Cover image for Feminist Interpretations of William James Edited by Erin C. Tarver and Shannon Sullivan

Feminist Interpretations of William James

Edited by Erin C. Tarver and Shannon Sullivan


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ISBN: 978-0-271-07090-2

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Re-Reading the Canon

Feminist Interpretations of William James

Edited by Erin C. Tarver and Shannon Sullivan

“The authors show that James's work clearly presents difficulties for feminists and how feminists might engage with James's ethical philosophy, the role of the body, and matters of epistemology. The editing is well executed, and explanatory notes appear throughout. Though the book is best suited to scholars with a background in James's work, the descriptions and analyses are convincing and will be useful even to those without significant prior exposure to James.”


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Widely regarded as the father of American psychology, William James is by any measure a mammoth presence on the stage of pragmatist philosophy. But despite his indisputable influence on philosophical thinkers of all genders, men remain the movers and shakers in the Jamesian universe—while women exist primarily to support their endeavors and serve their needs. How could the philosophy of William James, a man devoted to Victorian ideals, be used to support feminism?

Feminist Interpretations of William James lays out the elements of James’s philosophy that are particularly problematic for feminism, offers a novel feminist approach to James’s ethical philosophy, and takes up epistemic contestations in and with James’s pragmatism. The results are surprising. In short, James’s philosophy can prove useful for feminist efforts to challenge sexism and male privilege, in spite of James himself.

In this latest installment of the Re-Reading the Canon series, contributors appeal to William James’s controversial texts not simply as an exercise in feminist critique but in the service of feminism.

Along with the editors, the contributors are Jeremy Carrette, Lorraine Code, Megan Craig, Susan Dieleman, Jacob L. Goodson, Maurice Hamington, Erin McKenna, José Medina, and Charlene Haddock Seigfried.

“The authors show that James's work clearly presents difficulties for feminists and how feminists might engage with James's ethical philosophy, the role of the body, and matters of epistemology. The editing is well executed, and explanatory notes appear throughout. Though the book is best suited to scholars with a background in James's work, the descriptions and analyses are convincing and will be useful even to those without significant prior exposure to James.”
“This volume represents some of the best applications of feminist pragmatist scholarship. It also takes seriously the documented sexism of a seemingly socially progressive and well-intentioned pragmatist philosopher, William James. . . . This method of rereading the canon serves as a model for feminists to generate complex and rich interpretive horizons that don't excuse the sexism of the philosopher as accidental to his philosophical theories, nor advocate a wholesale rejection of the philosopher's work as essentially sexist, but seek a middle interpretive ground that critically engages the philosopher's social prejudice while attempting to transform pragmatist thought toward meeting the goals of feminist projects.”
“A welcome and lively contribution on William James, and adds significantly to the series’ wider reconstructive project. . . . James is here revealed warts-and-all, and that certainly is to the good of Jamesian scholarship, pragmatism, and feminist philosophy more generally.”

Erin C. Tarver is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Oxford College of Emory University.

Shannon Sullivan is Chair of Philosophy and Professor of Philosophy and Health Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.



Nancy Tuana



Erin C. Tarver and Shannon Sullivan

Part I: The Promise and Peril of James’s Philosophy for Feminism

1 The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order

Charlene Haddock Seigfried

2 “The Woman Question”: James’s Negotiations with Natural Law Theory and Utilitarianism

Jacob L. Goodson

3 Women and William James

Erin McKenna

4 Lady Pragmatism and the Great Man: The Need for Feminist Pragmatism

Erin C. Tarver

Part II: Pragmatist Ethics of Care

5 The Energies of Women: William James and the Ethics of Care

Susan Dieleman

6 William James and the Will to Care for Unfamiliar Others: The Masculinity of Care?

Maurice Hamington

Part III: Embodiment and Emotion

7 Habit, Relaxation, and the Open Mind: James and the Increments of Ethical Freedom

Megan Craig

8 James and Feminist Philosophy of Emotion

Shannon Sullivan

9 “A Perverse Kind of Pleasure”: James, the Body, and Women’s Mystical Experience

Jeremy Carrette

Part IV: Epistemic and Narrative Contestations

10 The Will Not to Believe: Pragmatism, Oppression, and Standpoint Theory

José Medina

11 Incredulity and Advocacy: Thinking After William James

Lorraine Code


Charlene Haddock Seigfried



Erin C. Tarver and Shannon Sullivan

Perhaps what is most striking about contemporary feminist philosophy focused on William James is how little there is of it. When feminist philosophers answered Charlene Haddock Seigfried's (1991) call “Where are all the pragmatist feminists?,” they largely turned to John Dewey and Jane Addams to develop new forms of pragmatist feminism and feminist pragmatism (see, for example, Seigfried 2001 and Hamington 2010). Dewey's and Addams's development, for example, of relational understandings of the self and inclusive, democratic ways of living has been an enormously rich resource for feminists and pragmatists alike. The work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elsie Ridley Clapp, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Ella Flagg Young, Mary Whiton Calkins, and other women working in American philosophical traditions also has been retrieved and critically appreciated for its pragmatist feminist potential (Seigfried 1996). While modest in comparison with Dewey and Addams, other historical figures in American philosophy, such as Josiah Royce, recently have been used by feminists to further cross-cultural and critical race philosophy (Bardwell-Jones 2012; Sullivan 2012). Even the semiotics of Charles S. Peirce-one of the least feminist of classical American philosophers, as Seigfried charges in this volume-have been the basis of a book-length feminist account of affectivity, embodiment, and social criticism (Trout 2010; see also Moen 1991). The story tends to be different for James, however, who largely has been missing from pragmatist feminist conversations despite his work's affirmation of variety, inclusiveness, and multiplicity.

This situation is not too much of a surprise, however, given the pervasive and explicit sexism in James's philosophy. As Seigfried documents in one of the first explicitly feminist appraisals of James's work-reprinted in chapter 1 of this collection-accompanying James's refreshing appreciation of pluralism and novelty is a well-worn view of women that affirms sexist stereotypes about their place in society and, above all, in the home. James's philosophical style might be feminine, as Seigfried has noted, but it is not thereby feminist. Despite James's rejection of what some would describe as stereotypically masculine philosophical methodologies-the abstraction of cold rationalism and the systematic argumentation of scholasticism are two of his favorite targets-his scholarly work and personal life are steeped in forms of patriarchy and rugged individualism that embrace manliness and men at the expense of women and possibilities for their lives.

Why then devote time and energy to developing feminist interpretations of James? There are, we think, at least two important reasons to do so. The first is that, in addition to all the perils of his work for feminism, James's philosophy has promising features, resources that can, in spite of James himself, prove useful for feminist efforts to challenge sexism and male privilege. Where might these resources be found? While James's pragmatism, psychology, and radical empiricism all contain useful concepts that could be developed for feminist ends, it is his pragmatism and, to a lesser degree, his development of psychology that have been the most fruitful for pragmatist feminism and feminist pragmatism to this point. Those areas of James's work are instances in which he radically reinterpreted truth as something in the service of human beings and developed an embodied account of the human mind in which habit and emotion play a crucial role.

