal, La Critique philosophique. The papers explores the discussions between James and Renouvier on Free Will, Philosophical systems, Consciousness and Pluralism.
William James is notorious for the large number of inconsistencies and at least apparent contradictions in his writings. Many readers conclude that he should be appreciated more for his profound but erratic insights than for any coherent philosophical perspective. Ellen Kappy Suckiel disagrees. She argues that James is far more careful and systematic than many readers realize. Her work on James is guided by the attempt to lay bare his coherent philosophical vision and the consistent philosophical methodology (...) underlying it. As a result of this approach, Suckiel's work on James is both sympathetic to his philosophical insights and carefully argued. In her first book, The Pragmatic Philosophy of William James (1982), Suckiel applies this approach to James's philosophy as a whole. The result is a work of remarkable clarity and insight that serves as a wonderful introduction to James's thought. In her more recent book, Suckiel applies this approach specifically to James's philosophy of religion, with similar felicitous results. Heaven's... (shrink)
The present paper deals thus with some fundamental agreements and disagreements between Peirce and James, on crucial issues such as perception and consciousness. When Peirce first read the Principles, he was sketching his theory of the categories, testing its applications in many fields of knowledge, and many investigations were launched, concerning indexicals, diagrams, growth and development. James's utterances led Peirce to make his own views clearer on a wide range of topics that go to the heart of the (...) foundations of psychology and that involve the relationship between perception and logic, between consciousness and the categories, between abstraction and the 'stream of thought'. The idea is to show that Peirce detected important discoveries and insights in the Principles, but felt that James could not make proper use of them because of logical confusions, and also because of his "clandestine" metaphysics. The point in this essay is thus not to look for remains of psychologism in Peirce's writings,13 but to look at Peirce's comments about James's psychology in an attempt to identify where and why Peirce amended James's views. Since the project to provide some insight on Peirce's extensive reading ofJames's Principles of Psycho/.ogy would deserve a full volume, I shall focus here on three occasions where Peirce explicidy commented on Jarnes's Principles. In the first section, I shall consider bis assessment of James's chapter on space, which was published as a series of articles in 1887, in Mind. I shall then turn to the 1891 review of the Principles in The Nation for important complements on perception as inference. In the third section, I shall deal with Peirce's manuscript "Questions on James's Principles"(Rl099). These "Questions" reveal a deep interest in psychological problems and suggest different ways along which Peirce's new advances in the field of the categories, of continuity, and abstraction could provide a proper basis for the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
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 sug gesting we can create belief ex nihilo, critics con tinue to charge that James's defense of belief in what he called the "religious hypothesis" con fuses 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 pro vided we give up thinking of it as ethics of belief and think of it instead as an ethics of self-experimentation. Subjective data (includ ing wants, needs, and desires) are relevant to rational consent to participation in research. (shrink)
Wesley Cooper opposes the traditional view of William Jamesís philosophy which dismissed it as fragmented or merely popular, arguing instead that there is a systematic philosophy to be found in James's writings. His doctrine of pure experience is the binding thread that links his earlier psychological theorizing to his later epistemological, religious, and pragmatic concerns.
