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1) Read "The Will to Believe"

Online Text:

Various download formats:

Wikipedia entry:

The main premise of WTB is based on the Charles Peirce article, "How to Make Our ideas Clear"

To a significant extent WTB is rebutting the William Clifford essay, "The Ethics of Belief"

2) Join the discussion.

This diary is set to appear at 10AM Pacific Standard Time. I will start the ball rolling by making a series of comments, assuming these topics have not already been started by someone else. Thoughts related to an existing comment should be attached by “reply”. New ideas for discussion should be independent comments.

3) Vote on the next discussion topic.

Poll

What should the next discussion topic be?

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Discuss

ABOUT THE NEXT DISCUSSION:
On January 1, 2013, at 1PM EST, noon CST, 11AM MST and 10AM PST I will start the discussion diary. The William James book discussion group starts with the 1892 essay, “The Will to Believe”.  I’m going to post a reminder almost once a week, giving information about William James and his work so that everyone with an interest has a chance to get into the discussion.

After covering this short essay, we’ll poll the participants to decide whether to do another essay or to move on to one of his book length masterpieces, “The Variety of Religious Experience” and “Pragmatism”. The seeds of the two books are contained in “The Will to Believe”.

Text:

Wikipedia entry:

Participants will bring their own priorities and interests to the discussion. My intent is to deepen understanding of William James’ ideas because I see them as invaluable tools for understanding and coping with the world around us.

In form, I will start the ball rolling by making a series of comments. Thoughts related to an existing comment should be attached by “reply”. New ideas for discussion should be independent comments.

Two of my comments will include links to the 1878 Charles Peirce article, “How to Make our Ideas Clear”, which was the Genesis of Jamesian Pragmatism and the 1879 William Clifford essay, “The Ethics of Belief”, which James was rebutting.

Clifford wrote, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

James wrote, “Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?”

Discuss

ABOUT THE NEXT BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION:
On January 1, 2013, the William James book discussion group starts with the 1892 essay, “The Will to Believe”.  I’m going to post a reminder almost once a week, giving information about William James and his work so that everyone with an interest has a chance to get into the discussion.
After covering this short essay, we’ll poll the participants to decide whether to do another essay or to move on to one of his book length masterpieces, “The Variety of Religious Experience” and “Pragmatism”. The seeds of the two books are contained in “The Will to Believe”.

Text of "The Will to Believe"

Wikipedia entry

ABOUT WILLIAM JAMES:
Imagine growing up with Ralph Waldo Emerson as your godfather; Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne and Mehlville coming over for dinner. It wasn’t just chance that William James became one of the most important figures in American psychology and philosophy and his brother Henry became one of the greatest writers of all time.

William wanted to be an artist. But he graduated from Harvard and taught there throughout his working life; first in medicine, then psychology and finally philosophy. He was widely loved as a kind and generous man who helped others to realize their potential. Gertrude Stein wrote, "Is life worth living? Yes, a thousand times yes when the world still holds such spirits as Professor James."

William suffered from ill health and depression throughout his life. After a particularly bad bout in 1870 he wrote, “my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will”. An essay I hope to use for discussion down the road is, “The Dilemma of Determinism”.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a common witticism was that William was the better writer and Henry the better psychologist. William always wrote in a style that was very accessible to the layman. The only real barrier to reading him is the drift in the English language during the century that stands between.

Discuss

Todd Akin was my representative for many years, first in Jefferson City, MO, then in Washington, DC. We were never friends, but I've had opportunities to talk with him and been invited to his home on a couple of occasions through a few connections, one of which was my being a merit badge counselor in a Boy Scout Troop which included one of my sons and two of his sons, Perry and Micah.

Todd was born into wealth. He was able to sell land during his time in the Missouri legislature when he earned very little.

Todd and Lulli have the common touch. I've seen them talk to people from all walks of life in a sincere and friendly fashion.

Todd has always been ambitious and a hard worker. He built a base of support in his district by spending a lot of time courting church affiliated groups in particular, speaking whenever he got the opportunity.

I only had my son in that troop for one year. This was during the Clinton presidency and I was disturbed by the extent to which everyone in the troop was into the burgeoning militia movement. Todd is a true believer that the Bible is the founding document for the US and sees the constitution through this lens. The way folks like this reinvent history may seem simply ignorant to those of us that take history very seriously but the romantic glow with which Todd pitches his alternate US history is very attractive to most that hear it.

