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.
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 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)
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)
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 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 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)
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).
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 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.
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)
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.
William James makes several major claims about truth: (i) truth means agreement with reality independently of the knower, (ii) truth is made by human beings, (iii) truth can be verified, and (iv) truth is necessarily good. These claims give rise to a few puzzles: (i) and (ii) seem to contradict each other, and each of (ii), (iii), and (iv) has counter-intuitive implications. I argue that Richard Gale's interpretation of James' theory of truth is inadequate in dealing with these puzzles. (...) I propose an alternative interpretation and show how it can solve these puzzles. (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)
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)
It was William Blake's insight that the Christian churches, by inverting the Incarnation and the dialectical vision of Paul, have repressed the body, divided God from creation, substituted judgment for grace, and repudiated imagination, compassion, and the original apocalyptic faith of early Christianity. Blake's prophetic poetry thus contributes to the renewal of Christian ethics by a process of subversion and negation of Christian moral, ecclesiastical, and theological traditions, which are recognized precisely as inversions of Jesus, and therefore as instances (...) of the forms of evil that God-in-Christ overcomes through Incarnation, reversing the Fall. Blake's great epic poems, particularly Milton (1804–08) and Jerusalem (1804–20), embody his heterodox representation of the final coincidence of Christ and Satan through which, at last, all things are made new. (shrink)
Cross-cultural scholarship in ritual studies on women's laments provides us with a fresh vantage point from which to consider the function of women and women's complaining voices in the epic poems of William Blake. In this essay, I interpret Thel, Oothoon, and Enitharmon as strong voices of experience that unleash some of Blake's most profound meditations on social, sexual, individual, and institutional forms of violence and injustice, offering what might aptly be called an ethics of witness. Tracing the performative (...) function of Enion, Jerusalem, Vala, and Erin in Blake's later epics, The Four Zoas and Jerusalem , I argue for the close connection between the female laments and the possibility of redemption, though in Blake such "redemption" comes at the cost of the very voices of witness themselves. (shrink)
Academic popularizers of the new field of evolutionary psychology make notable appeals to William James to bolster their doctrine. In particular, they cite James’ remark that humans have all the “impulses” animals do and many more besides to shore up their claim that people’s “instincts” account for their flexibility. This essay argues that these scholars misinterpret James on the instincts. Consciousness (which they find inscrutable) explains cognitive flexibility for James. The evolutionary psychologists’ appeal to James is, therefore, unwarranted and, (...) given the conditions relevant to the public and professional audiences they address, also ineffective as a rhetorical tool for enlisting new recruits. (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 contemporary histories of psychology, William Moulton Marston is remembered for helping develop the lie detector test. He is better remembered in the history of popular culture for creating the comic book superhero Wonder Woman. In his time, however, he contributed to psychological research in deception, basic emotions, abnormal psychology, sexuality, and consciousness. He was also a radical feminist with connections to women's rights movements. Marston's work is an instructive case for philosophers of science on the relation between science (...) and values. Although Marston's case provides further evidence of the role that feminist values can play in scientific work, it also poses challenges to philosophical accounts of value-laden science. Marston's work exemplifies standard views about feminist value-laden research in that his feminist values help him both to criticize the research of others and create novel psychological concepts and research techniques. His scientific work includes an account of the nature of psycho-emotional health that leads to normative conclusions for individual values and conduct and for society and culture, a direction of influence that is relatively under-theorized in the literature. To understand and evaluate Marston's work requires an approach that treats science and values as mutually influencing; it also requires that we understand the relationship between science advising and political advocacy in value-laden science. (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.
