Submitting to Freedom

Submitting to Freedom : The Religious Vision of William James

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This intellectual history presents a fresh analysis and innovative interpretation of the religious views of the nineteenth-century American philosopher William James. Ramsey argues that James was primarily motivated by religious concerns in his writings, although this fact has been obscured by the artificial scholarly division of his "philosophy," "psychology," and "religion" - a symptom of the professionalization which James himself strenuously resisted in his own time. Ramsey believes that James is best understood when considered within his historical context: a representative of a society and culture struggling to come to terms with modernity. Much of James's religious work is a direct reflection of what has been called "the spiritual crisis of the Gilded Age," a crisis which Ramsey examines in illuminating detail. James's religious vision, in Ramsey's view, hinges on the recognition and acceptance of "contingency" - the knowledge that we are at the mercy of change and chance. With so little else to rely on, James believed, people must learn to submit freely and responsibly into one another's care. Ramsey reintroduces James's thought into contemporary discussion, proposing the kind of religious alternative that James was pointing to in his work: not worship, but acquiescence in a world of mutual relations; not obedience to authority, but conversion to the freedom of responsibility. Offering a new understanding of James's work in the context of late nineteenth-century American culture, this work will interest scholars and students of religion, philosophy, the history of psychology, and American studies.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 186 pages
  • 139.7 x 215.9 x 14.2mm | 437.93g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195074262
  • 9780195074260

Back cover copy

This intellectual history presents a fresh analysis and innovative interpretation of the religious views of the nineteenth-century American philosopher William James. Ramsey argues that James was primarily motivated by religious concerns in his writings, although this fact has been obscured by the artificial scholarly division of his "philosophy", "psychology", and "religion" - a symptom of the professionalization which James himself strenuously resisted in his own time. Ramsey believes that James is best understood when considered within his historical context: a representative of a society and culture struggling to come to terms with modernity. Much of James's religious work is a direct reflection of what has been called "the spiritual crisis of the Gilded Age", a crisis which Ramsey examines in illuminating detail. James's religious vision, in Ramsey's view, hinges on the recognition and acceptance of "contingency" - the knowledge that we are at the mercy of change and chance. With so little else to rely on, James believed, people must learn to submit freely and responsibly into one another's care. Ramsey reintroduces James's thought into contemporary discussion, proposing the kind of religious alternative that James was pointing to in his work: not worship, but acquiescence in a world of mutual relations; not obedience to authority, but conversion to the freedom of responsibility. Offering a new understanding of James's work in the context of late nineteenth-century American culture, this work will interest scholars and students of religion, philosophy, the history of psychology, and American studies.show more

Review quote

a provactive interpretation of James's religious thinking that will catch the attention of theologians, psychologists, and students of American culture.'show more

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