: 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 are relevant to rational consent to participation in research. (shrink)
Those sympathetic to the naturalistic side of James hope that his critique of ‘philosophical materialism’ can be separated from those elements of his thinking that are essential to his pragmatism. Such a separation is possible once we see that James’s critique of materialism grows out of his views about its incompatibility with the existence of objective values. Objective values (as James understands them) are incompatible, however, not with materialism in its most general form, but rather with materialism (...) that understood the ‘material world’ in terms of the sciences of the late nineteen hundreds. In particular, one could not defend the potential objectivity of value in the way that James hoped if one endorsed the particular ‘pessimistic’ cosmology characteristic of the sciences at the turn of the last century. Consequently, if one rejects certain ‘empirical assumptions’ associated with the science of James’s day, the possibility of a type of ‘melioristic materialism’ opens up, and this sort of materialist could still understand value in the way that James proposes. (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)
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)
James developed an evolutionary objection to epiphenomenalism that is still discussed today. Epiphenomenalists have offered responses that do not grasp its full depth. I thus offer a new reading and assessment of James’s objection. Our life-essential, phenomenal pleasures and pains have three features that suggest that they were shaped by selection, according to James: they are natively patterned, those patterns are systematically linked with antecedent brain states, and the patterns are “universal” among humans. If epiphenomenalism were true, (...) phenomenal patterns could not have been selected (because epiphenomenalism precludes phenomenal consciousness affecting reproductive success). So epiphenomenalism is likely false. (shrink)
In 1905 William James wrote an essay in McClure's Magazine recalling the importance to his own work of the Scottish-born philosopher Thomas Davidson. In the essay, James states that Davidson was "essentially a teacher." What is interesting when one looks at Davidson's life and work is that, for Davidson, teaching does seem to be an essential feature of what it means to be a philosopher. Here, I develop how Davidson construes this linking of philosophy and teaching with a (...) concluding emphasis on the two schools he established: Glenmore, a summer philosophy program in the Adirondacks and the "Breadwinners' College," an open school he began for working persons in New York City. I offer this as a discussion paper so that James's recollection of Davidson's importance to his own work may provoke us to consider how we presently understand the linking of teaching and philosophy. This seems especially appropriate for an academic culture such as ours in which much of our time is spent teaching and in which we are often primarily evaluated by a separate category of professional "research." The American tradition has "lost" any number of its important.. (shrink)
William James’s lecture “The Will to Believe” presents his pragmatic “defense” of religious beliefs, one aimed at rebutting W. K. Clifford’s famous evidentialist principle that “It is always wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence.” This paper presents a number of classroom tools and techniques for teaching James’s lecture, for contrasting it against arguments for God’s existence, and for positioning his lecture in a broader context of the “ethics of belief.” In addition to (...) a detailed account of James’s “Ought-Implies-Can” argument, the paper provides two tables that detail crucial distinctions in the “Will to Believe” argument. These tables and associated techniques promise to make a more constructive and effective use of class time devoted to James’s lecture. (shrink)
Every scholar and reader of William James is aware of his frequent uses of "energy," especially in his discussions of ethics and most notably in his 1906 Presidential Address to the American Philosophical Association, "The Energies of Men". But while other interpretations treat James's use of "energy" as merely one of his several folksy metaphors, The Ethics of Energy: William James's Moral Philosophy in Focus is the first monograph, as its author, Sergio Franzese, rightly claims, to focus (...) upon "energy" as a central concept in James's ethics. Ethics, for James, is not about values, goods, or principles but about the organization of energy, especially into habits, in the service of personal, aesthetic ideals. As such this book is an original and valuable addition to the literature on James, and it does much to bring James into closer dialogue with other recent efforts to rethink ethics without appeal to some rule of reason, whether it be in the form of an utilitarian calculus or a categorical imperative. Such efforts include those of Friedrich Nietzsche, whom Franzese discusses extensively, Max Scheler, whom he mentions only briefly (51-52), and especially Michel Foucault, whom he does not mention at all. (shrink)
William James's Varieties of Religious Experience is a classic psycho-philosophical study of the experience of the sacred and of its practical effects on the ordinary life of extraordinary persons. In a pragmatic variation of Kant's proof of god's existence, James uses personal accounts of converts to empirically demonstrate that there's “something” that has causal effects on the well-being of the person. While the article is largely sympathetic to James explorations of the mystical, it offers a sociological variation (...) on the Varieties that foregrounds the social, cultural and political aspects of religion. (shrink)
Neutral monist, panpsychist, naturalist, and phenomenological interpretations of James's theory of mind are canvassed. Culling the true tenets from each, I make a case for a reconciling view on the basis of a distinction between mental and proto-mental properties. The resulting interpretation is compared to two forms of panpsychism identified by T Nagel in his essay of that name.
