William James on the Beeb

This was an excellent In Our Time … a discussion on William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience”. Elevating James to the position of the only philosopher that Wittgenstein looked up to.

Telling I feel, how Melvyn struggles when asking the god question, questions within questions, in this religious context.

Loved the caricature at the end in discussing Wittgenstein’s love of James, of seeing the 20th century struggle between the dominance of logic (Russell) winning out over something more than logic (James), yet being signs of a revival of the latter. And earlier the idea of scientists being in the grip of scientistic dogma.

I often wonder if Russell ever got Wittgenstein, but I digress. Time for James and the US pragmatists.

Dave Buchanan over on MoQ-Discuss:

I’m gonna listen to it again. Damn! I thought I was an enthusiast but the guests really have me pumped up now. Did I hear that right? The greatest American philosopher ever? Is that what he said?

I’d like the future of philosophy to revolve around one crucial question for the next few centuries: Who was the greatest, Pirsig or James?

James said something like, “the most important thing about a philosopher is his vision”. He was talking about one’s whole way of seeing, of taking life rather than positions on this or that particular thing. In that sense, I think Pirsig and James offer the same vision.

Something more than logic. James knew his way of doing things would mean of loss of rigor and exactitude, and that’s not the price we pay for what he wanted so much as part of what he wanted. He and Pirsig both think rationality is hollow and brittle without some soul in it, some feeling. Not pasted on but in the roots of our conceptions. Pirsig is making his case against the backdrop of a technological society but James was living in the age of Darwin and positivism. They both began in the sciences and then turned to philosophy.

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