One of this book's editors, Erin C. Tarver (2007), was one of the first philosophers to realize the feminist potential of James's work, arguing for the usefulness of his concept of habit, his appreciation of the pluralism of experience, and his insistence that philosophical theories have practical consequences. Edwina Barvosa (2008) also has used James's philosophy to develop a Chicana account of multiple identities and mestiza consciousness, and Amy Oliver (2012) recently has documented how James's pragmatism significantly influenced the feminist philosophy of the early twentieth-century Uruguayan social philosopher Carlos Vaz Ferreira. This volume aims to continue both critical and constructive work along these lines, investigating the advantages as well as the disadvantages of James's philosophy for feminist thought and action.

The second, yet equally important, reason to devote feminist resources to critical readings of James is that contemporary pragmatist scholarship stands in need of feminist criticism. James was a founding member and remains one of the most influential thinkers of the American philosophical movement now known as classical pragmatism, which has enjoyed significant success in North American popular culture and is currently experiencing resurgence in academic philosophy. James's works continue to be read and cited in popular and academic contexts. Too often, however, those citations, and the thought influenced by them, come without critical attention to the problematic, sexist, oppressive implications of certain features of James's writings. In the context of recent efforts by the discipline of philosophy to become more welcoming to women, to LGBTQ persons, and to people of color, it is crucial that we not leave texts such as James's uninterrogated. Dismissing or reading over sexist and/or racist language in James's texts is not a sustainable strategy for responsible scholarship; leaving James behind entirely is likewise undesirable, as we have suggested above. Pragmatists interested in making full use of James's theoretical resources without repeating his mistakes must think carefully about the extent to which his thought relies on an untenable sexism. Feminist pragmatists are particularly well positioned to lead the way in critical readings of James that undertake precisely this difficult work, and to do so with a view to preserving that which is valuable in James, while leaving behind what is not.

Because of the importance of reading James critically, part I of this volume begins with the dangers and potential problems of James's philosophy for feminism. As the four essays in that section demonstrate, these dangers and potential problems are significant. In chapter 1, “The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order,” Charlene Haddock Seigfried reflects on an essay she wrote in 1996, which documents how Victorian ideals that stereotyped the sexes operate in James's texts, designating men as rational thinkers and women as emotional breeders. The original essay is then reprinted in its entirety, illustrating the extent to which men function as the movers and shakers in a Jamesian world, with women existing only to support men's endeavors and serve their needs. The chapter also shows, however, that a conventionally feminine streak runs through James's philosophy. James emphasizes fringes and horizons, he appreciates fluidity and vagueness, and he values plurality and concrete experiences. James thus manages both to value the feminine and to dismiss actual female and feminized beings. (This combination reminds us of the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophical style bears a family resemblance to that of James; see Oliver and Pearsall 1998, esp. part 1.) Feminists who wish to engage James thus face the complicated task of untangling the sexism and feminist-friendly ideas in his philosophy and reconstructing the latter outside of a privileged masculine, racial, and class worldview. As Seigfried concludes her original chapter, “Only when James's own interpretative horizon of patriarchal values is recognized and rejected are we free to appropriate the subversive feminine that is also part of his text.”

Seigfried's chapter criticizes, among other texts, James's 1869 review of John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women and Horace Bushnell's lesser-known Women's Suffrage. As Seigfried notes, this is the only time James publicly wrote about the blossoming women's movement in the United States, and she charges that James agrees with Bushnell's basic positions concerning women's allegedly natural subjection to men and that he disagrees with Mill's claim that women should be emancipated. Jacob L. Goodson continues Seigfried's investigation of the Bushnell-Mill article in chapter 2 of this volume, arguing that James's review in fact does not demonstrate the sexism with which it has been charged. In “'The Woman Question': James's Negotiations with Natural Law Theory and Utilitarianism,” Goodson proposes that while it is true that James's philosophy is marred by a patriarchal worldview, the upshot of James's review is not his affirmation of Bushnell's sexism, but his dissatisfaction with utilitarianism as a moral philosophy. This is significant for feminists because Mill's utilitarianism often serves as a foundational theory for liberal feminism, placing the individual, gender equality, and a concern for legal rights at the heart of feminist struggle. Siding with a form of radical feminism, Goodson argues that James's criticism of Mill's The Subjection of Women foreshadows some feminists' late twentieth-century rejection of the liberal individual and their turn to a more communal and social, rather than rights-based, feminism. According to Goodson, James's radical appreciation of relations, differences, and connections, which fully emerges in his moral psychology, is what fuels his dissatisfaction with Mill's account of women's suffrage. This dissatisfaction is something that contemporary feminists can agree with, even as they disagree with James's sexism.

That sexism is amply evident in James's personal relationships with the women in his life. As Erin McKenna demonstrates in chapter 3, “Women and William James,” James regularly and repeatedly engaged in the “backgrounding” of women-that is, relying on their presence, work, or care without acknowledging it as significant, let alone necessary. This is how he viewed his female colleagues, such as Jane Addams; his female students, such as Mary Whiton Calkins; his sister, Alice James; his mother, Mary Robertson Walsh James; and his wife, Alice Gibbens James. In all these cases, James assumed that women's proper place was behind men (or rather “him,” James himself!) in support of them. As McKenna documents, James repeatedly refused in his own life to follow his philosophical advice to liberate people's energies from social and other obstacles. “The energies of men,” to quote the title of one of James's articles, turn out to mean literally that: the energies of men and men only. It is men's untapped potential that society needs to try to actualize, not women's, on James's account. Their energies and their potential find their ends in the lives of the fathers, brothers, sons, and other men around them.

In conjunction with McKenna's concern that James's “backgrounding” of women infects his philosophical texts, Erin C. Tarver demonstrates how James's assumption of masculine subjectivity and agency operates in key Jamesian essays such as “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life.” In chapter 4, “Lady Pragmatism and the Great Man: The Need for Feminist Pragmatism,” Tarver argues that James's consistent assumption of a masculine investigative and moral agent-even in those texts cited by contemporary pragmatists to defend James against charges of sexism-leads him to posit an untenable account of autonomous individuality. This account, Tarver suggests, is both inconsistent with James's own psychology and tacitly valorizes the dominant social order, in which women (among others) are excluded from the possibility of moral greatness. Yet recognition of these problems in James's moral thought is likely to elude us if we do not adopt feminist habits of reading. It is for this reason, Tarver argues, that James's thought makes the necessity of feminism for pragmatism salient.

Given all the problems with James's work revealed in part I, where can or should feminists interested in James turn? Part II argues that one answer to this question lies in James's ethical philosophy. This is a somewhat surprising answer, because although James's work in ethics has been celebrated by pragmatists for its refusal of rules set out in advance, it has not, to this point, been subject to as much feminist engagement as his epistemology, psychology, and philosophy of embodied selfhood. This is not without reason since, as part I demonstrated, James's thought valorizes both singular, rugged individuals who dare to achieve greatness and the general virtues of strenuousness, manliness, and hardihood. In view of this fact, feminist ethics-which, minimally, endeavors to recast normative philosophy such that the ethical or moral worth of actions is not defined in terms that exclude women-has not, on the whole, looked to James as a potential ally.

