Critics and defenders of William James both acknowledge serious tensions in his thought, tensions perhaps nowhere more vexing to readers than in regard to his claim about an individual’s intellectual right to their “faith ventures.” Focusing especially on “Pragmatism and Religion,” the final lecture in Pragmatism, this chapter will explore certain problems James’ pragmatic pluralism. Some of these problems are theoretical, but others concern the real-world upshot of adopting James permissive ethics of belief. Although Jamesian permissivism is qualified in (...) certain ways in this paper, I largely defend James in showing how permissivism has philosophical advantages over the non-permissivist position associated with evidentialism. These advantages include not having to treat disagreement as a sign of error or irrationality, and mutual support relations between permissivism and what John Rawls calls the "reasonable pluralism" at the heart of political liberalism. (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.
While some scholars neglect the theological component to William James’s ethical views in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,” Michael Cantrell reads it as promoting a divine command theory (DCT) of the foundations of moral obligation. While Cantrell’s interpretation is to be commended for taking God seriously, he goes a little too far in the right direction. Although James’s view amounts to what could be called (and what Cantrell does call) a DCT because on it God’s demands are (...) necessary and sufficient for the highest obligations, this is a view with characteristics unusual for a DCT. It only holds for some obligations; on it moral obligation does not derive from God’s authority; it is not obvious that James believes the God required by it even exists; we do not know what God’s demands are; and, finally, since we do not know them, we cannot act on them. -/- (Lest there be any confusion, the titular phrase "taking God seriously, but not too seriously" describes William James' view of God and morality, not my own view.). (shrink)
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.
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)
ABSTRACT: Central to both James’s earlier psychology and his later philosophical views was a recurring distinction between percepts and concepts. The distinction evolved and remained fundamental to his thinking throughout his career as he sought to come to grips with its fundamental nature and significance. In this chapter, I focus initially on James’s early attempt to articulate the distinction in his 1885 article “The Function of Cognition.” This will highlight a key problem to which James continued to return throughout his (...) later philosophical work on the nature of our cognition, including in his famous “radical empiricist” metaphysics of “pure experience” around the turn of the century. We shall find that James grappled insightfully but ambivalently with the perceptual and conceptual dimensions of the “knowledge relation” or the “cognitive relation,” as he called it—or what, following Franz Brentano, philosophers would later call our object-directed thought or intentionality more generally. Some philosophers have once again returned to James’s work for crucial insights on this pivotal topic, while others continue to find certain aspects of his account to be problematic. What is beyond dispute is that James’s inquiries in this domain were both innovative and of lasting significance. (shrink)
Kalam cosmological arguments have recently been the subject of criticisms, at least inter alia, by physicists---Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking---and philosophers of science---Adolf Grunbaum. In a series of recent articles, William Craig has attempted to show that these criticisms are “superficial, iII-conceived, and based on misunderstanding.” I argue that, while some of the discussion of Davies and Hawking is not philosophically sophisticated, the points raised by Davies, Hawking and Grunbaum do suffice to undermine the dialectical efficacy of kalam cosmological arguments.
At Columbia University in 1906, William James gave a highly confrontational speech to the American Philosophical Association (APA). He ignored the technical philosophical questions the audience had gathered to discuss and instead addressed the topic of human energy. Tramping on the rules of academic decorum, James invoked the work of amateurs, read testimonials on the benefits of yoga and alcohol, and concluded by urging his listeners to take up this psychological and physiological problem. What was the goal of this (...) unusual speech? Rather than an oddity, Francesca Bordogna asserts that the APA address was emblematic—it was just one of many gestures that James employed as he plowed through the barriers between academic, popular, and pseudoscience, as well as the newly emergent borders between the study of philosophy, psychology, and the “science of man.” Bordogna reveals that James’s trespassing of boundaries was an essential element of a broader intellectual and social project. By crisscrossing divides, she argues, James imagined a new social configuration of knowledge, a better society, and a new vision of the human self. As the academy moves toward an increasingly interdisciplinary future, William James at the Boundaries reintroduces readers to a seminal influence on the way knowledge is pursued. (shrink)
William Molyneux (1656–1698) was an Irish experimental philosopher and politician, who played a major role in the intellectual life in seventeenth-century Dublin. He became Locke’s friend and correspondent in 1692 and was probably Locke’s philosophically most significant correspondent. Locke approached Molyneux for advice for revising his Essay concerning Human Understanding as he was preparing the second and subsequent editions. Locke made several changes in response to Molyneux’s suggestions; they include major revisions of the chapter ‘Of Power’ (2.21), the addition (...) of the chapter ‘Of Identity and Diversity’ (2.27), and the addition of the so-called Molyneux Problem (2.9.8). Molyneux repeatedly requested that Locke develops his views on morality. Additionally, their correspondence turned to questions concerning education and Molyneux’s keen interest in the topic likely prompted Locke to publish Some Thoughts Concerning Education in 1693. Moreover, Molyneux drew on Locke’s anonymously published Two Treatises of Government in his The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated, which was first published in the spring of 1698. Molyneux revealed Locke’s authorship of Two Treatises against Locke’s will, yet their friendship continued until Molyneux’s untimely death in October 1698. (shrink)
