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Soul of Classical American Philosophy, The

The Ethical and Spiritual Insights of William James, Josiah Royce, and Charles Sanders Peirce

Richard P. Mullin

Publication Year: 2007

The Soul of Classical American Philosophy is an introduction to the thought of William James, Josiah Royce, and Charles Sanders Peirce, particularly in terms of the ethical and the spiritual. Writing for the nonspecialist in a straightforward style, Richard P. Mullin brings together the central ideas of these three key figures of classical American Pragmatism and explores their engagement with issues of truth, the meaning of self, free will, moral values, community, scientific thinking, and the relationship with the transcendent. He also addresses the growing international interest in American philosophy and sheds light on a defining movement in its history.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xv

In describing the soul of American Philosophy, this work presents three key figures who created magnificent philosophical works in the last part of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries, the era of classical American Pragmatism. It features William James (1842-1910), Josiah Royce (1855-1916), and Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)...


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pp. xvii-xviii

Part I. William James

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Chapter 1. Meaning and Truth

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pp. 3-9

William James described pragmatism as a method of approaching meaning and truth that would overcome the split between scientific and religious thinking. Scientific and religious thought had developed in isolation from each other and each resides in a particular temperament. James called the scientific approach...

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Chapter 2. Body and Mind

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pp. 11-20

To sort out what we can learn from James about the important issues of human life such as whether we have free will, whether we can join with others in real community, whether we can hope for life after death, and whether we can believe in God, we need as clear a view as possible on the meaning that James attributed to the mind and its...

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Chapter 3. Free Will

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pp. 21-29

The most important practical issue that flows from the view of mind and body relationship is that of free will. If we are physiologically determined so that the mind is a mere epiphenomenon—the mind is a product of brain activity but has no control over it—then free will is an illusion. Chapter 2 showed that James rejected the materialist view...

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Chapter 4. William James and Moral Philosophy

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pp. 31-40

Although James addressed the moral issues of his time such as war, imperialism, and racism, he did not write extensively on ethical theory. He devoted only one work to that subject, the essay, "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life." In this essay he did not intend to show how the average person should think about moral issues, but...

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Chapter 5. Rationality and Religious Faith

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pp. 41-53

The question of religious faith permeates much of James's writing. He saw the possibility of living a meaningful life threatened on two sides, materialism and absolutism. Materialism presented the world as a dead and meaningless machine in which nothing that we cared about mattered. In the late nineteenth century, among English...

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Chapter 6. Human Nature and the Life of the Spirit

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pp. 55-63

While the previous chapter dealt with James's understanding of religious belief, the current chapter explores the practical meaning of religious belief that can be derived from his writings. The development of the inner life is generally called "spirituality" although this should not be confused with...

Part II. Josiah Royce

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Chapter 7. The Idealism of Josiah Royce

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pp. 67-79

The juxtaposition of Josiah Royce with William James makes one of the most fascinating comparisons and contrasts in philosophy. On the personal level they enjoyed the best of friendship, and philosophically they opposed each other on some very key issues. While James insisted on the incompatibility of the idea of "The Absolute" with...

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Chapter 8. Josiah Royce's Concept of the Self

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pp. 81-87

When we inquire about the meaning of the self, we ask not only about the self that can be known, but also more importantly about the knower. Who am I? Who is the knower? Who is the being trying to understand these ideas? Certainly, I can look at myself objectively just as I can look at another person objectively. I can see...

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Chapter 9. Josiah Royce's Philosophy of Loyalty as the Basis for Ethics

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pp. 89-101

In his 1907 book, The Philosophy of Loyalty,1 Josiah Royce took on the task of establishing the basis for the whole of morality. He considered this the crucial need of his time since neither religion nor science has any worth without a genuine standard by which to measure their worth. Royce proposed loyalty as the ultimate standard. He stated his thesis in the...

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Chapter 10. The Religious Insights of Josiah Royce

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pp. 103-115

In the context of the present work, Royce's ideas on religion can best be explained by comparing them to William James. Royce discerned connections, which William James missed, between ordinary consciousness and the highest levels of religious experience. In his Varieties of Religious Experience, James portrayed religion as a dynamogenic force but one that...

Part III. Charles Sanders Peirce

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Chapter 11. Peirce and the Origin of Pragmatism

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pp. 119-126

Novelist Walker Percy said of Charles Sanders Peirce, "Most people have never heard of him, but they will."1 Peirce secured a position as one of the landmark philosophers in the history of philosophy even though he could not secure a permanent position as a university professor. Today, he is known worldwide and studied for his contributions...

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Chapter 12. Charles Sanders Peirce on the Human Person

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pp. 127-132

Charles Sanders Peirce asserted that the individual self, apart from other selves is an illusion. The notion that the separate self is an illusion runs contrary to the individualism that has governed modern Western thought from before the time of John Locke to the present. Political democracy and the system of capitalism and private...

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Chapter 13. Ethics and the Purpose of Human Life

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pp. 133-148

Peirce maintained that while philosophical ethics can be a legitimate pursuit, it cannot and should not try to deal with issues of vital importance. He made a clear distinction between practical and theoretical ethics. Practical ethics should not deal with questions such as why we should be beneficent, honest, truthful, loyal. Theoretical ethics...

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pp. 149-152

The study of James, Royce, and Peirce shows, perhaps more clearly than most philosophical studies, that genuine philosophy does not play with abstractions in an idle or dilettantish way. Rather, philosophy constitutes a way of life. As Socrates had shown at the beginning of the philosophical tradition, philosophy is not wisdom but a way to...


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pp. 153-159


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pp. 161-163


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pp. 165-169

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480014
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791471098
Print-ISBN-10: 0791471098

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Philosophy, American -- 20th century.
  • James, William, 1842-1910.
  • Royce, Josiah, 1855-1916.
  • Peirce, Charles S. -- (Charles Sanders), -- 1839-1914
  • Philosophy, American -- 19th century.
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