The Philosophy of William James: Radical Empiricism and Radical Materialism

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9781442223042: The Philosophy of William James: Radical Empiricism and Radical Materialism
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The focus in this book is on the philosophy of William James as it relates to his conceptions of “pure” and ordinary experience, the respective natures of self and world, the interrelations of experience, self, and world, the awareness of a common world by two or more selves, and the extent to which and means by which those selves can gain access to one another’s personal consciousness. The book provides explications and critical interpretations of these themes in James’s philosophy and, when appropriate, makes substantive suggestions for their clarification and improvement. It defends the thesis that these themes offer a promising basis for building a credible philosophy of mind and its relations to the world, including its relations to other minds in the world. It considers at length two recent objections to empiricism as an epistemological program and defends empiricism in general and James’s brand of empiricism in particular (what he called radical empiricism) against these objections. Finally, it argues the need for and sketches some outlines for a greatly expanded, enriched, and multi-dimensional radical materialism and shows why and how the development of such a materialistic metaphysics can be integrated with James’s philosophy of radical empiricism.

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About the Author:

Donald A. Crosby is professor emeritus of philosophy at Colorado State University. He is a leader in the Religious Naturalism movement.

Review:

This explanation and defense of James's Essays in Radical Empiricism focuses on his concepts of "pure" experience, the self and its relations to the world, and his materialistic metaphysics. Crosby (emer., Colorado State Univ.), author of several other books, sympathetically discusses James's empiricism and philosophy of mind clearly and without intrusive opinions. James is known as the American pioneer in psychology, and for his religious and pragmatic philosophies. Toward the end of his career, he developed a "radical empiricism" (which critics say is ambiguous and unrigorous) that complements his famous The Principles of Psychology. Crosby connects James's ideas to those of numerous philosophers of the past, such as Richard Rorty, and the present; however, some of these names are omitted from the selective index. This book will help graduate students with their papers; undergraduates typically do not study this aspect of James's thought. This reviewer finds Crosby's own view that all matter "is awesomely creative, suffused with value, and deeply spiritual" strange and baffling. Overall, Crosby's book, which incorporates current research, is more specialized than John Wild's The Radical Empiricism of William James (CH, Dec'69). Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and philosophy faculty.
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Overall, the engagement of James’s thought in the book bears the marks of the many years that Crosby has spent studying James. The series of relatively brief chapters succeeds in making James’s often difficult positions surprisingly accessible without caricaturing them. There is much to be said as well for the broad materialism proposed in the final chapter, which draws upon the fullness of pure experience as depicted by James. (Review of Metaphysics)

Crosby writes in a style that makes difficult questions and arguments remarkably accessible. I have always found his books to be well organized and enjoyable to read, and The Philosophy of William James is no exception. (Donald Dryden, Department of Philosophy, Duke University)

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