On William James

December 6, 2010by

William James, while he is not the original founder of pragmatism, remains the most important figure for popularizing the only originally American philosophical movement. His generally psychological version of pragmatism is still powerfully represented in the life and spirit of America, and makes up an important part of the puzzle that is the postmodern mind. But he did, of course, have much more to say than that the value of our ideas should be judged by their practical bearing upon our conduct.

The following talk offers a broader view of James’ work via three of todays leading American intellectuals, who highlight several reasons the contemporary world might benefit from continuing its conversation with this classic “Harvard man.”

Thanks to Learn out Loud for the tip on this one, and the following description of the talk:

Join Harvard professor & Pulitzer Prize-winner Louis Menand, Princeton professor & author Cornel West, and philiosopher & writer Sissela Bok as they discuss the life and ideas of William James. Louis Menand starts the talk by giving a 20-minute introduction to the life of William James. Sissela Bok expounds on some of his ideas from James’s essay “What Makes a Life Significant?”, and Cornel West uses his trademark oratory skills to show how William James confronted American Empire and how we can still use James’s ideas to do so today. The three then answer a wide range of questions from the audience. This talk is available on streaming video and MP3 download from the Forum Network.




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Read works by William James here