Reformed Christianity's qualified embrace of freedom of conscience is per- haps best represented by William Ames (1576-1633). This essay explores Ames's interpretation of conscience, his understanding of its relationship to natural law, Scripture, and civil authority, and his vacillation on the sub- ject of conscientious freedom. By rooting his interpretation of conscience in natural law, Ames provided a foundation for conscience as an authority whose convictions are binding and worthy of some civil respect and free- dom. At the same (...) time, his Puritan worldview ultimately required the deference of conscience to the superior manifestations of divine law in Scripture and civil institutions. As a result, Ames provided raw ingredients for a theological doctrine of freedom of conscience despite his unwillingness to commend the idea himself consistently. In this way, Ames symbolizes an ambiguity on freedom of conscience characteristic of the broader Reformed tradition. (shrink)
Nineteenth-century British entomologist William Kirby is best known for his generic division of bees based on tongues and his vigorous defence of natural theology. Focusing on these aspects of Kirby's work has lead many current scholars to characterise Kirby as an "essentialist." As a result of this characterisation, many important aspects of his work, Monographia Apum Angliœ (1802) have been over-looked or misunderstood. Kirby's religious devotion, for example, have lead some scholars to assume Kirby used the term "type" for (...) connecting an ontological assumption about essences with a creationist assumption about species fixity, which I argue conceals a variety of ways Kirby employed the term. Also, Kirby frequently cautioned against organising a classification system exclusively by what he called "analytic reasoning," a style of reasoning 20th century scholars often associate with Aristotelian logic of division. I argue that Kirby's critique of analytic reasoning brought the virtues of his own methodological agenda into sharp relief. Kirby used familiar metaphors in the natural history literature-Ariadne's thread, the Eleusinian mysteries, and Bacon's bee and spider metaphors-to emphasise the virtues of building tradition and cooperation in the goals and methodological practices of 19th century British naturalists. (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.
William Whewell was a giant of Victorian intellectual culture. His influence, whether recognized or forgotten, is palpable in areas as diverse as moral philosophy, mineralogy, architecture, the politics of education, physics, engineering, and theology. Recent studies of the place of the sciences in nineteenth-century Britain have repeatedly indicated the significance of Whewell's sweeping and critical proposals for a reformed account of scientific knowledge and moral values. -/- However, until now there has been no detailed study of the context and (...) impact of his project. This collection of essays by recognized authorities in the fields of history, history of science, and philosophy thus represents the first attempt to do justice to a magisterial nineteenth-century intellectual. More generally, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian intellectual life and its aftermath. (shrink)
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)
This dissertation provides an interpretative and critical analysis of James's understanding of mysticism, an analysis that looks beyond merely the Varieties, and instead, engages James's work as a whole. The primary thesis of this dissertation is that the complexities of James's own positions on mysticism need to be unravelled and set within the context of his broader philosophical work; I argue that his radical empiricism, philosophical anthropology, pluralistic pantheism, and pragmatism, while not directly emerging out of his interests in mysticism, (...) often do reflect and extend those interests. My secondary thesis is that these implicit parallels in James's wider philosophy can help to build a new agenda for research and reflection in the current philosophy of mysticism. ;Chapter One demonstrates the depth and breadth of James's interest in mysticism, examining James's explicit discussions of mysticism, his own muted mystical experiences, the biographical context of his interest in mysticism, and his ongoing fascination with "psychical research." ;Chapter Two places James's understanding of mystical experience within the larger context of his theories of the nature of experience in general. This chapter explores James's understandings of emotion, his notion of an interactive, "double-barreled" epistemology, and ends with an examination of the relationship between radical empiricism and the philosophy of mysticism. ;Chapter Three investigates James's theories of conversion, his interest in the subliminal self, his notion of the "compounding of consciousness," his fascination with the notion of cosmic consciousness, and gives special attention to James's "field" model of the self. ;Chapter Four discusses the relationship between James's metaphysics and ethics, the tension between James's concept of the "finite God" and his notion of a "pluralistic pantheism"; finally, it offers a Jamesian "spectrum model" of the relationship between mysticism and ethics. ;Chapter Five illustrates how the seeds of James's pragmatism are at work in the Varieties, and demonstrates how James's interest in spiritual healing and saintliness conceals an attempt to justify his belief in the reality and goodness of the "unseen world" contacted in mystical experiences. (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)
In 1948, a dynamic junior member of the Johns Hopkins Biology Department, William McElroy, became the first director of the McCollum—Pratt Institute for the Investigation of Micronutrient Elements. The Institute was founded at the university to further studies into the practicalities of animal nutrition. Ultimately, however, the Institute reflected McElroy's vision that all biological problems, including nutrition, could be best investigated through basic biochemical and enzymes studies. The Institute quickly became a hub of biochemical research over the following decade, (...) producing foundational work on metabolism and a respected series of symposia. In this paper, I argue that McElroy's biochemical vantage on biology also permeated the traditionally morphological and embryological Biology Department at Hopkins. Largely due to the activity of McElroy and the Institute, the faculty, course offerings, and research underwent a radical reorientation toward biochemistry and molecular biology in the 1950s, even while maintaining a commitment to developmental biology. While the history of postwar biology is often told as the ascendancy of the "new" biology over "traditional" biology, the case of McElroy and the McCollum—Pratt Institute affords an opportunity for historical examination of biochemical and molecular science as a lens through which all branches of biology at an institution were reconceived and unified. (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)
_ Source: _Volume 55, Issue 1-3, pp 103 - 129 In his _De primo et ultimo instanti_, Walter Burley paid careful attention to continuity, assuming that continua included and were limited by indivisibles such as instants, points, _ubi_, degrees of quality, or _mutata esse_. In his _Tractatus primus_, Burley applied the logic of first and last instants to reach novel conclusions about qualities and qualitative change. At the end of his _Quaestiones in libros Physicorum Aristotelis_, William of Ockham used (...) long passages from Burley’s _Tractatus primus_, sometimes agreeing with Burley and sometimes disagreeing. How may this interaction between Burley and Ockham be understood within its historical context? (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.
