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American Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


William James

See Mysticism and Philosophy of Religion

Courageous Vulnerability: Ethics and Knowledge in Proust, Bergson, Marcel, and James by Rosa Slegers (Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology: Brill Academic Publishers) This work develops the ethical attitude of courageous vulnerability through the integration of Marcel Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time and the philosophies of Henri Bergson, William James, and Gabriel Marcel. Central to the discussion is the phenomenon of involuntary memory, taken from common experience but "discovered" and made visible by Proust. Through the connection between a variety of themes from both Continental and American schools of thought such as Bergson's phenomenological account of the artist, James' "will to believe," and Marcel's "creative fidelity," the courageously vulnerable individual is shown to take seriously the ethical implications of the knowledge gained from involuntary memories and similar "privileged moments," and do justice to the "something more" which, though part of our experience of ourselves and others, escapes rigid philosophical analysis. More


William James’s Philosophy of Religion

by Ellen Kappy Suckiel

University of Notre Dame Press


Ellen Kappy Suckiel has given us another gem of a book about William James. Her first, The Pragmatic Philosophy of William James, was critical success and a good introduction to the philosopher. With HEAVEN’S CHAMPION Suckiel shares with us a new, insightful, in-depth and critical analysis of James’s philosophy of religion. She integrates James’s numerous writings on the topic of religion, and shows how his philosophy of religion is firmly rooted in the broader principles of his pragmatism. Suckiel develops a unified theory of James’s philosophy of religion and illuminates its wide-ranging significance in his philosophy as a whole. Examining the moral, epistemical and metaphysical implications of James’s views, she assesses the success of James’s proposals for removing obstacles to religious belief, and demonstrates their credibility, philosophical power, and relevance to current debates.

Suckiel examines and extends James’s insights and arguments, exhibiting their depth and contemporary relevance. Demonstrating how feelings and personal experiences may be used in justifying religious claims, she joins James in offering a model for assessing religion that is wider than reductionist approaches. Suckiel challenges previous interpretations of James and answers longstanding objections to his position. In particular, she defends James against those philosophers who have interpreted his pragmatic justification of religion as being a disguised form of humanism, incongruous with the elevated domain of a genuine religious point of view.

Suckiel offers readers a new perspective on James. Its unified treatment of James’s philosophy of religion clarifies a number of his most important positions, which heretofore have been regarded as problematic or obscure. For readers interested in the philosophy of religion in general, and James’s views in particular, this new work will be of considerable interest.

1. Introduction
2. The Challenge to Religion
3. Preconceptual Knowledge
4. The Cognitive Value of Feelings
5. Truth in Religion
6. The Moral Significance of Religious Belief
7. The Empirical Implications of God's Existence
About the Author

Ellen Kappy Suckiel is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California and the author of The Pragmatic Philosophy of William James (Notre Dame Press, 1982).


William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism

by G. William Barnard


$21.95, paper, 422 pages, notes, bibliography, index



EXPLORING UNSEEN WORLDS is a critically sophisticated, yet griping, immersion into the inner worlds of one of America’s foremost thinkers. It demonstrates convincingly the extent to which James’s psychological and philosophical perspectives continue to be a rich resource for those specifically interested in the study of mysticism. The book focuses on James’s enduring fascination with mysticism and not only unearths James’s lesser-known works on mysticism, but also probes inch the tacit mystical dimensions of James’s personal life and the mystical implications of his decades-long interest in psychical research.

Barnard has written a comprehensive analysis of James’s works showing the inherent integrity of his views of mysticism and their relation to his theories of consciousness and pragmatism. Most innovatively, Barnard also reconciles James’s own spiritual experiences as part of his scientific and religious quest for cosmic meaning.

Barnard has given us a splendid critical exposition of James’s philosophy of mysticism and religion—one that will be of interest and accessible ha a range of readers from those who are primarily interested in James’s thought ha those whose concern is the character and varieties of mysticism. His study centers on the rich concrete experiential dam presented in the Varieties of Religious Experience but radiates out of both James’s earlier and later works. Hence, James’s philosophy of mysticism and religion is persuasively shown to be organically related to his metaphysics of experience, psychology, epistemology, and pragmatism. Barnard does not uncritically accept all Jamesian claims nor does he overlook or sugarcoat serious omissions and inconsistencies in James’s thought. His creative criticisms, however, invariably both illuminate fruitful Jamesian insights and open them to transactions with other philosophies of mysticism—both Eastern and Western.

