Pluralism and Personality: William James and Some Contemporary Cultures of Psychology

Pluralism and Personality: William James and Some Contemporary Cultures of Psychology

Pluralism and Personality: William James and Some Contemporary Cultures of Psychology

Pluralism and Personality: William James and Some Contemporary Cultures of Psychology

Synopsis

This volume is an extended essay in cultural interpretation and criticism. The goal of the book is to gain a perspective on the four major currents of contemporary psychology -- the culture of detachment, joy, control, and care, through the psychology, ethics, and philosophy of William James.

Excerpt

In the recent past, widespread concern has appeared about what some commentators have called “the new narcissism.” This phrase refers to a new attitude which may be emerging among people in Western societies. It refers to a tendency on the part of many people to meet the tensions, conflicts, and transitions of modern life by turning inward, becoming preoccupied with one's own internal well-being, and searching for ways to avoid or transcend the shocks of living in a pluralistic and changing technological society. William James, the founder of academic psychology in the United States, sensed most of the main characteristics of modern life. Yet he developed a view of life and a psychology to support it which avoided the cul-desacs down which modern psychology has gone since his death. Although he was interested in self-knowledge and insight as is psychoanalysis, the control of human behavior as is contemporary behaviorism, and self-actualization as is the human potential movement, his final view of human nature and fulfilment was considerably different from any of these major contemporary options. His normative image of the good life is captured by the phrase “the strenuous mood.” It celebrated the virtues of an ethical view of life nurtured by religious and mystical sensibilities. It was a view of life vastly different from the “new narcissism” which may be descending upon us. Although both psychologically and philosophically incomplete, its scope was so broad and its balance so unique that it is worth a second look before we irreversibly commit ourselves to one of the more glamorous contemporary options about the nature of the good life in the context of modernity.

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