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)
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 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.
The past few decades have witnessed a growing concern to reveal the futility of the quest for absolute, ahistorical rational standards. Instead, philosophers have sought theories that will prove responsive to the humanness of rationality. The classical pragmatist tradition in American philosophy provides a tremendously fruitful yet still too often overlooked framework for accommodating, clarifying, and extending current explorations of human reason.
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 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)
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.
: 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)
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)
This commentary was suggested to me in part by a colleague's remark that it would be nice if we could make William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience "respectable." The implication was that though there was something redeemable about the book, it somehow wasn't philosophically or scientifically proper. The remark awakened me to—or at least reminded me of—the fact that this has been a traditional take on James's text. As Julius Bixler points out, ridicule began soon after the (...) book was published: "The Varieties of Religious Experience, appearing at about the same time as Ernest Thompson Seton's book of animal stories, was soon nicknamed 'Wild Religions I Have Known'" (1926, 1). My awakening to this attitude—a prevalent if not a pervasive one among contemporary intellectuals—led me to consider that it would be better, and crucially important to James himself, to keep James "unrespectable." James may have been a renegade and... (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)
Many readers have viewed William James's "The Will to Believe" as his most distinctive and resonating lecture. Yet for all the scholarly attention it has received, the complexities of the "pragmatic defence," and the issues it raises concerning evidential and pragmatic reasoning are still often misunderstood. In this paper I explicate a neglected "core" argument tied closely to James's thesis statement, and provide charts and other tools useful in presenting James' lecture in the philosophy classroom. This argument, (...) based on the Ought-Implies-Can principle, is useful for highlighting differences between James's pragmatist and Clifford's evidentialist perspective. I first reconstruct this implicit Ought-Implies-Can argument in modus tollens form, and follow this with a Chart intended to clarify various steps James takes in support of the crucial second premise. My purpose is primarily to explicate this neglected argument in a reconstructed, "bare-bones" fashion for classroom study and evaluation. (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. (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)
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)
"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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
In this paper I discuss William J. Clifford's principle, "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence" and an objection to it based on William James's contention that "Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds." I argue that on one central way of understanding the key terms, there are no genuine (...) options that cannot be decided on intellectual grounds. I also argue that there is another way to understand the terms so that there are cases of the sort James describes, but then, as an objection to Clifford, the argument is needlessly complex, invoking concepts such as genuine options and intellectual undecidability, that play no crucial role. (shrink)
William James's disgust for scientific arrogance was not in defiance of his early education in science, but because of it. In particular, James was influenced by the probabilistic method of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, especially as interpreted by Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce, who was James's most immediate scientific influence, maintained an unresolved ambiguity between a probabilistic scientific fallibilism and a confidence in science's quest for certainty, while James emphasized the fallibilism of science as the (...) crowning evidence for epistemological uncertainties. Despite his disagreement with scientific certainty, James fully supported science as a fallible, useful means of inquiry. (shrink)
In A Pluralistic Universe, James argues that the world we experience is more than we can describe. Our theories are incomplete, open, and imperfect. Concepts function to try to shape, organize, and describe this open, flowing universe, while the universe continually escapes beyond our artificial boundaries. For James and myself, the universe is unfinished, a “primal stuff” or “pure experience.” However, James starts with parts and moves to wholes, and I want to start from wholes and move (...) to parts and back to wholes again. This is an issue between us I further consider, for while he describes himself as a radical empiricist, emphasizing the parts, my descriptions are in terms of w/holism. I use this opportunity to explore James’s contributions to my metaphor of “pure experience” as being like an infinite Ocean and the fishing nets we create represent our ontologies and epistemologies that help us catch up our experiences and give them meaning. I also make the case for why a better understanding of ontology matters for us as educators, using Maria Montessori’s curriculum and instruction design, Dinè Primary School, and Cajete’s theology of place and culturally based science as examples of relational fishing nets we could be using to teach our children. (shrink)