Yet James's moral thought can be surprisingly fruitful for explicitly feminist ethical projects, even if James himself would not have anticipated such a use. Indeed, as Susan Dieleman and Maurice Hamington argue in chapters 5 and 6, respectively, Jamesian philosophy is not merely compatible with a feminist ethics of care. It also can add to a feminist care ethic by offering a novel approach to conceptualizing the action of caring. While Hamington and Dieleman agree that feminists do not necessarily need James to formulate reasonable care theory, feminist approaches to care that draw on James would benefit from features of his thought that offer ways around typical problems that arise for feminist care ethicists, or that would expand the reach of an ethics of care.

In chapter 5, “The Energies of Women: William James and the Ethics of Care,” Dieleman investigates the problem of the feminization of care and the perennial worry that care ethics may involve itself in an essentialist equation of femininity with caring. Dieleman argues that despite James's own views on gender, Jamesian feminists need not be gender essentialists, and, in fact, that James's own account of the ways in which difficult circumstances may elicit new virtues and previously inconceivable efforts from individuals may be able to explain how women so often manage to develop caring virtues in ways that men do not, without thereby assenting to an untenable gender essentialism. If we take James's account of habituation seriously, according to Dieleman, women's socialization into constrained roles associated with responsibility for care will understandably lead to the more-or-less consistent habituation of individual women into caring virtues.

In chapter 6, “William James and the Will to Care for Unfamiliar Others: The Masculinity of Care?,” Hamington focuses on caring for those whom we do not know and asks whether masculine assertiveness could contribute to care. The willingness to care for strangers, to be attentive and empathetic to them, does not come easily, Hamington acknowledges, but it is for that reason a potentially transformative virtue to cultivate. At the same time, the habit of caring for unfamiliar others leaves both the one who cares and the one who is cared for particularly vulnerable, for such interactions would have to proceed in the face of significant unknowns (What does this person really need? How will they react to my attentiveness? How can I avoid harm to myself or others?). In view of these unknowns, it is difficult to explain how we could be sure that caring for unfamiliar others is a good idea, much less motivate such an apparently risky action. Hamington argues, however, that care theorists can turn to James's account of the will to believe in the face of insufficient evidence-even (or especially) in light of the Jamesian pluralist recognition that our knowledge of others' perspectives and values is necessarily incomplete-to explain how such caring could become possible. Hamington also explores how James's emphasis on typically masculine virtues, such as assertive and energetic action, might be useful in this regard. In short, Hamington claims that care requires precisely the “leap of faith” that James advocates in his essay “The Will to Believe.” This fact does not, of course, guarantee that our caring efforts will be effective-and here both care theorists and pragmatists would emphasize the necessity of epistemic humility alongside the willingness to take action. What is crucial, though-and what James's thought makes salient-is that the recognition of our limits as knowers and actors can inspire courage rather than quiescence.

Habits of thought and action were important to James himself not merely for ethical reasons but also for psychophysiological ones. Habit plays a crucial role in James's psychology, so much so that it occupies a place of prominence in his influential textbook The Principles of Psychology and in his popular lectures and essays on how everyday people could live happier, more fulfilling lives. Because of the importance of embodied habits to feminist philosophy, part III of this volume takes up that theme via consideration of psychical suffering, emotion, and religion. In chapter 7, “Habit, Relaxation, and the Open Mind: James and the Increments of Ethical Freedom,” Megan Craig examines James's advice to students at women's colleges in his popular lecture “The Gospel of Relaxation.” Craig argues that this essay offers an important diagnosis of the psychical problems suffered by Americans-particularly by American women. James anticipates later insights of Kristeva's psychoanalysis, according to Craig, when he presciently predicts that “an unchecked American zealotry for personal success at all costs would marginalize those who fell outside traditional, stereotyped models-women foremost (though certainly not alone) among them.” Although James's proposed solution to this problem is controversial-he famously encouraged the young women in his audience to “fling away” their books and resolve not to care about success when they began to feel anxiety before an exam-Craig argues that his advice should be understood as an attempt to take seriously both the uniqueness of women's psychical suffering in a society characterized by sexism and the importance of a somatic approach to emotional healing. Changing our physical habits can transform our psychic lives, and this, Craig argues, is a crucial feminist insight.

James's work in psychology also is important for feminist philosophers of emotion who want to avoid overly cognitivist accounts of emotion, as Shannon Sullivan demonstrates in chapter 8, “James and Feminist Philosophy of Emotion.” Sullivan argues that James's notorious claim that bodily changes cause emotions can help feminists fully affirm the body as a source of affective knowledge. On Sullivan's account, James's causal claim ultimately is not causal at all; it is an identity claim. Emotion does not represent bodily changes and movements; instead bodily changes and emotions just are two different ways of describing the same psychophysical event. Distinguishing unconscious emotions from those that are consciously felt, Sullivan reads James in conjunction with contemporary empirical work on emotion and Teresa Brennan's concept of the transmission of affect to demonstrate how emotion circulates between people. Emotion is contagious, which is to say that our bodily changes are contagious. Via emotion, the bodily changes and movements of one person can get inside the body of another. The upshot of James's psychology for feminist philosophy is a biopsychosocial account of emotion: emotion is simultaneously physiological, psychological, and interpersonal or transpersonal.

Even though the body is crucial to James's psychology and philosophy more broadly, he struggles to maintain his validation of the body and embodied knowledge when it comes to women's bodies. As Jeremy Carrette argues in chapter 9, “'A Perverse Kind of Pleasure': James, the Body, and Women's Mystical Experience,” this is especially true in the case of women's embodied religious experiences. The history of mysticism is a history of struggle over and mistrust of women's bodies, as Carrette explains. Reading the body in an implicitly gendered, Protestant way in The Varieties of Religious Experience, James distinguishes the hypnoid body from the revelatory body in order to discredit women's embodiment. Gendered as feminine, the hypnoid body is excessively sensitive and associated with sexual states, and thus it cannot speak or offer anything epistemologically valuable, as revelatory bodies can. James anxiously critiques Teresa of Avila's so-called hypnoid body and mystical ravishment at the hands of God (or, more precisely, the tip of the spear with which God penetrates her). He also rejects what he views to be a Catholic indulgence in suffering, as exemplified in Margaret Mary Alacoque's “perverse” pursuit and enjoyment of pain. Comparing James's reading of women's mysticism with the even more extreme one of Jacques Lacan, Carrette demonstrates the patriarchal angst over women's bodies that escape masculine control. Like Lacan, James participates in the silencing of women's bodies. Unlike Lacan, however, James affirms a pluralist and fluid philosophy of the “more,” which lies outside all order and constraint. It is here that a protofeminist position in can be found in his work, Carrette argues, enabling James's thinking to potentially rise above its Victorian constraints.

