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Cambridge Core - Religion: General Interest - The Divided Self of William James - by Richard M. Gale.
Table of contents

Take, for example, the vigor and philosophic sophistication with which the book is argued. In this work, James had argued that we are justified in believing some propositions, even on insufficient evidence, if the option to believe that proposition is live believable for us , of momentous significance, and unavoidable or forced. Like Pascal, James was convinced that the option to believe in the existence of God satisfies these conditions for most persons.

The Divided Self of William James - Richard M. Gale - Google книги

Gale takes great pains to show that, in addition to the three conditions explicitly identified by James, another six additional conditions for believing anything on insufficient evidence can be articulated. And this chapter is by no means atypical. What, then, is the problem with such erudition and thoroughness? To begin with, these qualities make the book unduly demanding on the reader.

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James Part 1 Lectures 1 - 10 (Fast Book Reading)

This leads him to hold James to standards of consistency and literalness that are misleading at best and deeply distorting at worst. However, the book succeeds despite these shortcomings. As James clearly recognized, this is nothing less than a religiously significant challenge, a battle for our spiritual lives. With great nuance and subtlety, he described the importance of living deliberately , of not allowing oneself to be swept along by events and circumstances, but of living each moment of life in freedom. That is, I can choose the manner in which I will attend to the fact of my illness and the effort that I will invest in attending.

Spiritual writers in a great variety of religious traditions have understood human freedom in this way, and James surveyed some of their perspectives in The Varieties of Religious Experience. This position mediates the theoretical opposition between the active, Promethean self and the passive, mystical self that Gale sketches.

That is, we often do things because of the way that they make us feel. But James was more concerned about how certain feelings and experiences would move us to act, shape our conduct, and inspire our efforts. Michael L. Close Login. Natural good is not simply insufficient in amount and transient, there lurks a falsity in its very being. Cancelled as it all is by death if not by earlier enemies, it gives no final balance, and can never be the thing intended for our lasting worship.

It keeps us from our real good, rather; and renunciation and despair of it are our first step in the direction of the truth. There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other. In their extreme forms, of pure naturalism and pure salvationism, the two types are violently contrasted; though here as in most other current classifications, the radical extremes are somewhat ideal abstractions, and the concrete human beings whom we oftenest meet are intermediate varieties and mixtures.

Practically, however, you all recognize the difference: you understand, for example, the disdain of the methodist convert for the mere sky-blue healthy- minded moralist; and you likewise enter into the aversion of the latter to what seems to him the diseased subjectivism of the Methodist, dying to live, as he calls it, and making of paradox and the inversion of natural appearances the essence of God's truth.

The psychological basis of the twice-born character seems to be a certain discordancy or heterogeneity in the native temperament of the subject, an incompletely unified moral and intellectual constitution. Oh, this terrible second me, always seated whilst the other is on foot, acting, living, suffering, bestirring itself. This second me that I have never been able to intoxicate, to make shed tears, or put to sleep.

And how it sees into things, and how it mocks! Recent works on the psychology of character have had much to say upon this point. Their impulses are consistent with one another, their will follows without trouble the guidance of their intellect, their passions are not excessive, and their lives are little haunted by regrets. Others are oppositely constituted; and are so in degrees which may vary from something so slight as to result in a merely odd or whimsical inconsistency, to a discordancy of which the consequences may be inconvenient in the extreme.

Of the more innocent kinds of heterogeneity I find a good example in Mrs. Annie Besant's autobiography. As a child I used to suffer tortures of shyness, and if my shoe-lace was untied would feel shamefacedly that every eye was fixed on the unlucky string; as a girl I would shrink away from strangers and think myself unwanted and unliked, so that I was full of eager gratitude to anyone who noticed me kindly, as the young mistress of a house I was afraid of my servants, and would let careless work pass rather than bear the pain of reproving the ill-doer; when I have been lecturing and debating with no lack of spirit on the platform, I have preferred to go without what I wanted at the hotel rather than to ring and make the waiter fetch it.

Combative on the platform in defense of any cause I cared for, I shrink from quarrel or disapproval in the house, and am a coward at heart in private while a good fighter in public. How often have I passed unhappy quarters of an hour screwing up my courage to find fault with some subordinate whom my duty compelled me to reprove, and how often have I jeered myself for a fraud as the doughty platform combatant, when shrinking from blaming some lad or lass for doing their work badly.

