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William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism Paperback – September 14, 2007
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Later, when its truth becomes obvious, they say: 'It's not important.'
Finally, when its importance cannot be denied, they say 'Anyway, it's not new.'"
Well, I admit to being completely fascinated with great early experimental psychologists like William James and Gustav Fechner. While modern psychology honors these thinkers, they usually neglect to look deeply into their great experimental and non-experimental ideas.
I hope that this remarkable and important book gets the attention it deserves, and I hope that my generation will discover the brilliance of William James. Richardson has brought James, his world, and his genius to life, along with the fascinating origins of modern psychological and metaphysical thought. Today, psychological science, philosophy, and the science of consciousness have come full circle, so James is as relevant today as 100 years ago.
In the preface of "William James; In the Maelstrom of American Modernism," Robert D. Richardson states that "This is an intellectual biography of William James. That is to say, it seeks to understand his life through his work, not the other way around. It is primarily narrative, aiming more to present his life than to analyze or explain it." With this humble thesis statement, Richardson understates one of the crowning achievements of his book. The book succeeds in portraying James' multifaceted, vibrant, and strong personality, thus explaining the great and passionate ideas that emanated from this source.
Toward the end of the book (p. 473; California Dreaming), Richardson discusses James' 4-part personality, referring to Barton Perry's (1935) analysis of James.Read more ›
William James was a famously late bloomer, but during that casting-about time he was hardly idle. He read very widely, was a talented artist, traveled constantly (including up the Amazon with Agassiz), became fluent in French and German, and got an MD degree among much else. His interest and training in physiology made him sensitive to the continuities between animals and human beings, and receptive to Darwin's evolutionary theory. But he also put great emphasis on the discontinuities; the example of a dog listening to a symphony was a favorite analogy to suggest the limits of our possible human understanding of the universe.
When William James died from heart failure in his late 60s, it was said that he had literally worn himself out. Santayana described James's personal vitality as "similar to nobody else.Read more ›
The author previously produced probably the definitive studies of Emerson and Thoreau. He spent a decade on this volume, and its shows. His approach is to understand James' "life through his work, not the other way around." What this means is that the book continually manifests a dual focus: WJ's life and WJ's intellectual pursuits and writings. The analysis is extremely detailed and comprehensive, the research phenomenal--and given the nearly 600 pages of text and notes, Richardson obviously was in no hurry to tell WJ's story.
However, a prospective reader should be warned that James dealt with and developed a number of complex and challenging ideas and areas. And Richardson is just as determined to analyze these topics as he is to do justice to WJ's life. Or, put differently, unless the reader is well versed in this subject matter, it can be difficult going at times. However, given the author's clarity of exposition, I found it easy to skim through these difficult passages and concentrate on the areas more familiar to me, and still reap the full benefits of Richardson's insights. So this fine book is there to provide as much detail and depth as to WJ's professional interests and writings as the reader is desirous of probing. In short, it is all there in this one book, for those who really want to get into WJ (including his interest in spiritualism).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As an ardent admirer of William James, both the philosopher/psychologist and the man, I read Richardson's book when it was first published, and have just finished a re-reading,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Montana Skyline
An extraordinary biography for an exceptional man of the 20th Century! Very well written and with an extensive bibliography that shows the genius of that man and his impact at the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by JNicolau
It took me a long time to get to this book, and it was well worth it. An education, a masterpiece. The chapters on the philosophies are exemplary, and the life story -- which like... Read morePublished 12 months ago by toronto
Excellent book that provides insight into how one of the greatest American thinkers developed his unique perspective on the way people think. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
I like the idea of "I am singing and that is why I am happy" instead of " I am happy that is why I am singing". Read morePublished 18 months ago by Lilia Shut
I was hoping for a more general philosophical bio in the sense Safransky(sp?) does with Nietzsche and Heidegger. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Taylor Gillespie
I love the way the author inter faced bio and intellectual history.Published 21 months ago by Gerald A. Weiner
I've loved his other 2 major works and after 50 pages i'm excited to say this may -dare i say- his best work. Read morePublished on June 25, 2014 by PT mullen