The Dynamic Individualism of William James by James O. Pawelski

By James O. Pawelski

Explores James's notion of the person when it comes to body structure, psychology, philosophy, and faith

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He devotes much energy to trying to keep his fellow scientists from dictating to individuals what they should believe in contexts in which, James holds, science has no legitimate authority. 12 The Dynamic Individualism of William James James does not, of course, dispute the great range of legitimate authority science does have. As a scientist himself, he has a great appreciation for the painstaking work of thousands of persons over the hundreds of years that modern science has been in existence.

Absolute insulation, irreducible pluralism, is the law. . The breaches between . . thoughts are the most absolute breaches in nature. . ’ (PP, 221) These strong words are softened somewhat in the pages that follow. First, James admits that there may be more than one self in a consciousness. He points out that studies of the subconscious, especially those involving hypnosis, have revealed secondary and even tertiary selves lurking in the depths of some abnormal consciousnesses. But this does not make a significant exception to his thesis, since the thoughts in these consciousnesses tend to be owned by one or another of these selves.

In a democracy, James points out, the role of the people is all the more significant. Through their political and economic choices, the people select certain leaders and reject others. To do this effectively, the people must be skilled in knowing the difference between a good leader and a bad one. What better way, James asks, to develop this knowledge than through the study of biographical history conducted at college? For James, those with a college education in a democracy must play the role that the aristocracy plays in a monarchy.

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