This is the fourth in our series of meetups on classical American philosophy (though attendance at prior episodes is not required), focusing again on innovative early texts of Williams James. In this instance we will focus on part of Chapter X: “The Consciousness of Self” in James’ The Principles of Psychology (pp. [masked],[masked]).
Having sketched out the basic attributes of consciousness, how does James conceive of the self who is conscious? What constitutes a self? Three prominent proposals are considered by James before he presents and defends his own position. Those proposals include the spiritualist view that the self is a substantial soul, the classical British empiricist view that the self has no demonstrable unity or order beyond what is supplied by psychological laws of association, and the Kantian view that the self is unified by a transcendental ego.
We will also examine a stand-alone essay by James (originally an Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard) on the possibility that the self as he conceives it could survive bodily death, called “Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine.” The readings overall for this meetup are about 60 pp., an early start to the readings is recommended.
The James text is here:
The essay is here: