A Stroll With William James by Jacques Barzun

By Jacques Barzun

With this ebook, Jacques Barzun can pay what he describes as an "intellectual debt" to William James—psychologist, thinker, and, for Barzun, advisor and mentor. Commenting on James's existence, suggestion, and legacy, Barzun leaves us with a sensible and civilized distillation of the good thinker's work.

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In a pluralistic society, people then begin to split into groups adhering to the inherited pattern and groups beginning to doubt and to endorse another way of thinking about the issues in question. Eventually, if the weight of reality and the narrowing of imaginable courses of action press heavily enough against the older pattern of thought, or if a new model emerges which has particular strength in meeting the test of the new while simultaneously maintaining sufficient continuity with those functions of the old way that are most dear, the interpretive center of gravity of the community will shift a few degrees, and a new cultural tradition becomes dominant.

It is incorrigibly the product of human intuition, desire, and decision, operating within a historical-cultural context. To paraphrase John Dewey, philosophies are choices. 15 Philosophies are accepted or rejected on the basis of whether they address and offer fruitful or valuable interpretation of what the community of relevant listeners or readers feels most needs to be addressed. New types of experience put new demands for valuable, needed, or desired interpretation on all antecedently held philosophies.

Are we as a nation better educated than ever before or simply better certified? Has technological and military might made the West more secure, or are we less secure than ever? 9 But the Page 5 debate over modernity is not the exclusive property of our intellectual mandarins, either. It is an everyday topic for thinking people in the street and the lunchroom as well as the seminar room, and it pervades popular discussion in the media. Indeed, the major battles of contemporary American politics are centered on the problem of interpreting modernity.

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