Hopefully, Todd is gone from Washington for good. I actually like he and his wife personally, but it frightens me how much power a fundamentalist theocon can gain.

The one lesson I would take from knowing Todd and Lulli is that if we want our views to prevail it isn't enough that we be on the side of reality based science, economics and history. We simply have to want it more and be willing to work harder.

Discuss

I think abortion is an important political topic. The current standard of outlawing abortion, in most cases where the fetus has reached the stage of development at which it would be likely to live outside the womb, is the type of compromise that democracies generate.

Those who claim that the moment of conception creates a separate human life entitled to all the rights of a citizen cite the authority of God. How so?

The Romans were very concerned about increasing their population given the low proportion of Romans compared to the slave and conquered populations. Abortion and gay sex were condemned as failing in one's duty to the state to make more Romans. It is not surprising then that for most of its life the Roman Catholic Church opposed abortion. The RCC after all held the Bible as only one of three sources of God's truth. The fact that the Bible is silent on abortion needn't trouble them.

With the cry of Sola Sanctura! Protestants claimed that the Bible was the only source of knowing God's will. Thus it was that in the 1970's Protestants had not yet received word that abortion was God's number one, or even a serious concern. That change in the 80's was largely due to the influence of Francis Schaeffer.

When pressed for the Biblical support for their belief that opposing abortion is God's greatest priority, evangelicals and other "conservative" Christians generally cite "Thou shalt not kill" because they have nothing else to hang their hat on. The fact that the law was given on Mt. Sinai during a journey that began with the murder of every first born child in Egypt and ended with the ordered massacre of every child in Canaan would give some context to any objective reader; as would the many commands to kill in the Mosaic law itself.

What most people don't realize however is that the Bible, in the Mosaic law, does specifically speak to the value of the fetus in God's eyes.

Exodus 21:22  And if men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follow; he shall be surely fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

So we see that, according to God's law given to Moses, a permanent injury to a woman is a harm but causing the miscarriage of a fetus is not a harm, even against the will of the mother. It's not nothing, as the lost investment and risk of the aborted pregnancy has a monetary value.

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On January 1, 2013, the William James book discussion group starts with the 1892 essay, “The Will to Believe”.  I’m going to post a reminder almost once a week, giving information about William James and his work so that everyone with an interest has a chance to get into the discussion. (Thank you MsGrin for the idea)

After covering this short essay, we’ll poll the participants to decide whether to do another essay or to move on to one of his book length masterpieces, “The Variety of Religious Experience” and “Pragmatism”. The seeds of the two books are contained in “The Will to Believe”.

Text of "The Will to Believe"
Wikipedia entry

The word "pragmatism" was coined by Charles Sanders Peirce. His friend, William James, wrote about the concept extensively, putting it into our vocabulary.

Idealism and pragmatism are two approaches to Truth / truth. Idealism is typified by Plato who believed everything in this world to be imperfect shadows of perfect spiritual archetypes. In “The Republic” Plato focuses on ideals to imagine the best form of government. Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, typifies pragmatism. He attempted to find the best form of government by in depth analysis of dozens of Greek City-States which attempted to discern what worked and what didn’t.

Platonic ideals were very influential in Christianity. Aristotelian pragmatism has come to define the scientific method. Both concepts are at war in the political realm as well as within each of us.

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Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 05:25 PM PST

Variety of Lived Experience

by radical empiricist

I came close to dying when I was 12, 25 and 31; near asphyxiation each time from three completely different causes. I can't remember ever fearing death but I do wish to avoid it for as long as possible.

My career was in business. I was a controller, CFO, Executive VP and a part or full owner of three businesses. The last business I had ownership in gave me the complete roller coaster experience, from being a minor millionaire with a McMansion to losing my home and my last penny.

I was a blithely shallow person until a year long depression opened up new dimensions of the world around me.

I was an agnostic Jew who spent two decades in a fundamentalist Christian church.

I was an analytical machine until a brain injury left me unable to do even simple math;
my rational conscious mind which ruled my life abdicated to my subconscious..

I was a man who swore he would never retire, who retired at fifty.

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