The ethics of William James

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Publication Type thesis
School or College College of Humanities
Department Philosophy
Author Madsen, Truman Grant
Title The ethics of William James
Date 1951
Description "Any author is easy", William James once remarked, if you can catch, the center of his vision." (WJMT 12) And elsewhere, "All philosophers, accordingly, have conceived of the whole world after the analogy of some particular feature of it which has particularly captivated their attention." (1U 8) It happens that James's utterances on etnics were occasional. Their scattered condition is misleading, for it would seem to indicate that James's attention was never thoroughly captivated by ethical theory and that the center of his vision must be sought elsewhere. Actually, however, there is much evidence that the core of James's philosophy is his ethics and that n there is an undeniable moral accent in the life as well as in the thought of James." (TC II 250) There are perhaps two ways, therefore, of approaching the ethics of William James. One is the totality-seeking approach. This means studying the Ideas of the man in their order, attempting to keep in touch with their personal and philosophical context, to superimpose as few categories as possible, to let him say himself out; to catch In short the center of his vision. The otner is the fragment-fit ting approach. This means beginning with the pre-supposed categories in which James is assumed to belong, to define his relations to other ethical philosophers, and to dispose of him as a variant of one of these. Thus his diaries and letters, his notebooks and classroom asides, his essays and books are taken as the stuff of a larger pattern toward which the student works. To this latter method, I tnink, James himself would vehemently object. Relating passages of a man's work into logical series may result in an admirable structure. But it will miss the man. The fact that James was a thinker of growth and change, that he was suspicious of neat conclusions, that he vigorously opposed system-building, make him particularly susceptible to divergent interpretations. His writings, like the Bible, can yield to the hasty insolationist, a passage or two in support of most anything. Nevertheless, with an emphasis on the former, I have combined both methods in this examination of James's ethics.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Ethics; William James philosophy; Literature
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Dissertation Name Master of Science
Language eng
Rights Management Copyright © Truman Grant Madsen 1951
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 4,260,039 Bytes
Identifier etd3/id/3155
ARK ark:/87278/s65m9dxr
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2014-10-14
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 196722
Reference URL
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