William James has been characterized as “the major whipping boy of the later Wittgenstein,” and the currency of this impression of the relation between James and Wittgenstein is understandable. Reading Wittgenstein and his commentators can leave one with the impression that James was a badly muddled “exponent of the tradition in the philosophy of mind that [Wittgenstein] was opposing.” There have been recent attempts to resist this trend, but even these tend to focus on the affinities between (...) the two philosophers, still accepting the prevailing view that Wittgenstein was often critical of James, and that in such cases Wittgenstein was always right and James was always wrong. By contrast, by focusing on Wittgenstein’s discussion of James’s “if-feeling”, it will be argued that Wittgenstein’s criticisms of James are often not as damaging, or even as extensive, as has often been assumed. /// -/- NB: This was essentially an initial draft of the paper that became "William James on Conceptions and Private Language", which should also be available for download in the publications section of this page. (shrink)
William James was one of the most controversial philosophers of the early part of the 20 century, and his apparent skepticism about logic and any robust conception of truth was often simply attributed to his endorsing mysticism and irrationality out of an overwhelming desire to make room for religion in his world-view. However, it will be argued here that James’s pessimism about logic and even truth (or at least ‘absolute’ truth), while most prominent in his later views, stem (...) from the naturalistic conception of concepts developed much earlier in The Principles of Psychology (1890), and it is his commitment to naturalism about our conceptual powers, rather than to any sort of mysticism or irrationalism, that motivates his skepticism about the scope and power of logic, and ultimately about the objectivity of truth itself. (shrink)
There are no signs of waning interest in William James's classic work, The Principles of Psychology as we enter the second century after its original publication in 1890. I think the time is right for undertaking the task of reconstructing his psychology, that is, his concrete or phenomenal findings, in light of his radically empiricist philosophical insights. The immediate problem for such a reappropriation is that James sharply distinguished between scientifically neutral descriptions of reality, such as are found (...) in Principles, and metaphysical or epistemological reconstructions of such findings, such as he undertakes in his philosophy of radical empiricism. In this essay I will show that James's profound ambivalence about whether we find or create experienced objects must be explicitly raised and resolved before the concrete methodology and findings of Principles can be fully integrated into his radically empirical hermeneutics of praxis and thus constitute his concrete analysis of experience. (shrink)
Contrary to James's emphasis on the sensible continuity of each personal consciousness, our purported "stream," as it presents itself to us, is not accurately described as having a flowing temporal structure; thus Strawson has argued based on how he finds his own consciousness to be. Accordingly, qua object of inner awareness, our consciousness is best characterized as constituted successively by pulses of consciousness separated in time, one from the next, by a momentary state of complete unconsciousness. It seems at (...) times that one's consciousness is flowing along, but this is an illusion that is owed to taking continuities of content, across pulses, for continuity in the process itself of consciousness, and that can be overcome by the proper mode of reflection upon one's consciousness as it is taking place. With reference to James's original account and to commentaries from Dainton and from Tye on Strawson's claims, the present article examines the latter claims, and proposes that Strawson errs in how he gives expression to what he observes firsthand with respect to his consciousness. His own introspective reports indicate that what he describes to be states of complete unconsciousness that directly precede and follow each of his conscious thoughts, are actually totally qualified states of consciousness and so they are not stoppages in the flow of his consciousness. Also, Strawson's special mode of reflection - which he labels "attentive" and speaks of as one's "reflecting very hard" - likely works not to reveal his consciousness to him but, rather, to prevent his apprehending that "phenomenal background," which is there, perhaps always, while he is in the general state that we call "awakeness" and of which each of his states of consciousness partially consists, including the purported states of complete unconsciousness he truly apprehends but misdescribes. (shrink)
The basic components of James’s stream of consciousness are considered concretely and in a way that tends to be relatively neutral from a theoretical perspective. My ultimate goal is a general description of the states of consciousness, but I try here to be more “observational” than “theoretical” about them. Giving attention to James’s reports of his personal firsthand evidence, I proceed as though I were conversing with this most phenomenological and radically empirical of psychological authors. I disagree with (...)James on some points but, also, I find many of his claims acceptable and base my own view on a thesis fundamental to his perspective: A stream of consciousness consists of a succession, one at a time, of unitary states and all of the other mental occurrences that are conscious are features of such states. This is an effort to see more clearly together with James, not an exercise of correcting errors in how he treated of our topic. (shrink)
