Reference > Cambridge History > Later National Literature, Part II > Later Philosophy > The World and the Individual
  Metaphysical Idealism William James  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XVII. Later Philosophy.

§ 22. The World and the Individual.

The World and the Individual is still, as regards sustained mastery of technical metaphysics, the nearest approach to a philosophic classic that America has as yet produced. Its publication was the high-water mark of the idealistic tide. Royce’s previous monism had aroused the opposition of pluralistic idealists like Howison and Thomas Davidson. 25  But with the beginning of the twentieth century idealism itself became the object of organized attack by two movements known as pragmatism and naïf- or neo-realism. The former was due to the work of James and Dewey; the latter to the spread of renewed and serious interest in scientific philosophy, especially in the renaissance of mathematical philosophy best represented by Bertrand Russell. It is, however, an historic fact that Royce contributed very largely to the effective spread of these new philosophies, to pragmatism y his ethical (as opposed to intellectual) idealism and by his emphasis on the practical aspect of ideas, and to neo-realism by his teaching and writing on mathematical logic. His profound and loyal devotion to the ethical interests of mankind did not prevent him from regarding the question of human immortality as “one for reason in precisely the same sense in which the properties of prime numbers and the kinetic theory of gases are matters for exact investigation.” In this way he continued to represent, against the growing tide of anti-intellectualism, the old faith in the dignity and potency of reason which is the corner-stone of humanistic liberalism.   38

Note 25. Howison and Davidson both owed much of their impulse to philosophy to W. T. Harris. Howison proved one of the most successful and inspiring teachers of philosophy that America has as yet produced. Within a short period three of his pupils, Bakewell, McGilvary, and Lovejoy were elected to the presidency of the American Philosophical Association. Davidson did not write much on technical philosophy, confining himself for the most part to books on education. James called him a “knight errant of the intellectual life” (Memories and Studies). In a letter to the writer, Professor Höffding calls Davidson “one of the most beautiful figures in modern philosophy.” [ back ]

  Metaphysical Idealism William James  

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