Epistemological issues are important both to James's work and to feminist philosophy, and for this reason part IV of this volume turns to various epistemic contestations in and with James's philosophy. In chapter 10, “The Will Not to Believe: Pragmatism, Oppression, and Standpoint Theory,” José Medina draws on James's epistemological pluralism to formulate a contribution to feminist and critical epistemology. Medina argues that James's commitment to a perspectival, fallibilist, and volitional account of knowledge makes his thought significantly resonate with feminist standpoint theory, but that James fails to realize the critical potential of his own ideas. James does not take his melioristic pluralism far enough, Medina argues, because of his overemphasis on individuality and underestimation of the oppressive effects of social exclusions. Taking the reality of oppression seriously would require an epistemological outlook that does not presume the intelligibility of all possible experiences, nor that our own experience is transparent to us; some experiences, including our own, will necessarily be alien to us, insofar as we remain unaware of their enabling conditions. A critical and feminist appropriation of Jamesian epistemology will thus require that we interrogate the background “un-truths and counter-truths” that support our everyday epistemic experiences, and that we make salient the many ways in which knowers exercise “the will not to believe” when those epistemic experiences are built on the subordination of others.

In chapter 11, “Incredulity and Advocacy: Thinking After William James,” Lorraine Code takes the connection between Jamesian epistemology and anti-oppressive politics to its practical conclusion. Code argues that James's claim that would-be knowers must sometimes commit to a belief by acting “as if” it were true prior to adequate evidence suggests a potentially more effective strategy by which feminists and anti-racists might counter “the habit-enforcing effects of unjust practices that are so thoroughly integrated into the fabric of a social order as to seem immune to challenge.” Intransigent sexist and racist systems of belief are not often susceptible to destabilization by the presentation of contrary evidence, since the holding of such beliefs involves significant acts of willing, which are recapitulated in the face of opposing views. The task of rooting out such oppressive belief systems, then, should focus not on the introduction of new propositional content, but on the cultivation of different habits of mind-in other words, on cultivating different ways of acting “as if.” Taking a cue from James's “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,” Code suggests that acting “as if” can be facilitated through immersion in the sort of narratives that come from “novels of a deeper sort,” such as Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Code argues, can thus be read as “an elaborated act of epistemic resistance,” which, precisely because of its narrative structure, enabled readers to imagine the lives of enslaved people in new, empathetic ways, and thus to know slavery differently than they would have by being presented with a list of facts about it. Such new ways of knowing were crucial to the elimination of slavery in the United States and are similarly important to the ongoing struggle against racist and sexist oppression.

Finally, the volume closes with an afterword by Charlene Haddock Seigfried. Reflecting on the work done by feminists on James since the 1996 publication of her Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric, Seigfried considers the way in which her book helped develop the field of pragmatist feminism. She also notes how strongly feminism influenced her earlier monograph on James, William James's Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy (1990), a fact that has been recognized less often by feminist and pragmatist philosophers. Many of the Jamesian resources for feminism-for example, James's appreciation of fluidity, of truth as a value for life, of the value-laded character of rationality, and of perspectivism and selective emphasis-were excavated in Seigfried's radical reconstruction of James even before the label of “feminist” was explicitly applied to them. Feminists thus have more to draw on in James's work than they may have believed, even as they must continue to be mindful of the sexist pitfalls in his thought.

Untangling the useful from the irremediably sexist aspects of James's philosophy is hard work, but we hope that this collection demonstrates that the effort is well worth it. Like other volumes in the Re-Reading the Canon series, Feminist Interpretations of William James has as one of its starting points the hypothesis that feminists can have a productive relationship to the history of philosophy, even as that history is overpopulated with white, socioeconomically privileged men. As women, as feminists, and as pragmatists, we philosophers need not throw out our relationship to our philosophical history. Indeed, we (Tarver and Sullivan in particular) are not sure one ever could completely throw it out. Blank slates aren't any more available for feminists than they are for other philosophers. In light of this fact, the question then becomes, what shall we do with the history of philosophy? One powerful answer is found in grappling with the work of James, in holding his thinking to his own pragmatic standards, and in refusing to shrink from difficult conversations about the limitations and failures of those to whom we consider ourselves most deeply philosophically indebted. This is what we have sought to do in the present volume, and we hope that many other feminists and pragmatists will join us in our effort.



<PN>Part I

<PT>The Promise and Peril of James's Philosophy for Feminism


<CT>The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order

<CA>Charlene Haddock Seigfried

<1>Reflections on “The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order”

Rereading my chapter “The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order,” originally published in Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric in 1996 and reprinted below, I am struck by the depth of James's misogyny it reveals. Despite my efforts to mitigate its severity, especially by recording James's ambiguity and discomfort with any fixed categories or natures, the pervasiveness of his masculinist assumptions is what stands out. The recognition that biased gender distinctions structured his ways of ordering the world is inescapable. I would like to mitigate somewhat this imbalance without minimizing the importance of recognizing how negative stereotypes can and do inform and undermine even the most well-intentioned efforts of social reform and personal development.

Since my analysis was written against the backdrop of a much more subversive James, who was already part of my own interpretation, a few escape hatches were built into my explanations. I was hoping that others would write papers balancing the oppressive binaries disclosed. Expanding James's struggles to incorporate the alien but irrepressible and fascinating “other” into his perceptions and values would be one way of accomplishing this. Another would be to take his praise of Jane Addams for her mystical oneness with nature-a state he yearned for but could never attain-as an invitation to rethink the rational/emotional/mystical dichotomies. The irony is that James already did this better than most, without, however, seeking to redress the negative impact that existing practices and beliefs had on women's lives. For all his bluster about shoring up masculinity, James was nonetheless ambivalent about his socially defined masculinist role and attracted to the feminine one (Townsend 1996). He consistently rejected “either-or” thinking-the logic of alienation-for the inclusiveness of “both-and” (Seigfried 1996a, xi). True, he did not apply his longing for dissolving boundaries to society's restrictions on gender roles or its classist and racial stereotypes, but we can.

Another opening is made by James's strong criticisms of the reductive positivism that was gaining ascendency. His recognition that “rebellious exceptions to the science of the present” are not obstacles to scientific progress, but its very means, cracked open a door for feminists and other critical thinkers to stream through. James put challenges to orthodox beliefs within rather than outside of standard science.

Thanks to analyses by feminist philosophers of the ways in which dominant discourses render “the other” lesser and invisible, as well as the wider recognition of this process since my chapter was first published, it is no longer necessary to explain why it took so long to realize that James's devaluation of women operated throughout his writings. But it can still be difficult to recognize how much societal biases continue to operate not only in others but also within our own everyday practices and assumptions. The interests of those with privilege and power are sustained in the face of criticism because they can assume protean shapes that seduce and distract. James's encouragement to see “the familiar as if it were strange, and the strange as if it were familiar” still has the power to break up “our caked prejudices” (James 1979a, 11).

