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Reflex Action and Theism

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which we hold in highest esteem," is theism. God is conceived as "the deepest power in the universe," and a power not ourselves, "which not only makes for righteousness, but means it, and which recognizes us.": "To coöperate with his creation by the best and rightest response seems all He wants of us." Such an interpretation of the world most completely answers our needs. "At a single stroke, it changes the dead blank it of the world into a living thou, with whom the whole man may have dealings.' "Our volitional nature must, then, until the end of time, exert a constant pressure upon the other departments of the mind to induce them to function to theistic conclusions." Here, then, is the possible and the profoundly desirable religious truth. To neglect it is to disbelieve it, which is equally arbitrary, and involves all the practical loss besides; while to accept it is to help make it true, since human efforts may assist in establishing the supremacy of the good. But what evidence may be adduced in its support?

The answer to this question consists partly in the removal of difficulties, such as the dogmatism of science, and the problem of "the compounding of consciousness," partly in the application to the religious experience of the theory of a "subconscious self." "We have in the fact that the conscious person is continu- !! ous with a wider self through which saving experiences come, a positive content of religious experience which, it seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as it goes." When we ask "how far our transmarginal consciousness carries us if we follow it on its remoter side," our "over-beliefs begin;" but the evidence afforded by mystical experiences, thus construed by means of an established psychological theory, creates a decidedly formidable probability" in favor of the theistic hypothesis.'

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§ 11. The belief in freedom, like the belief in God, cannot be proved. Here, again, belief has an option between a rigidly determined world and a world with alternative possibilities Cf. pp. 115-116.

1 Op. cit., p. 110. Op. cit., p. 122. Op. cit., p. 127.

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• Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 515. Cf. also "The Energies of Men," Memories and Studies, X.

"Op. cit., p. 513; Pluralistic Universe, p. 309.

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of Deter-

in it. Determinism "professes that those parts of the uni-
verse already laid down absolutely appoint and decree what
The Dilemma the other parts shall be." Indeterminism, on the
other hand, means that several futures are really
possible, in the sense of being compatible with the
same past. After the fact the one sequel is as reasonable as the
other, and the fact itself throws no light on the question whether
"another thing might or might not have happened in its place."
For this reason, the facts themselves can neither establish deter-
minism nor disprove it. And since the facts are not decisive,
man is warranted in taking into account the grave practical
issues that are at stake. If the hypothesis of freedom be
true, it relieves man from what would otherwise be an in-
tolerable situation; and if he fails to accept the hypothesis
because his doubts are not entirely dispelled, he virtually
chooses the alternative which is worse without being any more


From a moral or religious point of view a determined world is a world in which evil is not only a fact, as it must be on any hypothesis, but a necessity. "Calling a thing bad means, if it mean anything at all, that the thing ought not to be, that something else ought to be in its stead. Determinism, in denying that anything else can be in its stead, virtually defines the universe as a place in which what ought to be is impossible, — in other words, as an organism whose constitution is afflicted with an incurable taint, an irremediable flaw." In such a universe there are only two religious alternatives, despair or renunciation -a hopeless complaint that such a world should be, or the cultivation of a subjective willingness that anything should be. T adopt the latter alternative, or "gnosticism," as the only course that will bring peace of mind, is "to abandon the judgment of regret," and substitute an intellectual, sentimental, or sensual condoning of evil for the healthy moral effort to eradicate it." Indeterminism, on the other hand, is a doctrine of promise and relief. It offers me "a world with a chance in it of being alto'gether good;" an escape from evil "by dropping it out altogether,


1 "Dilemma of Determinism," in Will to Believe, p. 150; cf. passim.
1 Op. cit., p. 152. Cf. pp. 146, 156.

3 Op. cit., pp. 161-162.

Op. cit., pp. 162 ff.
Pragmatism, pp. 119 ff.

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throwing it overboard and getting beyond it, helping to make a universe that shall forget its very place and name."

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Although the belief in freedom is in the end an act of faith, there is evidence for its possibility or even probability. Freedom is not incompatible with any uniformity that has been discovered, but only with the dogma that uniformity must be absolute even if it has not been found to be so. If there be any real novelty in the world, any respects in which the future is not merely an unfolding of the past, then that is enough to leaven the whole. In the case of freedom of the will all that is required is "the character of novelty in activity-situations." The "effort" or activity-process is the form of a whole "field of consciousness," and all that is necessary for freedom is that the duration and intensity of this process should not be "fixed functions of the object." That the experience of activity should contribute something wholly new when it arises, is not only consistent with the facts ascertained by psychology, but is also in keeping with the general principles of radical empiricism. Old terms may enter into new relations; the unity of the world is not over-arching and static, but a continuity from next to next, permitting of unlimited change without disconnection and disorder. Indeterminism is thus no more than is to be looked for in a pluralistic universe.