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)
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)
The article inquires about the role of language in Cristina Peri Rossi’s Panic Signs [Indicios pánicos]. The hypothesis of the work is that language, as a mimetic instrument of representation and creation, established itself as a way to upgrade the relations of power during the Uruguayan pre-dictatorship. Being a qualitative research based on a hermeneutical approach, the article has the following aims: i) reconstruct the background to the dictatorship leaded by Juan Maria Bordaberry, ii) frame the work within the tradition (...) of dictator novel following Lukács’ socio-critical approach and Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, iii) explain how language works as an instrument of representation and power, iv) analyze Peri Rossi’s work in the light of the aforementioned framework. It concludes, first, that the work responds to a mimetic language of representation, which involves taking a stance that is based on the notions of hegemony or counter-hegemony; and, second, that provided the scarce studies concerning the circumstantial situations of the work, the article might be regarded as a significant contribution to literary criticism. (shrink)
William James was one of the most frequently cited authors in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but the attention paid to James’s Principles of Psycho- logy in that work is typically explained in terms of James having ‘committed in a clear, exemplary manner, fundamental errors in the philosophy of mind.’ (Goodman 2002, p. viii.) The most notable of these ‘errors’ was James’s purported commitment to a conception of language as ‘private’. Commentators standardly treat James as committed to a conception of language (...) as private, and the most notorious instance of this commitment can purportedly be found in his discussion of the feelings associated with logical terms like ‘and’, ‘if ’ and ‘but’ in the Principles’s chapter, ‘The Stream of Thought’. However, the received view stands in need of serious re-evaluation. In particular, there is little reason to think that James’s notorious discussion of the ‘if-feeling’ should be understood as an attempt to give an account of the meaning of ‘if ’ (indeed, there is little reason to even think that Wittgenstein interpreted him this way). The picture of our ideas developed in ‘The Stream of Thought’ sits badly with any theory that identifies meanings with ideas in this way, and while James’s chapter on ‘Conception’ (as well as some portions of Some Problems of Philosophy) has also been portrayed as committing James to the in principle privacy of language, it will be argued here that James’s account of our ‘conceptions’ is radically different from that of the private linguist. (shrink)
This article investigates the history of the relation between idealism and pragmatism by examining the importance of the French idealist Charles Renouvier for the development of William James's ‘Will to Believe’. By focusing on French idealism, we obtain a broader understanding of the kinds of idealism on offer in the nineteenth century. First, I show that Renouvier's unique methodological idealism led to distinctively pragmatist doctrines and that his theory of certitude and its connection to freedom is worthy of reconsideration. (...) Second, I argue that the technical vocabulary and main structure of the argument from the ‘Will to Believe’ depend upon Renouvier's idealist theory of knowledge and psychology of belief, and that taking account of this line of influence is of crucial importance for establishing the correct interpretation of James's work. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to use Sir William Crookes‘ researches into psychical phenomena as a sustained case study of the role of epistemic virtues within scientific enquiry. Despite growing interest in virtues in science, there are few integrated historical and philosophical studies, and even fewer studies focusing on controversial or ‗fringe‘ sciences where, one might suppose, certain epistemic virtues (like open-mindedness and tolerance) may be subjected to sterner tests. Using the virtue of epistemic courage as my focus, (...) it emerges that Crookes‘ psychical researches were indeed epistemically courageous, but that this judgment must be grounded in sensitivity to the motivational complexity and context-sensitivity of the exercise of epistemic virtues. The paper then considers Crookes‘ remarks on the relationship between epistemic virtuousness and the intellectual integrity and public duties of scientists, thereby placing epistemic virtues in the context of wider debates about the authority of science in late modern societies. I conclude that Crookes‘ researches into psychical phenomena offer instructive lessons for historians of science and virtue epistemologists concerning the complexity and contextuality of epistemic virtues, and the profitable forms that future studies of virtues in science could take. (shrink)
Since children are considered incapable ofgiving informed consent to participate inresearch, regulations require that bothparental permission and the assent of thepotential child subject be obtained. Assent andpermission are uniquely bound together, eachserving a different purpose. Parentalpermission protects the child from assumingunreasonable risks. Assent demonstrates respectfor the child and his developing autonomy. Inorder to give meaningful assent, the child mustunderstand that procedures will be performed,voluntarily choose to undergo the procedures,and communicate this choice. Understanding theelements of informed consent has been theparadigm for (...) assessing capacity to give assent.This method leaves the youngest, leastcognitively mature children vulnerable towaiver of assent and forced researchparticipation. Voluntariness can also becompromised by the influence of authorityfigures who can exert undue influence andcoerce children to participate in research. This paper discusses factors that may influencethe decision to give assent/permission,potential parent-child conflict in theassent/permission process and how it isresolved, and potential parental undueinfluence on research participation. Theseissues are illustrated with quotations drawnfrom a larger qualitative study of parentalpermission and child assent (data notpresented). We suggest a developmentalapproach, viewing assent as a continuum rangingfrom mere affirmation in the youngest childrento the equivalent of the informed consentprocess in the mature adolescent. (shrink)