Not much is heard anymore about “reading as a woman”-or as a black or Latina-but the arguments for why such subjective apprehensions are objectively valid still need to be made (Seigfried 2010 and 2011). This is an issue as much at the heart of theories of knowledge as it is of theories of value and justice. The genealogical excavation of the myriad ways in which gender bias colored James's insights provides models for performing similar work today. Thus, I was surprised at the summary rejections of James's philosophy as too tainted for feminist appropriation that too often greeted the initial publication of my chapter. What had struck me in writing it was the startling realization that if even such a creative, sympathetic, and radical thinker as James could carry within himself pernicious beliefs directly opposed to his strengths and insights, then who could escape?

Addams's assumptions that we all share to some extent in the moral failures of our societies, just as we all also have something of value to contribute, provide a way to deal with this discouraging state of affairs. Her example of questioning her own assumptions as the first step in clearing up misunderstanding across boundaries shows us both how to question harmful beliefs and how to appropriate what is of value in interpreting texts and in responding to other persons. James's appropriation of Darwinian theory to emphasize the plasticity of human development, for example, elaborates on the importance of practical and aesthetic interests in creating the worlds we inhabit (Seigfried 1990, 117-38). This is thrown into sharper relief insofar as we realize the gendered qualities he assumes as reference points. To move from blind to intelligent subjectivity, therefore, requires both deconstructive analysis and reconstructive efforts. Addams provides an early example of how to appropriate James for her own emancipatory purposes.

James struck at the heart of hierarchical gender binaries when he argued that rationality is not univocal, but consists of “at least four dimensions, intellectual, aesthetical, moral, and practical” (James 1977, 55). It follows that if rationality is not univocal, then it cannot be equated exclusively with masculinity. In quoting James on his revision of rationality, Addams (1981, 308) signaled her recognition of its subversive possibilities (see also Seigfried 2001). She made the connections that he failed to make. His expansive sense of rationality enabled her to bring the Hull House settlement-her life's project-within the valued sphere of the rational/scientific, while not abandoning the feminine/mystical aspects of life. She realized that James's recognized philosophical status provided support for her own rejection of the narrow strictures regarding what counts as rational experimentation in the social realm.

Addams had no more need to limit her endeavors to what was considered conventionally feminine than she needed to conform to masculine/positivist restrictions on what was scientifically valuable or rational in the social sciences. She welcomed the expansive pragmatist understanding of a concrete rationality that embraced the emotions and imagination and understood the practical, value-laden dimensions of intellectual models. She did not need to apologize for bringing feminine sensibilities to her public role of social reform, because her rejection of the model of a female nature constricted by societal beliefs and restrictions was not, after all, irrational.

Addams brilliantly brings Twenty Years at Hull-House to a close by explaining the settlement's fallible but no less transformative function, which was achieved through reflecting on its own experiences. She appeals to “a wise man's . . . fourfold undertaking” to delineate the various aspects that, for her, characterized the approach adopted by the settlement movement (Addams 1981, 308). The residents had “widely diversified tastes and interests,” just as their neighbors represented different nationalities and creeds. The residents' many years of service provided the continuity that Addams thought was essential to legitimating their methods and findings (Seigfried 2013). Chief among these was their cooperative interactions, which guaranteed the give-and-take of a community approach in which all contributed to defining the problems needing resolution and to proposing and enacting the solutions. According to Addams, one's station in life is not predetermined by societal restrictions, nor is morality the unchanging property of one class or creed. These propositions are defended by appealing to the settlement's discovery of “what has been called 'the extraordinary pliability of human nature'” (Addams 1981, 309). In context, the embedded quotation must again refer to James, but its use as a defense of a resolutely nonhierarchical cooperative method embracing the widest diversity of actually existing persons, beliefs, and values is Addams's own. So is her closing emphasis on the need to bring those who are economically oppressed into “our common life” and to provide them with opportunities for advancement.

The compendium of sexist beliefs found in James is not homogeneous, nor do these beliefs operate in the same way. The over-the-top images of the maternal joys of a cat in James's Principles of Psychology repel contemporary sensibilities, but the noble mystery of women's devotion can still seduce. But they are two sides of the same coin. Making visible the power of privileged perspectives to rank and therefore belittle or praise gender or sexual orientation or race-based characteristics reduces their hold on us and opens up a space for opposition. The tentacles of the analogy of woman as nature have global reach. The ways it disempowers women and empowers men are subtle and protean. James hands us an unfinished agenda.

By bringing to the surface and making explicit the gender bias that subtly pervades James's writings, I hoped to encourage a more insightful appropriation of his radical rethinking of the Western tradition of philosophy. Even the most astute interpretations of philosophical writings can be bent to oppressive or liberatory ends. James's writings are worth the effort that study requires, because he has already done so much work for us. It was once asked in feminist scholarship whether the master's tools can dismantle the master's house. I would say yes, once you have cleaned them up. I still think that James gives us some mighty fine tools.

<1>“The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order” (1996)

In his obituary of 1910 John Dewey commemorated William James by praising “his intellectual vitality, his openness of mind, his freedom from cant, his sympathetic insight into what other people were thinking of, his frank honesty, his spirit of adventure into the unknown” (Dewey 1978, 96). In one respect, however, his sympathetic insight failed him, and that is in regard to women, whom he consistently viewed from a masculinist, or ideologically patriarchal angle of vision; that is, one which equates humanness with maleness and believes that women's proper role is to serve men's interests. As a result of this devaluation of women, their experiences are distorted when they are not ignored outright, and customary and institutional barriers to women's emancipation are not challenged.

James's explicit support of the ideology of separate spheres, which restricts women to the privacy of the home and reserves the public sphere for men, mires him in sentimentality rather than in the sympathetic undemanding so characteristic of his interactions with others whose way of life differs dramatically from his own. Insofar as he believed that women's nature predisposed them to higher moral standards, his views about women resemble those of his contemporary, Jane Addams, as well as those of Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings in their more recent versions of an ethics of care (Addams 1902, 1916, 1981; Brabeck 1990). The cultural feminism of Addams, however, a woman whom he greatly admired, differs from James's espousal of the ideology of separate spheres because she explicitly attacks men's injustices to women and argues that women should not let their responsibility in the home prevent their active participation in society (Addams 1960, 104-7, 107-13, 113-23, 130-35; Deegan 1988, 230-33).

There are at least three reasons why the topic of James's relations with women is only now being raised in a philosophic context. First, women have historically been excluded from full participation in philosophical discourse, particularly in institutions of higher learning, which were only fully opened to women well into the twentieth century (Talbot and Rosenberry 1931; Newcomer 1959). And only late in the second half of this century have women been admitted in any significant numbers as professors of philosophy in coeducational institutions, which, along with all-male colleges and universities, have largely determined the proper subject matter of philosophical reflection, standard texts, and canonical philosophers. But these historical exclusions alone cannot account for the fact that this essay is only now being written. Absences do not make themselves felt unless someone is already aware of a presence that can be missed.