Within The Varieties of Religious Experience lies the germ of a truly radical idea. It is that religious experience has something important and basic to contribute to the science of psychology. Yet now, a hundred years after the publication of James's monumental work, the mainstream academic fields of psychology are no closer to considering, let alone implementing, this idea than they were in James's day. Why? Surely one aspect of this is the way in which the categories and (...) imagery of our society envisage an otherworldly religion and a naturalistic psychology which are on different planes of existence and cannot communicate with one other. I believe that the Eastern meditation traditions can bridge this divide and that had William James been as familiar with Eastern religions as he was with Christianity, he would have had a great deal more specifically to say about what religion had to offer science. The purpose of this paper is to look again at James's material through the lens of Eastern, particularly Buddhist, thought and meditation. Ideally this will serve not only to provide a new perspective on James's classic work but to show a new direction in which the study of religious experience can impact research in psychology and in the emerging cognitive sciences. (shrink)
Writing and that which it entails are the subject of countless texts by Maurice Blanchot. In particular, Blanchot has focused on the notion of the work, or more precisely on a groundlessness or an absence of the work, which he has designated from different perspectives over the course of more than half a century. In various ways, Blanchot has conceived of the work as an affirmation of its undoing. The question of narration, often about a confrontation with death, is fundamentally (...) important, as is evident for example in Blanchots Death Sentence, The Madness of the Day or The Instant of My Death. In a sense, it is bound up with the possibility of the work. Writing about Henry James in The Turn of the Screw 2 in The Book to Come, Blanchot discusses narration. What is described is indeed a certain absence of the work relating to the writers difficult struggle to narrate everything. I will examine Blanchots reading of James to expose this conception of narration centred on seizing the truth. It is apparent that Blanchot approaches the question very differently in Narrative Voice , in The Infinite Conversation in which there is a decentring of the work. 3 I will show that this text as well as certain writings by Derrida make it possible to arrive at a conception of narration in Henry Jamess The Turn of the Screw which strongly contrasts with the one put forward by Blanchot in The Book to Come. Thus, alongside Blanchots reading of The Turn of the Screw which relates to the project of realising the work as a totality, Blanchot makes possible a more radical approach to the text, illustrating the non-totalization of the work whose borders are uncertain. In this way, Blanchot can be shown to step beyond an impossible conception of the absence of the work. (shrink)
In the Appendix to A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume famously retracts his account of personal identity by confessing that it involves a profound problem he cannot solve, which I have elsewhere identified and called the Bundling Problem. Neither of the two possible solutions that Hume himself considers in the Appendix is a viable option for him by his own lights, which might suggest that any successful account of a unified self must go beyond the empirical framework. In this paper, (...) I argue that we can find a strictly empiricist solution to Hume's problem in William James. I attempt to show that James's descriptions of our experience are phenomenologically more detailed and faithful to how experience is undergone from the first-person perspective, which allows him to explain our belief in an identical, unified self solely on empirical grounds. James finds unity and continuity right in the content of the stream of experience itself. A detailed investigation of James's accounts reveals that Hume's fundamental problem does not stem merely from his lack of empirical resources but, more importantly, from his tacit abandonment of the professed empiricist methodology. (shrink)
It is well known that William James’s thinking was influenced by evolutionary theory and by Darwin’s theory of natural selection in particular. It is easy to misunderstand James’s evolutionary thinking, however, if one is tempted to read contemporary evolutionary views back into James. In this article I try to avoid such anachronism by carefully distinguishing James’s evolutionary views from some of their nearest conceptual neighbors. I focus in particular on James’s social evolutionism, especially as he (...) expounds it in his 1880 essay “Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment.”1 By distinguishing James’s social evolutionism from sociobiology, from social Darwinism, and from the theory of memes, I underscore .. (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)
James's philosophy of religion reveals a great deal about his general philosophical position. Moreover, it provides insights concerning the epistemic priority of experience and feeling, the role of faith in the justification of belief, the nature of religious truth, and the limits of philosophic rationality. This essay tries to explain what it means, on James's view, to see the world in religious terms, and defends his pragmatic argument regarding the justification of belief.