An unkind look or word has availed to make me shrink into myself as a snail into its shell, while, on the platform, opposition makes me speak my best. There are persons whose existence is little more than a series of zig-zags, as now one tendency and now another gets the upper hand. Their spirit wars with their flesh, theywish for incompatibles, wayward impulses interrupt their most deliberate plans, and their lives are one long drama of repentance and of effort to repair misdemeanors and mistakes.

Heterogeneous personality has been explained as the result of inheritance--the traits of character of incompatible and antagonistic ancestors are supposed to be preserved alongside of each other. But whatever the cause of heterogeneous personality may be, we find the extreme examples of it in the psychopathic temperament, of which I spoke in my first lecture. All writers about that temperament make the inner heterogeneity prominent in their descriptions. Frequently, indeed, it is only this trait that leads us to ascribe that temperament to a man at all.

A "degenere superieur" is simply a man of sensibility in many directions, who finds more difficulty than is common in keeping his spiritual house in order and running his furrow straight, because his feelings and impulses are too keen and too discrepant mutually. In the haunting and insistent ideas, in the irrational impulses, the morbid scruples, dreads, and inhibitions which beset the psychopathic temperament when it is thoroughly pronounced, we have exquisite examples of heterogeneous personality.

Bunyan had an obsession of the words, "Sell Christ for this, sell him for that, sell him, sell him! The lives of the saints are full of such blasphemous obsessions, ascribed invariably to the direct agency of Satan. The phenomenon connects itself with the life of the subconscious self, so-called, of which we must erelong speak more directly. Now in all of us, however constituted, but to a degree the greater in proportion as we are intense and sensitive and subject to diversified temptations, and to the greatest possible degree if we are decidedly psychopathic, does the normal evolution of character chiefly consist in the straightening out and unifying of the inner self.

The higher and the lower feelings, the useful and the erring impulses, begin by being a comparative chaos within us--they must end by forming a stable system of functions in right subordination. Unhappiness is apt to characterize the period of order-making and struggle. If the individual be of tender conscience and religiously quickened, the unhappiness will take the form of moral remorse and compunction, of feeling inwardly vile and wrong, and of standing in false relations to the author of one's being and appointer of one's spiritual fate.

This is the religious melancholy and "conviction of sin" that have played so large a part in the history of Protestant Christianity. The man's interior is a battle-ground for what he feels to be two deadly hostile selves, one actual, the other ideal. As Victor Hugo makes his Mahomet say "Je suis le champ vil des sublimes combats: Tantot l'homme d'en haut, et tantot l'homme d'en bas; Et le mal dans ma bouche avec le bien alterne, Comme dans le desert le sable et la citerne.

Let me quote from some typical cases of discordant personality, with melancholy in the form of self-condemnation and sense of sin. Saint Augustine's case is a classic example. You all remember his half-pagan, half-Christian bringing up at Carthage, his emigration to Rome and Milan, his adoption of Manicheism and subsequent skepticism, and his restless search for truth and purity of life; and finally how, distracted by the struggle between the two souls in his breast and ashamed of his own weakness of will, when so many others whom he knew and knew of had thrown off the shackles of sensuality and dedicated themselves to chastity and the higher life, he heard a voice in the garden say, "Sume, lege" take and read , and opening the Bible at random, saw the text, "not in chambering and wantonness," etc.

The Divided Self of William James

So these two wills, one old, one new, one carnal, the other spiritual, contended with each other and disturbed my soul. I understood by my own experience what I had read, 'flesh lusteth against spirit, and spirit against flesh. Yet it was through myself that habit had attained so fierce a mastery over me, because I had willingly come whither I willed not. Still bound to earth, I refused, O God, to fight on thy side, as much afraid to be freed from all bonds, as I ought to have feared being trammeled by them.

Often does a man when heavy sleepiness is on his limbs defer to shake it off, and though not approving it, encourage it; even so I was sure it was better to surrender to thy love than to yield to my own lusts, yet though the former course convinced me, the latter pleased and held me bound.