The second reason for my writing this essay is that feminist theory has made us more aware that culture has been largely androcentric, as Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote in 1914 in The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture. She pointed out that not only has history been written largely by men about male accomplishments, but they have monopolized mental, mechanical, and social developments. The loss of an important part of my own philosophical heritage is illustrated in the fact that I became aware of feminist theory through a French work, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, at least a decade before realizing that Gilman had already written about women's oppression some thirty-five years earlier than Beauvoir. Androcentric cultures suppress or marginalize not only gynocentric views, such as Gilman's, but also any perspectives that reflect different centers of interest or principles of organization. This second reason helps account for why merely including women as philosophers is not sufficient to recognize sexist discourse, although it can help (see, for example, Harding 1983).

After many years of scholarly engagement with James's philosophy, it is only recently that I have become aware of his pervasive sexism. How could it have escaped my notice for so long if it is so pervasive? Philosophy teachers engaged in helping students uncover hidden assumptions know that what is most familiar is often most difficult to recognize and hold up for reflexive appraisal. As Naomi Sheman (1993, 47) points out, learning to do philosophy successfully means disciplining our own personal, idiosyncratic voices and engaging in the great questions deemed philosophically important. The third reason, therefore, for not acknowledging the small amount of sexism that one has recognized is that one must be sufficiently empowered to change the conversation, to make central what was marginalized, and to convince oneself as well as the profession at large that one's own interests are philosophically significant. As long as philosophy is understood as a quest for universal truth or is restricted to a predetermined set of topics, propositions, or texts, appeals to any particular cultural, gender, or racial perspectives are judged to be at best misguided and at worst to sanction bias (McGary 1993, 51).

Moreover, James's philosophy and his way of expressing it was such an oasis from the conventional subject matter and method of philosophy, providing as it did such a powerful means of dismantling so many philosophical roadblocks and opening up promising new directions, that his own limitations in regard to women did not seem worth pursuing. So for many years I assumed that James's occasionally disparaging remarks about women were irrelevant to his philosophical perspective, which, after all, is pluralistic and antihegemonic. I simply ignored or skipped over them, much as Virginia Woolf (1928) did in her enjoyment of great literature. This was easy to do, since the marginalizing of women in James's thought is reflected in the fact that his direct references to women are incidental to the main subjects under discussion. Substantial references are found in early, more obscure works and are not reprinted in his better-known books, and the references in his major works are either in footnotes or serve merely as examples of a larger point. They also occur more often in such sections as the physiological parts of his psychology, which are of less immediate interest to philosophers and are often not even read.

Like Woolf, I found that it was only by deliberately focusing on this issue that its dimensions have become more apparent and therefore more discouraging, since I have generally held that James's sympathy with the downtrodden and his vital pluralism shielded him from the more harmful forms of sexism. At a time when women were excluded from Harvard University, for instance, he was among the first Harvard professors to participate in the founding of the Harvard Annex, which later became Radcliffe College, by agreeing to teach women students. That I was wrong about the extent of James's sexist assumptions shows just how difficult they are to acknowledge and reject. It seems that sexism can very well coexist not only with individually cordial relations with women but also with philosophical perspectives that systematically affirm difference. Inevitably, as women and those from other underrepresented groups move from the periphery to the center of philosophical discourse, our hitherto marginalized interests will increasingly become focal ones. As they do so, philosophy will approach more closely James's definition of it as “the habit of always seeing an alternative, of not taking the usual for granted, of making conventionalities fluid again, of imagining foreign states of mind” (James 1978, 4). And in seeing “the familiar as if it were strange, and the strange as if it were familiar,” it has the power to break up “our caked prejudices” (James 1979a, 11).

But why should the absence of women affect the subject matter of philosophy, which is often claimed to be a purely rational discourse or which claims to reflect on the human condition as such? James himself unwittingly provided the answer when he stated that “every human being of the slightest mental originality . . . is peculiarly sensitive to evidence that bears in some one direction. It is utterly hopeless to try to exorcize such sensitiveness by calling it the disturbing subjective factor, and branding it as the root of all evil. . . . Pretend what we may, the whole man within us is at work when we form our philosophical opinions. Intellect, will, taste, and passion co-operate just as they do in practical affairs” (James 1975b, 77). It is not surprising that women would be more sensitive than his male readers to how James portrays women. Not just the whole man, but the whole woman within us participates philosophically and responds emotionally as well as intellectually to what especially pertains to her. For James this perspectival character of our perceptions enhances rather than distorts our understanding of reality, and therefore it should be encouraged in philosophical reflection, not rejected as a merely subjective distortion of presumptively unbiased analysis.

In this chapter I will examine James's relations with and attitudes toward women to demonstrate that his belief in separate spheres for women and men reflects the patriarchal ideology that only men are fully human, that is, fully rational, and reflects as well the Victorian sentimentalizing of this ideology, which holds that women are more emotional than men and thus the proper bearers of a morality based on care (see Douglas 1977). Not only are both attitudes detrimental to the full development of women's being-in-the-world, but they also subtly distort and undercut central positions of James. Since he argues that our feelings, attitudes, and beliefs inform our reflections, the feminist practice of “reading as a woman,” that is, differently than the author intended, should not be judged as an invalid interpretive approach by other pragmatists. According to Nancy Tuana, the difference of such a reading consists in the avert rejection of “the process of definition of women in Western culture as not male, as Other.” In regard to James, I show that what Tuana argues is a consequence of reading as a woman, namely, “the realization that some of the central categories of philosophy must be transformed in order to include woman and the variety of women's experiences” (Tuana 1992, 7, 10).

But although James's writings are among the least feminist of all the classical American philosophers (a distinction shared with Peirce and Santayana), they are also arguably the most conventionally feminine. Images of fluidity and merging abound; boundaries are permeable; and nuances usually lost in focusing on an object are recalled in his appeal to the fringes and horizons of knowing. He develops a metaphysics of relations and an epistemology based on sympathetic concrete observation. His ethics requires responsive sensibility to the inner life and worth of others. Religion is defined through intensity of experience and not dogmatic formulas, and feeling is defended as intrinsic to cognition and the development of rationality. Morris Grossman (1992) writes: “The 'feminine' in James-the chthonic, the liquid, the vague, the inconstant, the chaotic-almost destroy him. . . . The 'embrace' of the feminine-the acceptance of the vague, the inchoate, the irresolute, the liquid, the emotive-saves him. . . . William also accomplishes a feminine embrace of chaos in favor of nature, abundance, inventiveness, fecundity and superfluidity.”

Perhaps it is the very prominence of this feminine side of himself that led James to emphasize manliness, the Promethean self, and the Goethe-like resolution to continually strive against overwhelming odds. However it affected his own life, his writings demonstrate an unresolved, creative tension between feminine and masculine desires and values. Both attraction to the feminine side of experience and assertions of masculinity pervade his published and unpublished writings, but are not themselves analyzed or challenged. His philosophy is so at odds with the masculine character ascribed to Western philosophy by many feminists, yet not yet free of sexist stereotyping, that it is particularly important to explore just how his sexism affects his appropriation of the feminine. Only then can a feminist radical empiricism be developed in recognition of the strengths, ambiguities, and distortions of the feminine inscribed in the text.

