William James

M. Gail Hamner

in American Pragmatism

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195155471
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834266 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

 William James

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William James was an American pragmatist, and this chapter clarifies how his commitments to both scientific respectability and the psychological need for a personal universe to trap him in an epistemological pendulum swing between monism and dualism. Drawn to dualism (or functional dualism) both because of its tough‐minded empiricism and because it protects the real disjunction (and therefore sanctity) of individual will and action, James nevertheless covers it with a monistic canopy. The monism asserts the reality of spheres of consciousness with which our consciousness continually conjoins, and it functions to guarantee the personal character of the universe. The swing between dualism and monism is shown through James's psychological writings on will and consciousness, through his epistemological struggles within radical empiricism, and through his philosophical presentation of pragmatism. Through each facet of his writings, James exhibits the conviction that the mystery of the world transcends individual experience and, simultaneously, that individual experience is the best manner in which both – to probe and assist the mystery.

Keywords: action; consciousness; dualism; empiricism; individualism; William James; monism; philosophy; pragmatism; psychology; U.S.A; will

Chapter.  13283 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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