Ch. 1. Establishing Foundations: Ladders and Laughing Gas, Phantoms and
Ch. 2. Experiencing Unseen Worlds: Towards a Jamesian Epistemology of
Ch. 3. "Fields within Fields within Fields": Mysticism and a Jamesian
Psychology of the Self
Ch. 4. Beyond Words, Beyond Morals: The Metaphysical and Ethical
Implications of Mysticism
Ch. 5. Telling Truths, Touching Realities: Spiritual Judgments, Saints, and

G. William Barnard is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University.

There is a Hypertext edition of William James's Varieties of Religious Experience .



edited by Ruth Anna Putnam

Cambridge Companions to Philosophy

Cambridge University Press

$59.95, cloth, 406 pages, notes, bibliography, indexes



Each volume of this series of companions to major philosophers contains specially commissioned essays by an international team of scholars, together with a substantial bibliography, and will serve as a reference work for students and nonspecialists. One aim of the series is to dispel the intimidation such readers often feel when faced with the work of a difficult and challenging thinker.

William James (1842-1910) was both a philosopher and a psychologist. The essays in this companion deal with the full range of his thought, including technical philosophical issues, religious speculation, moral philosophy, and political controversies of his time. James’s interactions with other philosophers of his time are also examined, as is his relationship to his brother Henry. By placing James in his intellectual landscape, the volume will be useful not only to philosophers but also to teachers and students 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.

List of contributors
Method of citation
By Ruth Anna Putnam
1. Pragmatism and introspective psychology
By Gerald E. Myers
2. Consciousness as a pragmatist views it
By Owen Flanagan
3. John Dewey's naturalization of William James
By Richard M. Gale
4. James, Clifford, and the scientific conscience
By David A. Hollinger
5. Religious faith, intellectual responsibility, and romance
By Richard Rorty
6. The breathtaking intimacy of the material world: William James's last thoughts
By Bruce Wilshire
7. James, aboutness, and his British critics
By T. L. S. Sprigge
8. Logical principles and philosophical attitudes: Peirce's response to James's pragmatism
By Christopher Hookway
9. James's theory of truth
By Hilary Putnam
10. The James/Royce dispute and the development of James's "solution"
By James Conant
11. William James on religious experience
By Richard R. Niebuhr
12. Interpreting the universe after a social analogy: Intimacy, panpsychism, and a finite god in a pluralistic universe
By David C. Lamberth
13. Moral philosophy and the development of morality
By Graham H. Bird
14. Some of life's ideals
By Ruth Anna Putnam
15. "A shelter of the mind": Henry, William, and the domestic scene
By Jessica R. Feldman
16. The influence of William James on American culture
By Ross Posnock
17. Pragmatism, politics, and the corridor
By Harvey J. Cormier
18. James and the Kantian tradition
By Thomas Carlson


edited by Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M Berkeley

introduction by John J. McDermott

University Press of Virginia

$39.95, cloth, 570 pages, biographical register, index


Restlessness emotional, intellectual, artistic, and spiritual—is the unifying trait of the long-awaited WILLIAM AND HENRY JAMES SELECTED LETTERS. Expertly culled from the multivolume the Correspondence of William James by Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley, these letters between the Harvard philosopher and his novelist brother offer a moveable feast of personal, social, and cultural insights on the Euro-American world of 1861 to 1910 written in the intimate, often acrimonious tone of a family quarrel.

Time and again, these letters deal with the everyday subjects of health, money, work, family, death. "Why then," asks John J. McDermott in his Introduction, "do we witness such a widespread fascination with this correspondence? Quite simply, it is the prose, the turn of a phrase, the power of description, and the indefatigable literary elegance that clothes even the most mundane of feelings, occurrences, events."

And while the descriptions of their favorite European destinations, people and landscapes, are vivid and surprising, these brothers each chose an intellectual life marked by serious work. The backbone of Henry’s letters is the craft of writing, his absorption in plots, scenes, and characters; the focus for William is on human behavior. Sibling rivalry, not to mention misunderstanding, runs through their critiques of each other. William writes of the Golden Bowl: "But why won’t you, just to please Brother, sit down and write a new book, with no twilight or mustiness in the plot, with great vigor and decisiveness in the action, no fencing in the dialogue, no psychological commentaries, and absolute straightness in the style?" Henry responds: "I mean to try to produce some uncanny form of thing, in fiction, that will gratify you, as Brother—but let me say, dear William, that I shall greatly be humiliated if you do like it, & thereby lump it, in your affection, with things, of the current age, that I have heard you express admiration for..."

As for William’s work, Henry admits: "I have attacked your two Mind articles, with admiration, but been defeated." Such candor from two brilliant, talented men who just happened to be brothers is the rare and satisfying reward of this volume.

Ignas K. Skrupskelis is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina; a lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania. Elizabeth M. Berkeley was Editorial Coordinator of The Works of William James. Together they edit the volumes of the Correspondence of William James. John J. McDermott, General Editor of the Correspondence of William James , is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Texas A&M.


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