William James and "The Varieties of Religious Experience": A Centenary Celebration

William James and "The Varieties of Religious Experience": A Centenary Celebration

William James and "The Varieties of Religious Experience": A Centenary Celebration

William James and "The Varieties of Religious Experience": A Centenary Celebration

Synopsis

William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience was an intellectual landmark, paving the way for current study of psychology, philosophy and religious studies. In this new companion to the Varieties , key international experts provide contemporary responses to James's book, exploring its seminal historical importance and its modern significance. Locating the Varieties within the context of James's other works and exploring James's views on psychology, mysticism, religious experience, emotion and truth, the sixteen articles offer new analyses of the Varieties from the perspectives of postcolonial theory, history, social theory and philosophy. As the only critical work dedicated to the cross-disciplinary influence of The Varieties of Religious Experience , this book testifies to William James's genius and ongoing legacy.

Excerpt

The centenary and the varieties of interpretation

Jeremy Carrette

Professor James, of the Chair of Philosophy in Harvard University, began the first of two courses of Gifford lectures on natural theology in Edinburgh yesterday. The proceedings took place in the English class-room of the University, where a crowded audience assembled. The general subject of the course is 'The Varieties of Religious Experience'.

The Scotsman, 17May1901 (Quoted in the Harvard Edition of The Varieties of Religious Experience, Harvard University Press, 1985:540)

On 16 May 1901 William James began his Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh with 'no small amount of trepidation' and respectfully paid tribute to the richness of European scholarship and the philosophical contributions of Edinburgh in particular. He also offered hope that in the years to come more scholars from the United States of America would lecture and change places with scholars from Scottish universities. James would never have imagined that evidence of such hoped-for exchange would be seen one hundred years after the publication of his very own lectures. It would have been hard to conceive in 1902 that a century later over a hundred scholars would gather in the historic lecture room in Old College, Edinburgh University, to honour his lectures and then meet for three days in the more modern buildings of the Psychology Department, to examine his work from the contemporary perspectives of philosophy, religion and psychology. The centenary of James's The Varieties of Religious Experience (hereafter 'the Varieties'), originally published in June 1902, saw many conferences and publications honouring this seminal and extremely popular publication. The centenary conference in Edinburgh in July 2002 was part of this set of international events, but it was not only the historical setting and the sense of intellectual pilgrimage that distinguished the conference, and this subsequent volume; it was rather the attempt to acknowledge the multidisciplinary approaches to James's work and the desire to provide a space for such voices to begin some interdisciplinary debate.

This book is a collection of the main papers of the Edinburgh centenary conference, in most cases revised and expanded, and reflects the work of established scholars on James from the respective fields of the history of

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