Chapter

James’s Critique of Absolute Idealism in <i>A Pluralistic Universe</i>

Michael R. Slater

in William James and the Transatlantic Conversation

Published in print January 2014 | ISBN: 9780199687510
Published online April 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191767173 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687510.003.0010
James’s Critique of Absolute Idealism in A Pluralistic Universe

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This chapter examines James’s objections to monistic idealism in A Pluralistic Universe, and situates the larger philosophical issues at stake within their late nineteenth-century to early twentieth-century transatlantic context. It shows that James objected to this view (or more accurately, family of views) on metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and religious grounds, and argues that his specific philosophical disagreements with monistic idealists on both sides of the Atlantic such as F. H. Bradley and Josiah Royce also reflect an underlying difference in their respective philosophical attitudes or “temperaments”. Finally, the chapter argues that James’s disputes with the British and Continental idealists, and with his fellow American Royce, should not lead us to overlook important similarities between their views. The most easily overlooked and perhaps surprising of these, the chapter shows, is their common commitment to idealism, since James’s own radical empiricism effectively entails a pluralistic version of this venerable philosophical view.

Keywords: pluralism; radical empiricism; monism; absolute idealism; British idealism; intellectualism; transatlanticism

Chapter.  7607 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion ; Religious Studies

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