A Pluralistic Universe

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1977 - Philosophy - 488 pages

In May 1908 William James, a gifted and popular lecturer, delivered a series of eight Hibbert lectures at Manchester College, Oxford, on "The Present Situation in Philosophy." These were published a year later as A Pluralistic Universe.

During the preceding decade James, as he struggled with deep conflicts within his own philosophic development, had become increasingly preoccupied with epistemological and metaphysical issues. He saw serious inadequacies in the forms of absolute and monistic idealism dominant in England and the United States, and he used the lectures to attack the specific form that "vicious intellectualism" had taken.

In A Pluralistic Universe James captures a new philosophic vision, at once intimate and realistic. He shares with his readers a view of the universe that is fresh, active, and novel. The message conveyed is as relevant today as it was in his time.

Supervised by a team of scholars, each a specialist in his field, The Works of William James fills the long-standing need for an authoritative, standard edition of the philosopher's works. The General Editor and supervisor of the project is Frederick Burkhardt. Mr. Burkhardt, formerly a professor of philosophy and then a college president, is President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies. The Textual Editor, Fredson Bowers, Linden Kent Professor of English at the University of Virginia, is in charge of the establishment of the text and its production according to standards of the Center for Editions of American Authors. Gold Medalist of the Bibliographical Society, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Corresponding Fellow of The British Academy, Mr. Bowers is the author of two books on the theory and practice of textual criticism and editor of several multivolume critical editions. Ignas K. Skrupskelis, the Associate Editor, contributes the substantive notes. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and has conducted extensive research in the James collection.


What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Jewsbury - LibraryThing

Williams James gave these lectures when aged around 66, just two years before he died. They are a remarkably franked and earnest account of what he believed and how he saw philosophical enquiry. The ... Read full review


Lecture II
Hegel and His Method
Lecture V
is held in common by naturalistic psychology by transcendental idealism and
Lecture VII
On the Notion of Reality as Changing
A Note on the Editorial Method
The Text of A Pluralistic Universe
The Editorial Problem
Jamess Reply to W P Montague
Key to the Pagination of Editions

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1977)

William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. He has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world. He died due to heart failure on August 26, 1910.

Fredson Bowers is Linden Kent Professor of English, Emeritus, at the University of Virginia.

Ignas K. Skrupskelis is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and a lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Frederick Burkhardt, formerly a professor of philosophy and then a college president, is President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies.

Bibliographic information