<2>1. Sentimental Ideals

Since James was a Victorian, after all, what does it matter that he shared the typical attitudes of his time toward women? It matters because his attitudes were not simply a reflection of his times but were deliberately adopted. Not all Victorian men succumbed to contemporary stereotypes of women. John Stuart Mill, for example, who wrote The Subjection of Women, did not, nor did Lester F. Ward, to whom Charlotte Perkins Gilman dedicated The Man-Made World. Furthermore, many nineteenth_century women, such as Ida B. Wells, Frances Wright, Margaret Fuller, Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth, wrote and spoke against the stereotype and for emancipated womanhood. James was aware of at least some of this agitation on the part of women, and he even responded to Mill's analysis of women's subjection.

In fact, the one and only time James publicly wrote about the burgeoning women's movement, he uncharacteristically stepped back from an unknown he did not want to contemplate. In an unsigned review article written in 1869 while he was still a student, he supported Horace Bushnell's more reactionary book, Women's Suffrage, against John Stuart Mill's more revolutionary book, The Subjection of Women (James 1987, 246-56). Bushnell's thesis is that the status of women ought to be improved by freer access to education and occupations, but they should not be allowed to participate in any form of governing. This limited view of women's education sheds light on James's later support of it. James agrees with Bushnell's reason for such a restriction, namely that women's nature is naturally subordinate. He actually believes that “the universal sense of mankind” confirms such subordination in women as an ideal (247). But though he accepts Bushnell's basic premise, he disagrees with all of his supporting arguments and thinks that Bushnell does not specify the real cause of such clashes between the sexes as the fight for women's suffrage.

Although James thinks that Bushnell's style is too pompous and his utterances hollow, he nonetheless agrees with his sexist view of women, and although he praises Mill's clean, forcible rhetoric, which he says shoots straight to the target, he nonetheless rejects his contention that women should be emancipated. This uncharacteristic disagreement with Mill, to whom he later dedicated Pragmatism, saying that he “first learned the pragmatic openness of mind” from him, a man whom he would like “to picture as our leader were he alive to-day,” is further evidence of the operation of prejudice rather than of James's usual, pragmatic openness.

James superficially criticizes Mill as quibbling over whether women have a fixed nature or not, since Mill argues that there are no fixed natural differences between men and women, only differences of education, and yet calls women's present condition unnatural. But in context Mill makes it clear that the Victorian exaggeration of differences between the sexes is not based on nature, as is claimed by those who want to preserve male privilege, but on socialization, and is only in this sense unnatural. James takes “the woman question” to be a practical one, by which he means that conservatives and reformers target for praise or for dispraise the same actual conditions of women, such as the restriction of women to the home and the failure to provide career opportunities for single women. He especially objects to Mill's attack on “the accepted sentimental ideal of the personal intercourse of man and wife,” since James naively or chauvinistically believes that, by contrast with the situation in Europe, legal abuses are obsolete in America, where men do not express their superiority in brutality toward women nor do they object to their wives' occupying public roles (James 1987, 251).

James likens what he calls “a hidden premise” in Mill's reasoning to a projectile whose explosive force propels it forward. He plainly fears the explosive effects of Mill's attack on the sentimentalizing of the Victorian family structure in which men rule and women serve. Mill argues, for instance, that what passes for a school of sympathy and tenderness in the family is more often an idealized selfishness, in which men's interests and self-worship condone a morality of submission for women and children. Mill advocates that a morality of justice, in which two human beings live together in equality, with leading and following reciprocally shared, ought to supplant the present state of marital affairs in which the husband is the absolute master. James responds that Mill is confusing friendship with love and that his advocacy of reciprocal superiority threatens “the conception of a wife as a possession” (James 1987, 253). Although it is obvious that men's status is enhanced by their power to virtually own women, James never questions why women should welcome being treated as objects.

James defends the ideal of the representative American male, who craves dependency in his wife. Since men struggle in the cruel public world of work and suffer from having their weaknesses exposed, they long for the security of the home where they will not be criticized and where their egos will be built up. Men's ideal of security and repose requires that he be the woman's mediator with the external world. Unlike Mill, James never inquires what women desire nor seeks to understand their needs or perspectives since he assumes, contrary to Mill, that he already knows “the true mental characteristics of women” (James 1987, 251). He contends that “mere mutual respect and sympathy in some end” are weak ties in marriage compared to “that flattering interplay of instincts,” egotism on his part and self-sacrifice on hers (254). James fears the “extremely revolutionary import” of Mill's substitution of friendship for love as the basis for marriage, since friendship requires the equality of the sexes, while love requires that women be subordinate to men.

After examining this same 1869 review in 1986, Gerald F. Myers did not find any evidence of sexism. As I do in the opening paragraph of this chapter, he asks whether James's universally recognized tolerance, generosity, and goodwill went beyond mere tolerance to embrace a morally conscientious attitude towards women and concludes that “his ethics of individualism did not falter in its application to women.” He points out that James was highly sarcastic in his review of Bushnell and that he pilloried his redundant, careless, vulgar style. This assessment is accurate as far as it goes, but Myers does not notice that although James rebuts Bushnell's arguments, he does not challenge his basic positions. Bushnell argues against women holding public office or exercising the suffrage on the grounds of their feminine nature, which is naturally subject and meant to yield to evil rather than combat it with violence. Rather than finding this position morally repulsive, as Myers thinks, James at this point says, “So far, so good.” He continues by saying that as long as Bushnell attributes these attitudes to “inexplicable sentiment” and holds them as ideals, “he remains in a strong position” (James 1987, 247).

What James objects to are the reasons Bushnell gives in support of his dogmatic assertions about woman's nature and his view that being subjected to the will of another is a higher moral state than taking responsibility for one's own actions. James says that Bushnell's arguments are canceled out because he appeals to purely ascetic principles rather than to ones of justice. Myers (1986, 425) defends his interpretation of James's non_sexist attitudes by giving the pertinent quotation: “Modern civilization, rightly or wrongly, is bent on developing itself along the lines of justice, and any defense of woman's position on ascetic principles will fall with little weight on the public ear.” But whatever James means by justice, it does not entail equality between women and men. In his arguments against Mill in the second half of the review, James quotes Bushnell to illustrate the horrors that follow when a woman no longer idolizes or idealizes her husband, insists on being his partner instead of his subordinate, and even refuses to accept his name. James once again objects to Bushnell's dogmatic assertion of what is a priori natural, but then goes on to appeal to less dogmatic minds that basically support Bushnell's contentions. These “other sceptics” object that, unlike the mutual sympathy which characterizes friendship, the sympathy between husband and wife should be hierarchical, and “the most thorough equality” between them is possible only within the restricted sphere that includes purely personal interests within the family and “the minor practical matters of life” (James 1987, 254).

