William James

If my main goal was to understand James’s position on religion (Varieties of Religious Experience) but I also wanted some context for his thought as a whole, and if I probably only had time to read one other book of James in the relevant timeframe, what book would you recommend?

UPDATE: Oh, Dewey also, mutatis mutandis.

6 thoughts on “William James

  1. It’d probably have to be A Pluralistic Universe, wouldn’t it? I mean, you could also isolate some chapters from Pragmatism or some of his late articles on Spencer and teleology (in Mind, if I’m remembering right).

  2. James’ views on religion are probably best explained in Varieties of Religious Experience, though there is some stuff here that might be of help, which includes both primary and secondary source materials, http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/james.html#truth. The Will to Believe and Talks to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals might be worth looking into also.

    For getting some context for James’ thought as a whole, Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club is excellent. I haven’t read Robert Richardson’s bio on James (William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism), but knowing the quality of his bios of Emerson and Thoreau, it might be worth checking out.

    Don’t know much about Dewey, though.

  3. I’m inclined to think that Essays in Radical Empiricism is the best overview of James’ thought in general; he says little or nothing there about religion, but it will certainly give you a good contextual sense of his thought as a whole.

  4. James: _Essays in Radical Empiricism_ is probably the best overview, but in a pinch, go with the slim Pragmatism volume.

    Dewey: For religion, _A Common Faith._ Short and to the point. (But you probably know that already.) For Dewey writ large, either _The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy_ or, preferably, _Experience and Nature._

    There’s also an anthology put out by the U of Illinois Press, edited by Capps and Capps, that has selections from James and Dewey and is focused on issues of pragmatism and faith. Might be just what you’re looking for.

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