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Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited (Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0674012530 ISBN-10: 0674012534

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Product Details

  • Series: Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (December 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674012534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674012530
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,117,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the early 20th century, Harvard sociologist William James delivered a series of lectures in Edinburgh that were eventually put together in book form as The Varieties of Religious Experience, still in print today. A century later, philosophy professor Charles Taylor spoke for the same lecture series, revisiting James's work for a postmodern audience. His Varieties of Religion Today is a provocative, witty and worthy conversation with James's timeless work.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In these lectures, delivered at the Institute for the Human Sciences in Vienna, Taylor (philosophy, McGill Univ.; Sources of the Self) reconsiders William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), a seminal text in American religious studies, examining whether the points James made are relevant today. While recognizing James's extraordinary insight into the spiritual needs of the modern world, Taylor makes one major criticism: that James rejected the legitimacy of communal religious experience, i.e., the experience of Church, and concentrated on individual religious experience as paradigmatic. But even as he takes issue with the narrowness of James's focus, Taylor finds much of interest in his subject and uses James's works as a springboard for his own discussions of the current state of religion in America, which he sees as struggling with the same debate about religious faith and doubt. In doing so, Taylor offers a well-written, easily accessible overview of today's individualistic religious tendencies. Recommended for larger public collections and those with strong holdings in theology. Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Sammy Jo on June 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of a series of lectures Charles Taylor gave reflecting on the legacy of William James. In thinking about James' work, Taylor reflects on the tensions between private religous experience and public religious expression; the problem of belief and unbelief; and the implications our religious beliefs have for our political organization. It is almost impossible to do justice to the richness of Taylor's thought in a short review.
Taylor's first task is to situate James within his own religious context. James inherited the strand of religious belief that was quintessentially Protestant -- with an emphasis on private feeling as against public expression. For James, the ultimate religious experience is private and fundamentally individual. This precludes James from fully grasping the types of religious expression that are more communally-based.
Taylor's second task is to reflect on James personal struggle with the question of belief and unbelief. In James' day a strong argument was being made that religious belief is intellectually dishonest. Taylor offers a good summary of James' defense of belief as a viable choice.
Finally, Taylor integrates James' thought with the question of how our religious belief interacts with our political structures. Taylor offers an invaluable historical narrative of the variety of relationships between religion and state that we have seen in the past. In doing so, he makes our current dilemmas much clearer. We are moving from a country that has a broad consensus in some sort of belief, but which allows individuals to join whatever church best gives expression to that experience, to a country in which there is no such broad consensus.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a fascinating, thought-provoking meditation on religious issues related to William James' classic work. Taylor's take on religious developments in Western Europe/North America is fascinating and enlightening in several senses of the word. And while truly respectful of William James and his insights, Taylor is no cheerleader and convincingly discusses a number of James' key blind spots along with their probable sources. The book's brevity and readability belies the punch it packs.
The one glaring imperfection is the pedantic and pretentious refusal to translate French quotations, some of which seem like they're probably quite important. Too bad, I'll never know for sure.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. True on March 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Charles Taylor's "Varieties of Religion Today," is a superb reflection on the importance of William James' commentary on religion a century ago. In a precise, brief, and resonant book, Taylor conveys a vivid sense of James' insights, yet provides a valuable critique of his "Varieties of Religious Experience" and "Will to Believe," for the contemporary reader. In addition to being a incisive essay in its own right, "Varieties of Religion Today"
is a useful introduction to several of Taylor's other books and principal concerns as a philosopher, including on the ethics of belief. I have already read the book three times, and look forward to returning to it, as each reading reveals another level of understanding and insight into the state of religion and secularism in the U.S. particulary and other Western nations. A virtue of the book for this reader, who isn't a philosopher, is the clarity of language and lack of professional jargon.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful By whemmer on May 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
For style and clarity, Taylor is no match for William James. I would advise anyone who hasn't read James yet to get a copy from their local library. Update? Hardly. James is the deeper thinker and a far better writer.
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