Basic issues in the recent ‘death-of-God’ movement can be illuminated by comparison and contrast with the relevant ideas of two American philosophers, John Dewey and WilliamJames. Dewey is an earlier spokesman for ideas that are central to the ‘radical theology’ of Thomas J. J. Altizer, William Hamilton, and Paul Van Buren. His reasons for rejecting theism closely resemble propositions maintained by these ‘death-of-God’ theologians. James, on the other hand, points toward a theological alternative. He (...) takes cognizance of ideas similar to those in the ‘radical theology’, but he does not opt for either a metaphorical or real elimination of God. Thus, the contentions of this paper are that there has been a version of the ‘death-of-God’ perspective in American thought before, and that there are resources in the American tradition that suggest a viable option to this perspective. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better to be immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Since Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions first appeared, David Benatar's distinctive anthology designed to introduce students to the key existential questions of philosophy has won a devoted following among users in a variety of upper-level and even introductory courses.
Critics and defenders of WilliamJames 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)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.
This collection of 216 letters offers an accessible, single-volume distillation of the exchange between celebrated brothers William and Henry James. Spanning more than fifty years, their correspondence presents a lively account of the persons, places, and events that affected the Euro-American world from 1861 until the death of WilliamJames in August 1910. An engaging introduction by John J. McDermott suggests the significance of the Selected Letters for the study of the entire family.
In his introduction to this collection, John representative. McDermott presents James's thinking in all its manifestations, stressing the importance of radical empiricism and placing into perspective the doctrines of pragmatism and the will to believe. The critical periods of James's life are highlighted to illuminate the development of his philosophical and psychological thought. The anthology features representive selections from The Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe , and The Variety of Religious Experience in addition to the (...) complete Essays in Radical Empiricism and A Pluralistic Universe . The original 1907 edition of Pragmatism is included, as well as classic selections from all of James's other major works. Of particular significance for James scholarship is the supplemented version of Ralph Barton Perry's Annotated Bibliography of the Writings of WilliamJames , with additions bringing it up to 1976. (shrink)
Recent attempts by philosophers to revive WilliamJames’s theory of emotions rest on a basic misunderstanding of James’s theory. To see why, one needs to see how James’s theory completed the transformation of the study of emotions from a study in moral philosophy to a scientific study. This essay charts that transformation.
WilliamJames's essay, "The Will to Believe," is interpreted as a philosophical argument for two conclusions: Some over-beliefs—i.e., beliefs going beyond the available evidence—are rationally justified under certain conditions; and "The Religious Hypothesis" is justified for some people under these conditions. Section I defends viewing James as presenting arguments, Sections II-III try to formulate the dual conclusions more precisely, and Section IT defends this reading against alternative interpretations. Section 7, the heart of the paper, elaborates five logically (...) distinct arguments implicit in "The Will to Believe" with regard to non-evidential justification. Section VI examines "The Religious Hypothesis," and Section VII concludes by noting that while James's particular arguments are largely unsuccessful nevertheless the project of finding non- evidential or "practical" rational warrants for religious over-beliefs seems promising. Two appendices supplement the body of the text. The first considers some formal aspects of the so-called "ethics of belief" in order to clarify James's desired conclusions) in "The Will to Believe," and the second shows that and how James's own "technical distinctions" are both obscure and largely irrelevant to his central task. (shrink)
WilliamJames’ “The Will to Believe” continues to attract scholarly attention. This might seem surprising since James’ central claim—that one may justifiably believe p despite having inconclusive evidence for p—seems both very clear and also very wrong. I argue that many of the interpretive and substantive challenges of this essay can be overcome by framing James’ thesis in terms of what Tamar Gendler defines as “alief.” I consider two readings of James’ position and conclude that (...) the “will to believe” rests on a misnomer. “The Will to Alieve” is more accurate—though the “Right to Alieve” is even better still. (shrink)
In his introduction to this collection, John representative. McDermott presents James's thinking in all its manifestations, stressing the importance of radical empiricism and placing into perspective the doctrines of pragmatism and the will to believe. The critical periods of James's life are highlighted to illuminate the development of his philosophical and psychological thought. The anthology features representive selections from _The Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe_, and _The Variety of Religious Experience_ in addition to the complete (...) _Essays in Radical Empiricism_ and _A Pluralistic Universe_. The original 1907 edition of _Pragmatism_ is included, as well as classic selections from all of James's other major works. Of particular significance for James scholarship is the supplemented version of Ralph Barton Perry's _Annotated Bibliography of the Writings of William James_, with additions bringing it up to 1976. (shrink)
Unless one has beliefs before having all of the data that would justify those beliefs, one will fail to acquire that data and, moreover, one will be a bureaucratic cripple, who cannot act because he is in a perpetual state of skepticism-induced decision-paralysis.
It says something about the topic of John Kaag’s book that the subtitle “How WilliamJames Can Save Your Life” seems so easy to swallow. It’s hard to imagine a similar subtitle for Peirce or Dewey, or most any contemporary philosopher, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for “How C.S. Peirce Can Mend Your Finances” or “How John Dewey Can Improve Your Writing.” But for James the subtitle works. Maybe it’s because, for James, the (...) connection between philosophy and life seems especially strong and obvious. More than Peirce or Dewey, James is a character in his own writings, making it clear that philosophy matters in both very personal and very profound ways. James seems to have thought that philosophy saved his own life, so... (shrink)
. This, the first Presidential Address, was presented at a meeting of the WilliamJames Society. Its intent and style is more gently hortatory than strictly academic. Since the date of this "Address," 2002, The Correspondence, has been completed, in 2004, which yields 31 volumes of critically edited published and unpublished writings of WilliamJames.
