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date: 20 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Central to both James’s earlier psychology and his later philosophical views was a recurring distinction between percepts and concepts. The distinction evolved and remained fundamental to his thinking throughout his career as he sought to come to grips with its fundamental nature and significance. This chapter focuses initially on James’s early attempt to articulate the distinction in his 1885 article “The Function of Cognition.” This will highlight a key problem to which James continued to return throughout his later philosophical work on the nature of our cognition, including in his famous “radical empiricism” and metaphysics of “pure experience” (neutral monism) around the turn of the century. We shall find that James grappled insightfully but ambivalently with the perceptual and conceptual dimensions of the “given” and the “knowledge relation” or “cognitive relation,” as he called it—or what, following Franz Brentano, philosophers would later call our object-directed thought or intentionality more generally.

Keywords: percept, concept, intentionality, pure experience, radical empiricism, cognition, knowledge relation

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