By Joan Richardson
Joan Richardson presents a desirable and compelling account of the emergence of the integral American philosophy: pragmatism. She demonstrates pragmatism's engagement with numerous branches of the typical sciences and strains the advance of Jamesian pragmatism from the overdue 19th century via modernism, following its pointings into the current. Richardson combines strands from America's non secular adventure with medical info to supply interpretations that holiday new floor in literary and cultural historical past. This booklet exemplifies the worth of interdisciplinary methods to generating literary feedback. In a chain of hugely unique readings of Edwards, Emerson, William and Henry James, Stevens, and Stein, A ordinary heritage of Pragmatism tracks the interaction of spiritual rationale, medical hypothesis, and literature in shaping an American aesthetic. Wide-ranging and impressive, this groundbreaking booklet can be crucial analyzing for all scholars and students of yankee literature.
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Extra resources for A Natural History of Pragmatism
An abridgment of it, called “The Spatial Quale,” which appeared in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, vol. XIII, p. 54 While in our post-post-modern moment we have become comfortable deploying random access modes in our habits of mind, James’s offering Introduction: frontier instances 17 to an 1890 audience remains a stunningly prescient achievement, marking him as one of the priests of the invisible following in the line of Edwards and Emerson. The chapter on William James will detail his inclusions among the “mass of descriptive details” what he learned about the method of nature and its intrinsic relation to the processes of thinking not only from Emerson and Darwin but also, here following Emerson’s interest, from Emanuel Swedenborg, especially in his imaginative projection of crystallography into his angelology; from Hermann von Helmholtz in his extension of Faraday’s electrical contribution into the physiology of human perception, most particularly focusing, for James, on the dual properties of light as particles and waves (from which his expressed intention in Principles, “the reinstatement of the vague to its proper place in intellectual life”55 in considering perception, cannot be separated, playing, as he did, on the French vague for “wave”); from the investigations, as well, of others of his generation, Chauncey Wright, for instance.
Following Emerson, William James offers the next “frontier instance” in the evolution of Pragmatism. It is, of course, impossible to discuss James and Pragmatism without taking into account the work of Peirce, and, indeed, Peirce’s contributions inform the chapter on James. Peirce has not been chosen as a “frontier instance,” however, because, while he certainly did describe throughout his writing the effects of Darwin’s theory on the process of thinking, on the refashioning of logic, on perceptual categories, his concern was not that his texts themselves serve as the corrective lenses through which this new universe of chance could be perceived.
One of Henry James’s particular turns on the scientific information to which he, no less than his brother, was privileged involves the registration of visual data and the ways in which this registration affects other sensorial/perceptual categories. Investigations of light and optics, of course, had advanced greatly during the nineteenth century; these investigations compelled the attention of both James brothers. Repeatedly noted in Henry’s accounts of the observational acuity he developed in early childhood, as recorded in his Autobiography as well as in letters and journals, is his sensitivity to and curiosity about the manners in which images impressed in watching translate into verbal representations, and, most importantly, how these images, through time, transform with the accretion of additional associative information.