Abstract: WilliamJames argued that we ordinarily think of the objects that we can observe—things that belong to 'the world of sense'—as having an unquestioned reality. However, young children also assert the existence of entities that they cannot ordinarily observe. For example, they assert the existence of germs and souls. The belief in the existence of such unobservable entities is likely to be based on children's broader trust in other people's testimony about objects and situations that they cannot (...) directly observe for themselves. (shrink)
Discusses similarities and differences between James and Skinner and criticizes Skinner for failing to provide an adequate description of complex behaviors. Similarities include opposition to a dualistic approach in which mind and body are seen as qualitatively different, and to the notion that mental phenomena are causal entities. In addition, there is agreement that mental events are actions and not copies of external reality. Skinner is criticized for providing an over-simplified account of complex phenomena and translating such a description (...) to operant terms. James is seen as being more painstaking in his description and more cautious in applying general principles. In particular, James's account of the concept of interest is seen as being more cognizant of the subtleties and complexities involved, whereas Skinner's translation of the concept to operant reinforcement is faulted as too narrow. (shrink)
Human experience manifests a necessary polarity of process and structure. Philosophy and religion, since they are "both human attempts to understand the whole world in which we live," are alike in having to take account of both these fundamental needs. The religions chosen to illustrate this thesis are the Canaanite, Greek, and Christian; the representatives of philosophy are James and Dewey, who, it is argued, had more room in their thought for structure and order than their critics have charged.--J. (...) J. (shrink)
WilliamJames and Wisconsin, by G.C. Sellery.--The distinctive philosophy of WilliamJames, by M.C. Otto.--WilliamJames, man and philosopher, by D.S. Miller.--WilliamJames and psychoanalysis, by Norman Cameron.--The WilliamJames centenary dinner: Introductory remarks, by C.A. Dykstra. WilliamJames and the world today, by John Dewey, read by Carl Boegholt. WilliamJames in the American tradition, by B.H. Bode.--The Sunday service: WilliamJames as (...) religious thinker, by J.S. Bixler. (shrink)
WilliamJames claimed that his Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking would prove triumphant and epoch-making. Today, after more than 100 years, how is pragmatism to be understood? What has been its cultural and philosophical impact? Is it a crucial resource for current problems and for life and thought in the future? John J. Stuhr and the distinguished contributors to this multidisciplinary volume address these questions, situating them in personal, philosophical, political, American, and (...) global contexts. Engaging James in original ways, these 11 essays probe and extend the significance of pragmatism as they focus on four major, overlapping themes: pragmatism and American culture; pragmatism as a method of thinking and settling disagreements; pragmatism as theory of truth; and pragmatism as a mood, attitude, or temperament. (shrink)
From the celebrated author of American Philosophy: A Love Story and Hiking with Nietzsche, a compelling introduction to the life-affirming philosophy of WilliamJames In 1895, WilliamJames, the father of American philosophy, delivered a lecture entitled "Is Life Worth Living?" It was no theoretical question for James, who had contemplated suicide during an existential crisis as a young man a quarter century earlier. Indeed, as John Kaag writes, "James's entire philosophy, from beginning (...) to end, was geared to save a life, his life"—and that's why it just might be able to save yours, too. Sick Souls, Healthy Minds is a compelling introduction to James's life and thought that shows why the founder of pragmatism and empirical psychology—and an inspiration for Alcoholics Anonymous—can still speak so directly and profoundly to anyone struggling to make a life worth living. Kaag tells how James's experiences as one of what he called the "sick-souled," those who think that life might be meaningless, drove him to articulate an ideal of "healthy-mindedness"—an attitude toward life that is open, active, and hopeful, but also realistic about its risks. In fact, all of James's pragmatism, resting on the idea that truth should be judged by its practical consequences for our lives, is a response to, and possible antidote for, crises of meaning that threaten to undo many of us at one time or another. Along the way, Kaag also movingly describes how his own life has been endlessly enriched by James. Eloquent, inspiring, and filled with insight, Sick Souls, Healthy Minds may be the smartest and most important self-help book you'll ever read. (shrink)
This article investigates WilliamJames's reading of the concepts of selflessness and transcendence in relation to the Chan and Pure Land schools of Chinese Buddhism. The divide between Chan and Pure Land Buddhism may be mediated if we attend to aspects of the two traditions that James found particularly meaningful. James is drawn to selflessness as presented in the concept of emptiness in the Chan understanding of meditative experience. He is equally interested in Buddhist devotional practices (...) of Pure Land that claim to open individuals and their communities to the divine. James saw these two aspects as deeply compatible. (shrink)
This book offers a powerful interpretation of the philosophy of WilliamJames. 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)
This work sets out Austin's conclusions in the field to which he directed his main efforts for at least the last ten years of his life. Starting from an exhaustive examination of his already well-known distinction between performative utterances and statements, Austin here finally abandons that distinction, replacing it with a more general theory of 'illocutionary forces' of utterances which has important bearings on a wide variety of philosophical problems.