- Series: Religion in America
- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 14, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195074262
- ISBN-13: 978-0195074260
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,248,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Submitting to Freedom: The Religious Vision of William James (Religion in America) 1st Edition
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"Ramsey has given us a book that deserves the attention of anyone interested in William James, which should include anyone interested in American religious or intellectual history."--American Historical Review
From the Back Cover
This intellectual history presents a fresh analysis and innovative interpretation of the religious views of the nineteenth-century American philosopher William James. Ramsey argues that James was primarily motivated by religious concerns in his writings, although this fact has been obscured by the artificial scholarly division of his "philosophy", "psychology", and "religion" - a symptom of the professionalization which James himself strenuously resisted in his own time. Ramsey believes that James is best understood when considered within his historical context: a representative of a society and culture struggling to come to terms with modernity. Much of James's religious work is a direct reflection of what has been called "the spiritual crisis of the Gilded Age", a crisis which Ramsey examines in illuminating detail. James's religious vision, in Ramsey's view, hinges on the recognition and acceptance of "contingency" - the knowledge that we are at the mercy of change and chance. With so little else to rely on, James believed, people must learn to submit freely and responsibly into one another's care. Ramsey reintroduces James's thought into contemporary discussion, proposing the kind of religious alternative that James was pointing to in his work: not worship, but acquiescence in a world of mutual relations; not obedience to authority, but conversion to the freedom of responsibility. Offering a new understanding of James's work in the context of late nineteenth-century American culture, this work will interest scholars and students of religion, philosophy, the history of psychology, and American studies.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ramsey weaves a well thought out and defended narrative beginning in the post-Civil War era and the cultural crisis that swept across the U.S., arguing that the heroism and romanticism of the late 19th and early 20th century, personified eventually in men such as Teddy Roosevelt and the many social movements to come (prohibition for example), were less a result of an organic transition in the culture, but rather occurred at the end of cultural collapse.
William James is for Ramsey a titular character in the midst of the social upheaval in thought of this era, as James was both an integral character of intellectualism (largely considered to be the father of Psychology), as well as a major thinker of the time who was observing the cultural crisis. At the heart of Ramsey's thesis is the idea that James believed a recognition of a metaphysical reality was necessary as both a stabilizing force against the cultural crisis, and served as a basic explanation for the world and experiences of humanity.
Ramsey's approach to the modern existential crisis is an important work that should be added to academic dialogues, dialogues which have for too long often been dominated by a strictly relativistic and supra-positivistic framework. For classicists and readers of 20th century political scientists such as Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss and Sheldon Wolin (authors who I enjoy), Ramsey's book provides a different (not albeit entirely contradictory) perspective on how to understand and interpret the late 19th and early 20th century philosophies which shaped the next 100 years to come.
Whether your interests are psychology, theology, philosophy, or history, Ramsey's book covers each of these disciplines in a thoughtful and engaging manner that the reader constantly feels as though they are having a conversation with the author rather than being lectured at, just as all the good books accomplish.