There was naught in me to answer thy call 'Awake, thou sleeper,' but only drawling, drowsy words, 'Presently; yes,presently; wait a little while. For I was afraid thou wouldst hear me too soon, and heal me at once of my disease of lust, which I wished to satiate rather than to see extinguished. With what lashes of words did I not scourge my own soul. Yet it shrank back; it refused, though it had no excuse to offer. I said within myself: 'Come, let it be done now,' and as I said it, I was on the point of the resolve.

I all but did it, yet I did not do it. And I made another effort, and almost succeeded, yet I did not reach it, and did not grasp it, hesitating to die to death, and live to life, and the evil to which I was so wonted held me more than the better life I had not tried. In a later lecture we shall have much to say about this higher excitability. I find another good description of the divided will in the autobiography of Henry Alline, the Nova Scotian evangelist, of whose melancholy I read a brief account in my last lecture.

The poor youth's sins were, as you will see, of the most harmless order, yet they interfered with what proved to be his truest vocation, so they gave him great distress. I now began to be esteemed in young company, who knew nothing of my mind all this while, and their esteem began to be a snare to my soul, for I soon began to be fond of carnal mirth, though I still flattered myself that if I did not get drunk, nor curse, nor swear, there would be no sin in frolicking and carnal mirth, and I thought God would indulge young people with some what I called simple or civil recreation.

I was one of the most unhappy creatures on earth. Oh, what unhappy hours and nights I thus wore away!

In this Book

When I met sometimes with merry companions, and my heart was ready to sink, I would labor to put on as cheerful a countenance as possible, that they might not distrust anything, and sometimes would begin some discourse with young men or young women on purpose, or propose a merry song, lest the distress of my soul would be discovered, or mistrusted, when at the same time I would then rather have been in a wilderness in exile, than with them or any of their pleasures or enjoyments. Thus for many months when I was in company I would act the hypocrite and feign a merry heart but at the same time would endeavor as much as I could to shun their company, oh wretched and unhappy mortal that I was!

Everything I did, and wherever I went, I was still in a storm and yet I continued to be the chief contriver and ringleader of the frolics for many months after; though it was a toil and torment to attend them; but the devil and my own wicked heart drove me about like a slave, telling me that I must do this and do that, and bear this and bear that, and turn here and turn there, to keep my credit up, and retain the esteem of my associates: and all this while I continued as strict as possible in my duties, and left no stone unturned to pacify my conscience, watching even against my thoughts, and praying continually wherever I went: for I did not think there was any sin in my conduct, when I was among carnal company, because I did not take any satisfaction there, but only followed it, I thought, for sufficient reasons.

It may come gradually, or it may occur abruptly; it may come through altered feelings, or through altered powers of action; or it may come through new intellectual insights, or through experiences which we shall later have to designate as 'mystical. Easily, permanently, and successfully, it often transforms the most intolerable misery into the profoundest and most enduring happiness.

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But to find religion is only one out of many ways of reaching unity; and the process of remedying inner incompleteness and reducing inner discord is a general psychological process, which may take place with any sort of mental material, and need not necessarily assume the religious form. In judging of the religious types of regeneration which we are about to study, it is important to recognize that they are only one species of a genus that contains other types as well.

For example, the new birth may be away from religion into incredulity; or it may be from moral scrupulosity into freedom and license; or it may be produced by the irruption into the individual's life of some new stimulus or passion, such as love, ambition, cupidity, revenge, or patriotic devotion. In all these instances we have precisely the same psychological form of event,--a firmness, stability, and equilibrium succeeding a period of storm and stress and inconsistency.

In these non-religious cases the new man may also be born either gradually or suddenly. The French philosopher Jouffroy has left an eloquent memorial of his own "counter-conversion," as the transition from orthodoxy to infidelity has been well styled by Mr.

Jouffroy's doubts had long harassed him; but he dates his final crisis from a certain night when his disbelief grew fixed and stable, and where the immediate result was sadness at the illusions he had lost. I hear again my steps in that narrow naked chamber where long after the hour of sleep had come I had the habit of walking up and down. I see again that moon, half-veiled by clouds, which now and again illuminated the frigid window-panes. The hours of the night flowed on and I did not note their passage.