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Ja c k L o n d o n ’s “S o u t h o f t h e S l o t ” a n d Willia m Ja m e s ’s “T h e D iv id e d S e l f a n d t h e P r o c e s s o f It s U n if ic a t io n ” P a t r i c k K. D o o l e y “I am a hopeless materialist.” —Jack London to Ralph Kasper, letter, June 25, 1914 W hen Jack London developed his materialistic philosophy, his phi­ losophy of psychology, his position on the nature of consciousness, the role of habit, and the relative impact of inherited and acquired traits, his mentor was William James, the popular proponent of the distinctively American philosophy of pragmatism. London’s celebrated short story “South of the Slot” exhibits pervasive Jamesian influences. Additionally, as we shall see, there are ample links between London, pragmatism, and James, especially noteworthy being London’s contact with David Stan Jordan, a staunch pragmatist. On September 7, 1915, just fourteen months before his untimely death, Jack London wrote to John M. Wright that in his new Pantheon he was “inscribing names such as David Stan Jordan, as Herbert Spencer, as Huxley, as Darwin” (Letters 1498). The common denominators among these thinkers are that they are materialists and evolutionists. The first thinker, David Stan Jordan, though not readily recognized today, was a well-known and influential American intellectual at the end of the twentieth century. He was a mainstay in Jack London’s selfdirected education. In his July 29, 1899, letter to Cloudesley Johns, London notes, “I am glad you took Jordan in the right way. He is, to a certain extent, a hero of mine. He is so clean, and broad, and whole­ some” (Letters 99). Jordan (1851-1931) was a biologist educated at Cornell who became a zoology professor at Butler University and then entered the Indiana University’s School of Medicine. He became president of Indiana University at age thirty-four and thereafter the first president and later chancellor of Stanford University. He was a national and international leader of the Peace Society prior to World War I. Am ong his other notable duties, he was called as an expert witness on the theory of evolution at the 1925 Scopes trial in Tennessee. W e s te r n A m e ric a n L i t e r a t u r e 41.1 (S p rin g 2 0 0 6 ) : 5 0 - 6 4 . P a t r ic k K. D o o l e y John Langley Howard. THE ANCHOR BLOCK. 1938. Oil on canvas. 40 Vi" x 42 Vi". Courtesy of the Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles. The editors of London’s letters note that London “met Jordan in 1892, when he took Jordan’s university extension course in Oakland on evolution” (Letters 74). Jordan clearly made a lasting impression on this sixteen-year-old Bay Area student. Years later, a number of London’s let­ ters mention hearing Jordan lecture, for instance, at the Oakland Section of the Socialist Party and at the Ruskin Club of Oakland. Moreover, there is little doubt that London paid close attention to Jordan’s books and essays, especially his two-part article “The Stability of Truth” that appeared in the 1897 March and April issues of Popular Science Monthly. Jordan’s article reprinted his president’s address to the California Science Association meeting in Oakland in December 1895. Early on in his address Jordan gives a textbook account of the pragmatic theories of meaning and truth— that the meaning of ideas must be stated in terms of patterns of conduct and the truth of ideas is ultimately discovered by W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 6 way of experiential (that is, scientific) procedures. He then states, “The final test of scientific truth is this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 50-64
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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