William James's Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy

By Charlene Haddock Seigfried

Subjects: Philosophy
Hardcover : 9780791404010, 433 pages, October 1990
Paperback : 9780791404027, 433 pages, October 1990

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Table of contents


Abbreviations of The Works of William James


1. The Center of James's Vision
2. Between Misinterpretation and Over-literalness
3. Framing the Larger Project
4. Critique and Reconstruction


One. Beginnings

1. Between Trail-blazing and Perfectly Ideal Discourse
2. Reducing the Reductive or Overcoming Nihilism
3. Theoretic Rationality
4. Practical Rationality
5. On Mind Corresponding to Reality
6. Discerning the Initial Direction of the Trail

Two. Founding Level of Meaning: Towards an Experiential Grounding of Both Science and Metaphysics

1. Cracks in the Positivist Model of Science
2. Clash of Philosophical Goals: Ultimate Comprehension and Ecstatic Union
3. Overcoming the Split between Science and Metaphysics
4. Concrete Beginnings: The Fundamental Facts of Knowing-Things-Together, Intentionality, Context, and Temporality


Three. Concrete Experience and Selective Interest

1. A Concrete Methodology
2. Selective Interest as a Concrete Structure of Experience
3. Selective Interest as Organizing Principle of The Principles of Psychology
4. Selective Interest Developed in Other Texts
5. Radical Finitude

Four. Concrete Acts of Thinking

1. Contemplative and Rational Thinking in "Brute and Human Intellect"
2. Extracting the Right Character from the Whole Phenomenon
3. Critique and Reconstruction of Reasoning in Principles
4. How Facts Come to Be in "The Importance of Individuals"
5. Conclusion

Five. Practical and Aesthetic Interests

1. Postulates Given in Our Nature
2. The Practical as Coordinate with the Aesthetic
3. The Practical as Primordial
4. The Aesthetic
5. Both Irreducibly Ultimate

Six. Natural History Methodology and Artistic Vision

1. Natural History Methodology Transformed
2. Natural History Findings and Metaphysical Speculation
3. Re-defining Definitions
4. Re-describing Description
5. Observation: "The Primal State of Theoretic and Practical Innocence"
6. Bare Facts in a 'Real' World versus Interpreted Facts of Experienced Phenomena
7. Creativity
8. Artistic Vision: "Mystic Sense of Hidden Meaning"


Seven. Interpretive Theory and Praxis

1. Hermeneutic Structures
2. A Radically Empiricist Concrete Hermeneutics
3. Concrete Presuppositions of Hermeneutical Strategy
4. A Radically Empiricist Hermeneutics of Textual Texts
5. Metaphysical Unification and Hermeneutical Pluralism
6. Interpretive Structure of The Varieties of Religious Experience

Eight. Analogy and Metaphor

1. The Genial Play of Association by Similarity
2. Philosophy: Making Conventionalities Fluid Again
3. Rationalism and Empiricism
4. Metaphorical Terminology
5. The Sculptor's Chisel

Nine. The Scope of Pragmatism

1. A Method Merely or a Philosophy of Experience?
2. Using the Pragmatic Method to Reconstruct Philosophy
3. Pragmatic Critique of Reductionist Empiricism and Intellectualist Rationalism
4. A Doubled Interpretive Space


Ten. "Knowing as it Exists Concretely"

1. A Concrete Analysis of the Cognitive Function of Lived Experience
2. Intentionality in "On the Function of Cognition"
3. The Horizon of Knowing in "On Some Omissions of Introspective Psychology"
4. "A Context Which the World Supplies"
5. Phenomenalist Idealism and Trans-subjective Realism

Eleven. Truth

1. Cognitive Truth and Pragmatic Truth
2. Criticizing Truth as Correspondence
3. Truth as Satisfactory Working or Leading
4. The Practical Character of Our Beliefs
5. The Concrete Point of View
6. Truth as Value for Life
7. Objective Truth


Twelve. Why Metaphysics?

1. Concrete Analysis of Lived Experience
2. Is Radical Empiricism a Metaphysics?
3. Incomplete Transformation of the Realist/Metaphysical Perspective into the Concrete/Hermeneutic

Thirteen. Unexamined Empiricist Assumptions

1. The Tangle of Science and Metaphysics
2. Inability to Formalize Structures of Explanation
3. Reconstructing the Reconstruction
4. Reconstructing Subjectivity and Objectivity
5. James's Inability to Produce a Systematic Philosophy
6. Beyond Metaphysics

Fourteen. Radical Empiricism as Concrete Alternative to Realism

1. Dismantling Metaphysics
2. Pure Experience as Concrete Analysis
3. A Reconstruction of Realism and Truth from the Perspective of the Full Fact / Full Self

Fifteen. Critique and Reconstruction of Rationalism

1. Critique of Rationalism
2. James's Genealogy of Rationality
3. Rationality "Taken in its Fullest Sense"
4. Inconclusive Conclusions


The End of Philosophy and the Beginning



Charlene Haddock Seigfried is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University. She has also written Chaos and Context: A Study in William James.


"This is the most intelligent and authoritative study of James's works I know. Seigfried's treatment is complete, objective, subtle. Anyone seriously interested in James studies will have to reckon with Seigfried's assessment. " — Nancy Frankenberry

"I like the way Seigfried combines a comprehensive scope with a detailed and nuanced understanding of specific texts and particular positions. Also I like the way she shows how James's reconstruction of philosophy makes his project directly relevant to the deepest concerns of contemporary life and the focal questions of contemporary philosophy. I think she has written a very interesting work which is full of unexpected and surprising turns and interpretations. " — Vincent Colapietro

"I find the book to shed new light on the source of the ambiguities and inconsistencies in James's writings, setting into relief his continual and fruitless struggle for consistency. In the process, it also clarifies recurrent themes and persistent tendencies in James's work and illumines the relations between its different parts: his psychology, his pragmatism, and his philosophy of 'pure experience. ' I also like the way the author tries to utilize what she shows to be James's own method in interpreting him.

"In addition to providing information about some of James's unpublished writings, for me the book provided new insights into the implications of specific texts and also into the continuity, from one period and one topic to another, of James's preoccupations and methodological strategies. Reading it, I felt I was 'getting inside' James's writings in a way I never had before. She teases out dominant motifs and shows their implications for his own position in ways he was incapable of doing. Without claiming to have the last word (which would be unJamesian), she is very persuasive. " — Beth J. Singer