Pluralism and

§ 12. Pluralism is essentially no more than the denial of absolute monism. "Absolute unity brooks no degrees"; whereas pluralism demands no more than that "you grant Moralism some separation among things, some tremor of independence, some free play of parts on one another, some real novelty or chance, however minute." And pluralism in this sense follows directly from James's theory of knowledge. In the first place, absolute monism loses its authority the moment its a priori necessity is disproved. To account for knowledge empirically is to render all this elaborate speculative construction unnecessary. As a hypothesis it is not wholly out of the question,' but it will not bear comparison with pluralism for intellectual economy, and

1 Op. cit., p. 297; Will to Believe, p. 178, and pp. 173 ff. Pluralistic Universe, p. 391, note. Cf. above, pp. 354-356.

'Principles of Psychology, Vol. II, p. 571. Cf. pp. 569-579, passim.


• Pragmatism, p. 160. Cf. Lecture IV, passim.

• Will to Believe, p. vii; Pluralistic Universe, p. 292.

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it brings a number of artificial difficulties in its train. Second, there is positive evidence for the pluralistic hypothesis in the fact of "external relations." "It is just because so many of the conjunctions of experience seem so external that a philosophy of pure experience must tend to pluralism in its ontology." Relations may be arranged according to their relatively conjunctive or disjunctive character: "confluence," "conterminousness,' "contiguousness," "likeness," "nearness" or "simultaneous


," "in-ness," "on-ness," "for-ness," 'for-ness," "with-ness," and finally mere "and-ness." With its parts thus related the universe has still enough unity to serve as a topic of discourse, but it is a unity of "concatenation," rather than of co-implication." a

The importance of such a conclusion for religious purposes is apparent. On the one hand, as we have already seen, evil is not necessarily implied by the rest of the universe, so that the universe as a whole is not compromised or irremediably vitiated by it. But, on the other hand, it must be admitted that the good is in a like position. The supremacy of the good is not guaranteed, but is only made possible, and is thrown into the future as a goal of endeavor. Pluralism "has no saving message for incurably sick souls." It is no philosophy for the "tenderminded;" it makes life worth living only for those in whom the fighting spirit is alive. In the Introduction to the Literary Remains of his father, James distinguished between the religious demand for an ultimate well-being, and that healthy-minded moralism in which "the life we then feel tingling through us vouches sufficiently for itself, and nothing tempts us to refer it to a higher source." It is this note which dominates James's philosophy of life. It accounts for his relatively slight interest in immortality. He did not feel the necessity of being assured in advance of his own personal safety. With his characteristic tenderness of mind where the interests of others were in question,

1 Meaning of Truth, pp. 125 sq.

• Pluralistic Universe, pp. 321, 325; 359, 361. Cf. Lecture VIII, and Appendix A, passim. Cf. also above, p. 353.

› Meaning of Truth, p. 228.

• Cf. Pragmatism, Lecture I, and "Is Life Worth Living?" in Will to Believe.

• Literary Remains of Henry James, pp. 116-117.

• Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 524; Human Immortality, p. 3.

he sympathized deeply with the more importunate and helpless cravings of the religious spirit. But for himself, he was "willing to take the universe to be really dangerous and adventurous, without therefore backing out and crying 'no play.""1 "The essence of good is simply to satisfy demand." But the tragic fact is, that demands conflict, and exceed the supply. Though God be there as "one of the claimants," lending perspective and hopefulness to life, the victory is not yet won. If we have the courage to accept this doubtful and perilous situation as it is, "there is but one unconditional commandment, which is that we should seek incessantly, with fear and trembling, so to vote and to act as to bring about the very largest total universe of good which we can see.'

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These, I believe, are the bare essentials of James's philosophy, and the thread of reasoning by which they are connected. A summary such as this must altogether miss the pictorial and dramatic quality of his thought. That which is most characteristic of him cannot be restated; for his own style was its inevitable and only adequate expression. But I offer this rude sketch in the hope that it may help those who seek to apprehend this philosophy as a whole. James's field of study, the panoramic view within which all of his special problems fell, was the lot of mankind. On the one hand stands the environment, an unbidden presence, tolerating only what will conform to it, threatening and hampering every interest, and yielding only reluctantly and gradually to moral endeavor. On the other hand stands man who, once he gets on good terms with this environment, finds it an inexhausible mine of possibilities. "By slowly cumulative strokes of choice," he has extricated out of this, like a sculptor, the world he lives in. James never confused the world with man's world, but he made man's world, thus progressively achieved, the principal object of his study. Man conquers his world first by knowing it, and thus presenting it for action; second, by acting on it, and thus remoulding it to suit his purposes. But these operations are the inseparable

1 Pragmatism, p. 296.

"The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life," in Will to Believe, pp. 201, 212, 209, and passim.

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