In this paper James’s pluralism is examined in light of his critiques of ‘intellectualism’ and monistic idealism in order to elucidate his relationship to Hegel. Contrary to the strong anti-Hegelianism found throughout the writings of James, Hegel’s dialectic and speculative logic are able to give a rational account of the continuity of objects and relations within experience that James struggled to articulate in A Pluralistic Universe. Neither James nor Hegel is an absolute pluralist or monist due (...) to the interdependence of the concepts of unity and plurality, aptly described by Hegel in his Logic, and alluded to by James in various places throughout his work. Thus, the ambiguity of the nature of James’s pluralism previously noted by scholars is explained, and the relevance of Hegel and dialectic for pragmatist theory is elucidated. (shrink)
"Space," William James confessed, "is [both] a direfully difficult subject [and the] driest of subjects.'" Nonetheless, convinced that most previous accounts of space were either incoherent or mythological, he set out to describe space as it is actually experienced. His first effort, "The Spatial Quale," appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy in 1879. 2 This article is historically important; as Ralph Barton Perry notes, "his peculiar view of the amplitude and eonnectedness of experience seems to have begun with (...) the application to space. ''3 But, despite this fact, it is seldom read today. It was not reprinted in James's Collected Essays and Reviews because the editor found "no important difference" between the content of this article and that of the chapter in The Principles of Psychology dealing with the same topic. 4 And it has not been included in more recent anthologies of James's writings. James would undoubtedly have concurred with the reasoning behind these editorial decisions. In the preface to the Psychology he wrote: Chapter 20, on Space-perception, is a terrible thing, which, unless written with all that detail, could not be fairly treated at all. An abridgment of it, called The Spatial Quale' ... may be found by some persons a useful substitute for the entire chapter? In fact, however, there is a significant philosophical difference between... (shrink)
How are the states of consciousness intrinsically so that they all qualify as ?feelings? in William James?s generic sense? Only a small, propaedeutic part of what is required to address the intrinsic nature of such states can be accomplished here. I restrict my topic mainly to a certain characteristic that belongs to each of those pulses of mentality that successively make up James?s stream of consciousness. Certain statements of James?s are intended to pick out the variable ?width? (...) belonging to a stream of consciousness as it flows. Attention to this proposed property brings me to a discussion of (a) the unitary character of each of the states of consciousness however complex they may frequently be and (b) how to conceive of their complexity without recourse to a misleading spatial metaphor. (shrink)
This and the planned next article of the present series mine the wealth of reports and astute discussions of states of consciousness contained in William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. Thus, I bring out further arguments in favor of the kind of understanding of consciousness4, or inner awareness, that, as it happens, James explicitly opposed in The Principles of Psychology. The alternative, appendage kind of account that James advanced there for consciousness4 stands in marked contrast to (...) intrinsic theory: by requiring that having inner awareness of any mental-occurrence instance must take the form of a separate mental-occurrence instance directed on the first. Intrinsic theory holds instead that every conscious4 mental-occurrence instance possesses a phenomenological structure that includes reference to that very instance itself. (shrink)
Genealogies in philosophy can be tricky and even a little dangerous. Lines of influence and inheritance run much more linearly on paper than in reality. I am often reminded of Robert Frost's "Mending Walls" and the attention that must be paid to what is being walled in and what is being walled out. In other words, William James and Emmanuel Levinas are not natural conversation partners. I have always read James as a fellow traveler of Edmund Husserl, and (...) placed both in a line of thought that might share Franz Brentano and Wilhelm Dilthey as forebears. In this genealogy, Levinas appears with an asterisk, or after one. Maurice Natanson described Husserlian phenomenology as an elderly grandparent who comes down to dinner just a little bit too early, making everyone uncomfortable. Seating Levinas next to James brings to mind some similar scene. What basic premises or positions do James and Levinas share? Is Levinas a Jamesian pragmatist? Is he a radical empiricist? Does James offer an ethics that parallels or even complements Levinas's rigorous ethical phenomenology? (shrink)
William James’ declared intention is to oppose Clifford’s claim that it “is wrong always, everywhere, and for every one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence”. But I argue that he is confused about his doxastic prescriptions. He isn’t primarily concerned, as he thinks he is, with the legitimacy of belief in the absence of sufficient evidence. The most important contribution of his essay is a suggestion - a highly insightful and contentious one - as to what it is to (...) believe in accordance with the evidence. (shrink)
