Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Crosby, Donald A. the Philosophy of William James: Radical Empiricism and Radical Materialism

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Crosby, Donald A. the Philosophy of William James: Radical Empiricism and Radical Materialism

Article excerpt

CROSBY, Donald A. The Philosophy of William James: Radical Empiricism and Radical Materialism. Lanham, Md.: Roman & Littlefield, 2013. xiv + 167 pp.--The title of this book--The Philosophy of William James--accurately leads the reader to anticipate a broad overview of James's thought. The book is not just another summary of James's work, however. James once said that a philosophy cannot be understood properly until the center of it has been grasped. Crosby's analysis, unlike many, succeeds in doing this by going immediately, in chapter one, to the center of James's thought by taking up the difficult topic of pure experience. There it is made clear that a fruitful engagement of James must appreciate above all the simultaneity and mutuality of influence among the many parts of pure experience. The reader is reminded of this throughout the rest of the book as it considers how self and world are related and distinguished, how collectively we have knowledge of a common world, how we can come to know each other as minds, and the implications of all this for genuine empiricism. It explores as well the roles of sensation, causation, emotion, and moral, religious, and aesthetic sensibilities, all the while never losing sight of the central point that these are together constitutive of pure experience in ways to which adequate justice cannot be done in a completely analytic way. As an overview of James's thought the first eight chapters present a solid account.

The ninth and final chapter introduces Crosby's "radical materialism." The principal characteristic of such a materialism is its breadth, by comparison with narrower philosophical and scientific materialisms more commonly offered by modernity. Crosby recognizes that his radical materialism is a far cry from what James understood as materialism but proposes nonetheless that Jamesian thought is a hospitable setting for it. …

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