The Varieties of Religious Experience

Front Cover, Jan 1, 2004 - Religion
154 Reviews
"The Varieties of Religious Experience" is William James's philosophical and psychological examination of the nature of religion in human civilization. Based on James's own Gifford Lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland between 1901 and 1902, James argues that "Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see 'the liver' determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul. When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, we get the Methodist, when in another way, we get the atheist form of mind."

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The real value of William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience is the way James hammers home the fact that the religious impulse is this natural urge human beings have to make some personal ... Read full review

Review: The Varieties of Religious Experience

User Review  - Goodreads

The whole book was a joy to read. Too many highlights to mention. Briefly, I will mention that his rebuttal of what he calls "medical materialism" in first lecture was of great interest to me. As a ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. He has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world. He died due to heart failure on August 26, 1910.

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