The main aim of this paper is to explain and analyze the debate between W. K. Clifford ("The Ethics of Belief", 1877) and William James ("The Will to Believe", 1896). Given that the main assumption shared by Clifford and James in this debate is doxastic voluntarism –i.e., the claim that we can, at least in some occasions, willingly decide what to believe–, I will explain the arguments offered by Bernard Williams in his “Deciding to Believe” (1973) against doxastic voluntarism. (...) Finally, I will explain what happens with the debate between Clifford and James once we accept Bernard Williams’s arguments and refuse to accept doxastic voluntarism. (shrink)
Abstract If asked about the Darwinian influence on William James, some might mention his pragmatic position that ideas are “mental modes of adaptation,” and that our stock of ideas evolves to meet our changing needs. However, while this is not obviously wrong, it fails to capture what James deems most important about Darwinian theory: the notion that there are independent cycles of causation in nature. Versions of this idea undergird everything from his campaign against empiricist psychologies to his theories (...) of mind and knowledge to his pluralistic worldview; and all of this together undergirds his attempts to challenge determinism and defend freewill. I begin this paper by arguing that James uses Darwinian thinking to bridge empiricism and rationalism, and that this merger undermines environmental determinism. I then discuss how Darwinism informs his concept of pluralism; how his concept challenges visions of a causally welded “block universe”; and how it also casts doubt on the project of reducing all reality to physical reality, and therewith the wisdom of dismissing consciousness as an inert by-product of physiology. I conclude by considering how Darwinism helps him justify the pragmatic grounds upon which he defends freewill. (shrink)
This 2002 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)
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 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)
Astronomers of the first half of the nineteenth century viewed our solar system entirely differently from the way twentieth-century astronomers viewed it. In the earlier period the dominant image was of a set of planets and moons, both of which kinds of bodies were inhabited by intelligent beings comparable to humans. By the early twentieth century, science had driven these beings from every planet in our system except the Earth, leaving our solar system as more or less desolate regions for (...) the most part bereft of intelligent life. This essay traces this extinction and its relation to religious thought, noting the role played in it by Sir John Herschel and especially by William Whewell. The inverse square laws for gravitation, heat radiation, and light receive special attention, as does the question of the relevance of the Christian notions of a divine incarnation and redemption. (shrink)
William Bateson (1861-1926) has long occupied a controversial role in the history of biology at the turn of the twentieth century. For the most part, Bateson has been situated as the British translator of Mendel or as the outspoken antagonist of W. F. R. Weldon and Karl Pearson's biometrics program. Less has been made of Bateson's transition from embryologist to advocate for discontinuous variation, and the precise role of British and American influences in that transition, in the years leading (...) up to the publication of his massive Materials for the Study of Variation (1894). In this paper, I first attempt to trace Bateson's development in his early career before turning to search for the development of the moniker "anti-Darwinist" that has been attached to Bateson in well-known histories of the neo-Darwinian Synthesis. (shrink)
Augustine and William James both argue that religious faith can be both practical and rational even in the absence of knowledge. Augustine argues that religious faith is trust and that trust is a normal, proper, and even necessary way of believing. Beginning with faith, we then work towards knowledge by means of philosophical contemplation. James’ “The Will to Believe” makes pragmatic arguments for the rationality of faith. Although we do not know (yet) whether God exists, faith is a choice (...) between the risk of believing something false and the risk of not believing something true, and in the absence of convincing evidence we may decide for ourselves which risk we prefer. We may be able to experience God in the future and thereby gain knowledge, yet this may be contingent on our willingness to believe. There are key differences, however. Augustine is a Christian with a neo-Platonic bent, James an empiricist defending the religion of your choice. These differences may be less significant than they first appear. After explaining Augustine and then James I draw out the major points of comparison and contrast and suggest a few reasons their insights might be at least partially synthesized. -/- This is the accepted version of the following article: Mark J. Boone, “Augustine and William James on the Rationality of Faith,” The Heythrop Journal (online edition December 2018), which has been published in final form at [See First URL]. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the Wiley Self-Archiving Policy [See Second URL]. (shrink)
Critical notice assessing the use of information theory in the attempt to build a design inference, and to re-establish some aspects of the program of natural theology, as carried out in this third major monograph devoted to the subject of intelligent design theory by mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski, after The Design Inference (1998) and No Free Lunch (2002).
This book offers a powerful interpretation of the philosophy of William James. It focuses on the multiple directions in which James's philosophy moves and the inevitable contradictions that arise as a result. The first part of the book explores a range of James's doctrines in which he refuses to privilege any particular perspective: ethics, belief, free will, truth and meaning. The second part of the book turns to those doctrines where James privileges the perspective of mystical experience. Richard Gale (...) then shows how the relativistic tendencies can be reconciled with James's account of mystical experience. An appendix considers the distorted picture of James's philosophy that has been refracted down to us through the interpretations of his work by John Dewey. (shrink)
At the turn of the twentieth century, William James was America's most widely read philosopher. In addition to being one of the founders of pragmatism, however, he was also a leading psychologist and author of the seminal work, The Principles of Psychology. While scholars argue that James withdrew from the study of psychology after 1890, Eugene Taylor demonstrates convincingly that James remained preeminently a psychologist until his death in 1910.Taylor details James's contributions to experimental psychopathology, psychical research, and the (...) psychology of religion. Moreover, Taylor's work shows that out of his scientific study of consciousness, James formulated a sophisticated metaphysics of radical empiricism. In light of historical developments in psychology, as well as the current philosophic implications of the neuroscience revolution related to the biology of consciousness, Taylor argues that both the subject matter of James's investigations and his metaphysics of radical empiricism are just as important for psychology today as James believed they were in his own time.This book represents a major new contribution both to James scholarship and to the history of American psychology. Although philosophers have analyzed radical empiricism, this book is the first to trace the development of radical empiricism as a metaphysics addressed to psychologists. It is also the first to show James's involvement in depth-psychology and psychotherapeutics and to trace historical continuity between James's work on consciousness and subsequent developments in psychoanalysis, personality theory, and humanistic psychology. (shrink)
In his philosophy, William of Ockham (1285-1347) offered an important and detailed response to the classical argument from the truth of a statement regarding the future to the necessity (unpreventability) of the statement. In this paper, Ockham’s solution and the possible formalisation of it are discussed in terms of modern tense and modal logic. In particular, the famous branching time formalisation suggested by A.N. Prior (1914-19) is discussed. Weaknesses and problems with this suggestion are pointed out, and an alternative (...) formalisation of Ockham’s solution without the use of branching time is presented. (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)
The Emotions chapter (XXV) in James' Principles of Psychology traverses the entire range of experienced emotions from the “coarser” and more instinctual to the “subtler” emotions intimately involved in cognitive, moral, and aesthetic aspects of life. But Principles limits himself to an account of emotional consciousness and so there are few direct discussions in the text of Principles about what later came to be called moral psychology, and fewer about anything resembling philosophical ethics. Still, James’ short section on the subtler (...) emotions, when read in connection with his later philosophical writings, still provides insight on James’ views about how human emotion colors our moral psychology and agency. The paper tries to articulate how James' somatic account of emotion adds significantly to contemporary discussions at the borders of moral psychology and philosophy: discussions over the foreground/background distinction, emotional temperament, emotional learning, moral imagination, and selfhood and narrativity. The final section focuses on the neo-Jamesian character of "new sentimentalist" moral psychologists. Among the substantial connections I discuss between James and 1) between Jonathan Haidt’s “social intuitionism” and 2) Jesse Prinz’s "emotionism" are the critiques that they each share of the pretensions of hard universalist ethical theories. (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.