In this paper, I challenge the traditional narrative that William James’s arguments against determinism were primarily motivated by his personal struggles with depression. I argue that James presents an alternative argument against determinism that is motivated by his commitment to sound scientific practice. James argues that determinism illegitimately extrapolates from observations of past events to predictions about future events without acknowledging the distinct metaphysical difference between them. This occupation with futurity suggests that James’s true target is (...) better understood as logical determinism rather than causal determinism. This has consequences for James’s proposed alternative, which I call his probabilistic underdeterminism, a conception of the universe that is built on chance, choice, and a local teleology. All of this forms part of a broader criticism of the scientific practices of his day based on their widespread failure to acknowledge the distorting effects of observation on that which is observed. (shrink)
I rapporti annuali su Gli italiani e lo stato, coordinati da Ilvo Diamanti, continuano a rilevare che i cittadini sono impegnati negli associazionismi ma disincantati dalla politica. Con le tipiche differenze nelle diverse aree del paese e a seconda del livello istituzionale, accanto alla sfiducia verso le istituzioni pubbliche c’è una propensione alla partecipazione. Come mostrano la diffusione delle primarie e le esperienze di democrazia partecipativa che si moltiplicano a livello locale, si riscontra, infatti, una disponibilità a sperimentare forme di (...) coinvolgimento differenti rispetto alla militanza politica che possono costituire un utile complemento della democrazia rappresentativa e degli strumenti di democrazia diretta. La partecipazione non solo richiede la possibilità legale di votare ma anche un contesto sociale che induca effettivamente il popolo a votare e ad esprimere i propri punti di vista elevando il livello di informazione e il confronto su argomenti alternativi, cercando di evitare nelle controversie pubbliche le valutazioni puramente opportunistiche o emotive. L’interesse qui si rivolge verso il “sondaggio deliberativo” di James S. Fishkin, una procedura molto diversa dal sondaggio d’opinione poiché rovescia la logica demoscopica. Le persone sondate dagli istituti di ricerca a volte non hanno indicazioni adeguate sul tema; altrettanto spesso non ci hanno riflettuto e non hanno confrontato le proprie preferenze, scelte o credenze con gli argomenti in contrasto in una libera e approfondita discussione. Renato Mannheimer, presidente dell’Istituto per gli studi sulla pubblica opinione (Ispo) è d’accordo con l’affermazione secondo cui le persone rispondono anche su ciò che non conoscono e, a suo parere, il problema si fa ancora più evidente a ridosso delle elezioni. Oggi, a suo avviso, la maggior parte della gente vota non per vera convinzione, ma sulla base di impressioni acquisite dalla TV durante le ultime settimane prima del voto. I sondaggi deliberativi, invece, sono diretti a migliorare la qualità del confronto pubblico, attraverso una procedura articolata che favorisce l’informazione,la riflessione e il dibattito, a partire, ovvio, dall’idea di creare un rapporto diverso tra i sondaggi e l’opinione pubblica intenso come misurazione di come muta l’opinione dopo che le persone hanno avuto l’opportunità di diventare più competenti e di confrontare in un dialogo aperto le loro idee. Nonostante alcune riserve di ordine metodologico e taluni rischi di strumentalizzazione politica, l’esame dei sondaggi deliberativi risveglia una viva ammirazione per uno studioso riuscito a riversare la passione civile e l'impegno politico in una pratica democratica concreta alla quale ha dedicato, quasi interamente, molti anni del suo lavoro. Rimane, certo, uno strumento insufficiente a rianimare e risollevare il momento deliberativo nelle democrazie contemporanee, ma nessuno può negare che indichi a tutti la direzione giusta. (shrink)
This paper argues for the concept of a decolonial humanism at the heart of C.L.R. James’s theoretical and political engagements. In exploring the concept of decolonial humanism, the paper moves through three major sections dealing with some of the definitive epistemic and political aspects of James’s work: a critique of Enlightenment Humanism and European Marxism without disavowing the aspirations of universal human emancipation; James’s work with the Johnson-Forest Tendency, the Pan-Africanist movement, and his attempts at labor organizing (...) in Trinidad first alongside Eric Williams in the People’s National Movement and later in his own Workers and Farmer’s Party ; and the practicality of decolonial humanism in terms of its adoption by Tim Hector and the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement. (shrink)
This Presidential Address to the 2008 Annual Meeting of the William James Society pursues an overlooked avenue to understanding what James might have intended by his claim in Pragmatism to offer a “genetic theory of what is meant by truth.” The author argues that we can plausibly interpret this specific claim of James by appealing to Hermann Lotze’s conception of “genetic definition,” explicated in his 1874 Logik, which James read and annotated closely. The essay concludes by (...) pursuing the implications of this thesis for understanding Pragmatism, ‘truth’ in James, and truth and pragmatism in relation to James’s other philosophical commitments. (shrink)
Part I of this essay will be devoted to Gauthier's principle of minimax relative concession. Part II will focus, more generally, on the variety of possible strategies available to liberal theory. In Part I, I will argue that the principle of minimax relative concession does not define “essential justice” as Gauthier claims. In Part II, I will argue that the difficulties facing Gauthier's strategy are common to other strategies of die same general kind. I will close by suggesting what I (...) think may prove to be a more promising approach. (shrink)
The object of james's theory of truth is knowledge, not truth "qua" correctness. to designate the object of his theory, james avoids using traditional english terminology for correctness but often uses diction typically reserved for knowledge. furthermore, the object of james's theory (as he describes it) cannot be distinguished from knowledge on philosophical grounds.