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)
Ideas about the natural world are intertwined with the personalities, practices, and the workplaces of scientists. The relationships between these categories are explored in the life of the taxonomist William Steel Creighton. Creighton studied taxonomy under William Morton Wheeler at Harvard University. He took the rules he learned from Wheeler out of the museum and into the field. In testing the rules against a new situation, Creighton found them wanting. He sought a new set of taxonomic principles, one (...) he eventually found in Ernst Mayr's "Systematics and the Origin of Species". Mayr's ideas tied together a number of themes running through Creighton's life: the need for a revised taxonomy, the emphasis on fieldwork, and the search for a new power center for ant taxonomy after Wheeler died. Creighton's adoption of Mayr's ideas as part of his professional identity also had very real implications for his career path: field studies required long and intensive studies, and Creighton would always be a slow worker. His method of taxonomy contrasted sharply not only with Wheeler's but also with two of his younger colleagues, William L. Brown and E. O. Wilson, who took over Wheeler's spot at Harvard in 1950. The disputes between these men over ant taxonomy involved, in addition to questions of technical interest, questions about where and how best to do taxonomy and who could speak with the most authority. Creighton's story reveals how these questions are interrelated. The story also reveals the importance of Mayr's book for changes occurring in taxonomy in the middle of the twentieth century. (shrink)
With this book, Jacques Barzun pays what he describes as an "intellectual debt" to William James—psychologist, philosopher, and, for Barzun, guide and mentor. Commenting on James's life, thought, and legacy, Barzun leaves us with a wise and civilized distillation of the great thinker's work.
In 1907 William James was invited to give the Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College, Oxford. Initially he was reluctant to do so since he feared undertaking them would divert him from developing rigorously and systematically some metaphysical ideas of his own that had preoccupied him for some time. In the end, however, he relented and in the spring of 1908 gave the lectures which were subsequently published as A Pluralistic Universe. As it happened, though, in the course of these (...) lectures James presented some of those metaphysical ideas, though in a popular and informal style appropriate to lecturing. Later on he did get down to working out a systematic metaphysics in proper academic style, but the project was cut short by his untimely death in 1910. The incomplete Some Problems of Philosophy, posthumously published in 1911, recapitulates some major themes of A Pluralistic Universe. (shrink)
Historically labor has been central to human interactions with the environment, yet environmentalists pay it scant attention. Indeed, they have been critical of those who foreground labor in their politics, socialists in particular. However, environmentalists have found the nineteenth-century socialist William Morris appealing despite the fact that he wrote extensively on labor. This paper considers the place of labor in the relationship between humanity and the natural world in the work of Morris and two of his contemporaries, the eminent (...) scientist Thomas Henry Huxley, and the Fabian socialist Herbert George Wells. I suggest that Morris's conception of labor has much to recommend it to environmentalists who are also interested in issues of social justice. (shrink)
During the British socialist revival of the 1880s competing theories of evolution were central to disagreements about strategy for social change. In News from Nowhere (1891), William Morris had portrayed socialism as the result of Lamarckian processes, and imagined a non-Malthusian future. H.G. Wells, an enthusiastic admirer of Morris in the early days of the movement, became disillusioned as a result of the Malthusianism he learnt from Huxley and his subsequent rejection of Lamarckism in light of Weismann's experiments on (...) mice. This brought him into conflict with his fellow Fabian, George Bernard Shaw, who rejected neo-Darwinism in favour of a Lamarckian conception of change he called "creative evolution.". (shrink)