A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from by Joan Richardson

By Joan Richardson

Joan Richardson offers a desirable and compelling account of the emergence of the indispensable American philosophy: pragmatism. She demonstrates pragmatism's engagement with numerous branches of the typical sciences and strains the improvement of Jamesian pragmatism from the past due 19th century via modernism, following its pointings into the current. Richardson combines strands from America's non secular adventure with medical info to provide interpretations that holiday new floor in literary and cultural historical past. This publication exemplifies the worth of interdisciplinary ways to generating literary feedback. In a sequence of hugely unique readings of Edwards, Emerson, William and Henry James, Stevens, and Stein, A average heritage of Pragmatism tracks the interaction of spiritual purpose, clinical hypothesis, and literature in shaping an American aesthetic. Wide-ranging and ambitious, this groundbreaking e-book might be crucial examining for all scholars and students of yank literature.

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14 A Natural History of Pragmatism While Edwards’s curiosity about light might have been sparked by his early excursions into the woods, it was, as noted above, a text, Newton’s Opticks, as important to him as Locke’s Essay, which nourished his interest. What he learned from his study of Newton was like light itself, the invisible thing making things visible, the unity underlying particularity, a mode of apprehension. His manner of deploying what he came to understand about light is paradigmatically exemplified in his Personal Narrative where the appearance of “light” in word play, and most often in “delight,” is repeated throughout like beams of sunlight coming through trees in a wood, variously illuminating shades of meaning in surrounding words and phrases.

S. Lombard in 1867, “Brain-activity seems accompanied by a local disengagement of heat” (emphasis James’s). ” Moreover, this rise in heat was found to be much greater in mentally reciting poetry or repeating something silently than in reading or saying it aloud. James concludes “that the surplus of heat in recitation to one’s self is due to inhibitory processes which are absent when we recite aloud . . 20 Edwards’s process, then, of following and coming to be able to project imaginatively Newton’s delineations in Latin of light’s properties would have both stimulated “the thrill of satisfaction” accompanying the activation of the earlier paths set down from his having learned Latin and provided the “feelings of successful achievement” attendant on his increasing fluency in Newton’s language of description.

In this way, the particular hang of his habit of mind depended on the prisms these texts provided. As Perry Miller observed, “Holding himself by brute will power within the forms of ancient Calvinism, he filled those forms with a new and throbbing spirit. ”18 Describing the process by which new neuronal paths are established in the cortex – the existence of which, James reminds his readers, is the result of this kind of activity – he explains memorization as a bypassing of “normal paths,” which are “only paths of least resistance” – the paths of one’s native language, for example – to establish “paths formerly more resistant,” the new paths being In Jonathan Edwards’s room of the idea 29 set down in the repeated practicing of a second language or in learning new ideas: The normal paths are only paths of least resistance.

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