Isdale, William; Savulescu, Julian The High Court of Australia, for the second time, recently found that the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program is funded unconstitutionally, and so is invalid in its current form. The program, though, can be reconstituted through tied grants to state governments. The question is, should it be? While the NSCSWP serves some legitimate policy objectives, the program in its pre-existing form is objectionable for at least two reasons. It should either be revived (...) as a secular student welfare program or left extinguished. (shrink)
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)
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)
In this short paper I try to present William James’s connection with the Argentinian writer Macedonio Fernández (1874-1952), who was in some sense a mentor of Borges and might be considered the missing link between Borges and James.
The year of the centennial of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges is probably the right time to exhume one of the links that this universal writer had with William James. In 1945, Emece, a publisher from Buenos Aires, printed a Spanish translation of William James’s book Pragmatism, with a foreword by Jorge Luis Borges.
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)
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.
Opponents of biomedical enhancement frequently adopt what Allen Buchanan has called the “Personal Goods Assumption.” On this assumption, the benefits of biomedical enhancement will accrue primarily to those individuals who undergo enhancements, not to wider society. Buchanan has argued that biomedical enhancements might in fact have substantial social benefits by increasing productivity. We outline another way in which enhancements might benefit wider society: by augmenting civic virtue and thus improving the functioning of our political communities. We thus directly confront critics (...) of biomedical enhancement who argue that it will lead to a loss of social cohesion and a breakdown in political life. (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)
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)
For more than a quarter of a century, Hubert L. Dreyfus has been the leading voice in American philosophy for the continuing relevance of phenomenology, particularly as developed by Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Dreyfus has influenced a generation of students and a wide range of colleagues, and these volumes are an excellent representation of the extent and depth of that influence.In keeping with Dreyfus's openness to others' ideas, many of the essays in this volume take the form (...) of arguments with various of his positions. The essays focus on the dialogue with the continental philosophical tradition, in particular the work of Heidegger, that has played a foundational role in Dreyfus's thinking. The sections are Philosophy and Authenticity; Modernity, Self, and the World; and Heideggerian Encounters. The book concludes with Dreyfus's responses to the essays.Contributors : William D. Blattner, Taylor Carman, David R. Cerbone, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Charles Guignon, Michel Haar, Beatrice Han, Alastair Hannay, John Haugeland, Randall Havas, Jeff Malpas, Mark Okrent, Richard Rorty, Julian Young, Michael E. Zimmerman. (shrink)
I respond to Ned Block’s claim that it is ridiculous to suppose that consciousness is a cultural construction based on language and learned in childhood. Block is wrong to dismiss social constructivist theories of consciousness on account of it being ludicrous that conscious experience is anything but a biological feature of our animal heritage, characterized by sensory experience, evolved over millions of years. By defending social constructivism in terms of both Julian Jaynes’ behaviorism and J.J. Gibson’s ecological psychology, I (...) draw a distinction between the experience or what-it-is-like of nonhuman animals engaging with the environment and the secret theater of speechless monologue that is familiar to a linguistically competent human adult. This distinction grounds the argument that consciousness proper should be seen as learned rather than innate and shared with nonhuman animals. Upon establishing this claim, I defend the Jaynesian definition of consciousness as a social–linguistic construct learned in childhood, structured in terms of lexical metaphors and narrative practice. Finally, I employ the Jaynesian distinction between cognition and consciousness to bridge the explanatory gap and deflate the supposed hard problem of consciousness. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
In 1912, Julian Huxley published his first book The Individual in the Animal Kingdom which he dedicated to the then world-famous French philosopher Henri Bergson. Historians have generally adopted one of two attitudes towards Huxley’s early encounter with Bergson. They either dismiss it entirely as unimportant or minimise it, deeming it a youthful indiscretion preceding Huxley’s full conversion to Fisherian Darwinism. Close biographical study and new archive materials demonstrate, however, that neither position is tenable. The Bergsonian elements in play (...) in Julian Huxley’s early works fed into his first ideas about progress in evolution and even his celebrated theories of bird courtship. Furthermore, the view that Huxley rejected Bergson in his later years needs to be revised. Although Huxley ended up claiming that Bergson’s theory of evolution had no explanatory power, he never repudiated the descriptive power of Bergson’s controversial notion of the élan vital. Even into the Modern Synthesis period, Huxley represented his own synthesis as drawing decisively on Bergson’s philosophy. (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 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)
‘William L. Rowe on Philosophy of Religion’ edited by Nick Trakakis, collects 30 papers of William Rowe's important work in the philosophy of religion. I review this collection, and offer an objection of one of Rowe's arguments.
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)
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. (shrink)
This paper explores the complex relationship between the plant evolutionist G. Ledyard Stebbins and the animal evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky. The manner in which the plant evolution was brought into line, synthesized, or rendered consistent with the understanding of animal evolution (and especially insect evolution) is explored, especially as it culminated with the publication of Stebbins's 1950 book Variation and Evolution in Plants. The paper explores the multi-directional traffic of influence between Stebbins and Dobzhansky, but also their social and professional networks (...) that linked plant evolutionists like Stebbins with Edgar Anderson, Carl Epling, and the 'Carnegie team' of Jens Clausen, David Keck, and William Hiesey with collaborators on the animal side like I. Michael Lerner, Sewall Wright and L.C. Dunn and other 'architects' of the synthesis like Ernst Mayr, Julian Huxley and George Gaylord Simpson. The compatibility in training, work styles, methodologies, goals, field sites, levels of analysis, and even choice of organismic systems is explored between Stebbins and Dobzhansky. Finally, the extent to which coevolution between plants and insects is reflected in the relationship is explored, as is the power dynamic in the relationship between two of the most visible figures associated with the evolutionary synthesis. (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)