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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Although William James formed his philosophical views in direct reaction to the Hegelianism then dominant in American and British institutions, modern critics have tended to reject James’s criticism of G. W. F. Hegel as superficial and outdated. This is in part due to James’s energetic rhetorical style, but also because James at his most polemical tends to present his pluralistic and pragmatist empiricism as diametrically opposed to Hegel’s monistic and intellectualistic idealism, so that it is not clear how the two theories could engage in any meaningful dialogue. This chapter presents a different interpretation of the engagement between James and Hegel. On this interpretation, James’s criticisms of Hegel emerge from what he perceives to be a common starting point: the attempt to find the world to be “a home.” As such, James’s criticisms of Hegel should be understood as offering a kind of internal critique. According to James, Hegel offers too narrow an account of what it is for beings like us to “feel at home” in the world. This is a unique and internal criticism of Hegel which deserves to be taken seriously.

Keywords: William James, G. W. F. Hegel, idealism, empiricism, pragmatism, pluralism, monism, intellectualism, internal critique

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