James's ethical thought could frequently be consequentialist, but it could also on occasion show a deontological side, or "streak," as I contended in "William James on the Courage to Believe". This shows up when he speaks of the "strenuous" as against the "easy-going" moral mood, in "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life," and it preserves the precursive intervention of our "passional natures" in "The Will to Believe" from lapsing into "wishful thinking." Toned down slightly, perhaps, in "Varieties (...) of Religious Experience", it reasserts itself in "Pragmatism", and, it could be shown, in James's succeeding works as well. (shrink)
The purpose of this article is to present a more thoroughgoing account of what James means by the fringes of perceptual objects. The first section presents James's account of fringes of objects of consciousness within the context of his celebrated analogy of the stream of the fringe phenomenon for perception. It concludes by proposing a preliminary "working" definition of the concept "fringe": fringes are active bridges of associations (logical, psychological, etc.) from what is perceptually immediate but ambiguous to (...) what the perceptual process "analyzes" and make definite. (shrink)
This paper is a commentary on Joseph Corabi’s “The Misuse and Failure of the Evolutionary Argument”, this Journal, vol. VI, No. 39; pp. 199-227. It defends William James’s formulation of the evolutionary argument against charges such as mishandling of evidence. Although there are ways of attacking James’s argument, it remains formidable, and Corabi’s suggested revision is not an improvement on James’s statement of it.
James's most original and important contribution was his moralizing of epistemology, in particular belief-acceptance and truth. We are always to believe in a way that maximizes desire-satisfaction, with a proposition counting as true when a belief in it maximizes desire-satisfaction. The theory of truth that falls out of James's pragmatic theory of meaning must be downgraded to a theory of when a proposition is epistemology warranted, thus the reason for the scare-quotation marks around "Truth" in the title of (...) the paper. (shrink)
In The Principles of Psychology, William James addressed ten justifications for the concept of the unconscious mind, each of which he refuted. Twenty – five years later in The Unconscious, Freud presented many of the same, original arguments to justify the unconscious, without any acknowledgement of James’s refutations. Some scholars in the last few decades have claimed that James was in fact a supporter of a Freudian unconscious, contrary to expectations. In this essay, I first summarize Freud’s (...) justification for the unconscious to highlight the arguments he used in 1915, before then demonstrating how clearly James had undercut these same argument in the Principles, published in 1890. Interpreters of James’s thought should resist the claim that he would or did support Freud’s idea of the unconscious, even if he at times spoke generously about other scholars. We also have reason to wonder about Freud’s inattention to James’s remarkable early work in psychology, especially given James’s critiques of the concept of the unconscious. (shrink)
Jeremy Carrette is one of the most interesting contemporary scholars writing on James’s philosophy of religious experience. In the present volume the author expands and deepens the scope of his previous researches by investigating the epistemological and metaphysical dimensions of James’s work on religion. The resulting interpretation is an sophisticated and ambitious one: Carrette argues that most accounts of James’s writings on religion—and of his thought as a whole—have been vitiated by a “disciplinary closure” which conceals (...) class='Hi'>James’s unbroken effort to “sustain a conversation across the disciplinary spaces of philosophy, psychology and the study of religion” . Contrary to this approach, Carrette claims how .. (shrink)