Myers points out that James had earlier mocked Bushnell's fears that women will lose their particular beauty and grace in assuming public roles. Bushnell cannot logically maintain the utterly radical difference of women's nature from men's, he says, and then be terrified that a few outward changes will fundamentally alter it. James gives so many examples of the silliness of Bushnell's characterization of women's simpering nature and men's thundering masculinity that it is easy to overlook the fact that he is intent on debunking Bushnell's arguments and ridiculing his style, but not necessarily his fundamental assertions. If Bushnell's ravings were allowed to stand without criticism, their obvious fallaciousness would weaken the moral grounds for subordinating women to men, grounds James wants to shore up by supplying the facts that will reveal just where “the true puncta dolorosa of the disorder lie” (James 1987, 250).

In James's review of Mill's Subjection of Women, we have seen how he characterized the disorder being introduced into the conventional relations between the sexes by such new ideals as absolute equality between women and men, justice, and personal independence. Myers defends James's sentimental and self-serving rejection of Mill's arguments for women's emancipation. He prints a long passage in which James reiterates the theme of female subjection in marriage, proclaiming that “the wife his heart more or less subtly craves is at bottom a dependent being” and, after explaining the masculine ideal as including absolute validation in the private world of marriage, asks rhetorically whether the elements of security and repose essential to this ideal are “easily attainable without some feeling of dependence on the woman's side” (Myers 1986, 426). Myers says nothing about the one-sidedness of an ideal according to which men need to dominate women. Instead, without comment, he glosses James as appealing to “the mutual dependence in love” (emphasis added), as what will take modern marriage beyond friendship. He cautions against throwing custom overboard, since, according to James, custom represents the experimentation of centuries in coming to a moral equilibrium which should curb the arrogance of a self-assertion that challenges whatever it does not like.

By arguing only for the benefits that marriage brings to men and completely ignoring their negative impact on women, James's sentimentalizing of the patriarchal status quo uncritically espouses the very argument from custom that Mill so clearly demolishes in The Subjection of Women. The fact that after more than a century Myers can still find the appeal to custom convincing sadly demonstrates that Mill was right in attacking this source of women's subordination. James fails to rebut Mill's central claim that the principle separating modern liberal societies from earlier tyrannies is that conduct alone, and not the accidents of birth, such as sex, or of status, such as slave and citizen, should determine morality and politics. James (1987, 255) concludes his review by advocating that everyone read Mill's essay, which will convert many who are skeptical or indifferent but will also strengthen those whose conservatism leads them to resist “the democratic flood which is sweeping us along.” James wonders whether his own espousal of special moral ties that vary with circumstances or Mill's “passion for absolute equality, 'justice,' and personal independence” signals the future progress of evolution (255-56).

In 1908, nearly forty years later, James repeats the view that women's role is to serve men. In a footnote in The Meaning of Truth James (1975a, 103n2) tried to correct a mistake he had made in Pragmatism when he asserted that “God” and “Matter” could be considered as synonyms, so long as no differences in practice could be deducible from the two conceptions. In retracting this support for a godless universe, he developed an analogous case of an “automatic sweetheart,” meaning a soulless body indistinguishable from a real maiden. The point of the comparison is that both God and maidens, though perceptually indistinguishable from their doubles, would not be accepted as equivalent to them. In the case of automatic sweethearts, even if they could perform all their functions perfectly, they could not perform the supreme female function, namely, to sympathetically reaffirm the importance and moral worth of their men. James argues in his imaginary anticipation of The Stepford Wives that the switch would not work pragmatically because what men's egos crave above all things is “inward sympathy and recognition, love and admiration,” and the satisfaction of these needs requires belief that they are bestowed by a conscious being.

In this passage women are defined not only in relation to men but as fulfilling very definite needs of men. No reciprocity is implied or even logically possible because James is supposedly describing women's essential role as women. He gives as the curiously limited “feminine offices” of “a spiritually animated maiden” those of “laughing, talking, blushing, nursing us.” A woman cannot even read the footnote logically; to do so in my analysis, for instance, I have had to substitute the term men for the original formulations, which include, besides “nursing us,” “our egoism” (emphasis added). Once this masculine-centered perspective is recognized, then the gender restrictions of the phrases used in the analogous case of a godless universe a few lines later can also be recognized. James refers to “the chief call for a God on modern men's part” and “the craving of our ego” felt by “most men.” Men apparently need women and God for the same reason.

James unquestionably assumes that women were created to fulfill men's deepest needs. They are quite literally God's surrogates on earth. And with a shudder I realize that it must follow that something of the absoluteness of God's love and sympathy is expected from women: never wavering, never withholding, never resenting. Justifications for self-regarding behavior that would be acceptable, even morally praiseworthy in men, would therefore be considered selfish, a moral fault, in women. Both women and men become morally worthy insofar as they live a full, human life. But for men this includes developing one's talents, while for women it means helping men develop their talents.

In an essay commemorating the eccentric individualist, Thomas Davidson, James (1987, 90) mentions that a few independent women were among Davidson's faithful friends who attended his cultural summer school in the Adirondacks. He condescendingly remarks that “naturally a man who is willing, as he was, to be a prophet, always finds some women who are willing to be disciples” (96). The women's emotional attachments are emphasized by James's characterizing the women as warming themselves at the fire of Davidson's soul. He reports that Davidson, however, did not treat the women with exaggerated courtesy, but instead “told them truths without accommodation.” Apparently surprised that Davidson did not seek to accommodate women's supposed sensibilities, but criticized them as sharply as if they were men, James remarks, after giving a few examples of such brusqueness: “Seldom, strange to say, did the recipients of these deliverances seem to resent them.” The strangeness resides in the fact that the women students reacted as male students would, instead of according to Victorian stereotypes of frail femininity.

<2>2. Masculine Brains and Feminine Intuition

In his earliest essay on mental development (1878) James draws out the profound consequences of Darwin's theory for our understanding of human rationality as emergent rather than as a static property (Woodward 1983, xiv-xvii). His explanation of “our concrete acts of reasoning” in “Brute and Human Intellect” introduces the fundamental Jamesian thesis of the distinctively human ability to extract from the phenomenal totality just that particular character that will best serve our purposes (James 1983a, 1-37). He explicitly rejects the interpretation of the mind as a passive mirror and emphasizes the creativity of human consciousness in determining the world of experience. The active rather than passive determination of the objects of consciousness supports feminist epistemological theories about the ways that our presuppositions influence reality, and his explanation of how reasoning by analogy links poetic with analytic thinking could be usefully appropriated for feminist aesthetics.

Reasoning is contrasted with narrative, descriptive, or contemplative thinking. Contemplative thinking utilizes “association by contiguity,” which is the “procession through the mind of groups of images of concrete things, persons, places and events” mainly “derived from our actual experience of the order of things in the real outward world” (James 1983a, 2). It can also be expressed in revery, or “association by similarity,” which more randomly joins images. Both are thinking through concrete whole representations, but contiguous associations are more common in dry, prosaic, and literal minds, while association by similarity is found more often in poetic and witty persons.

Reasoning differs from contemplation in that it abstracts from the relations in actual experiences and instead joins partial characteristics embedded in a totality of various items of thought. In rational judgment the connecting links are made explicit and the relation of the consequent to the antecedent is more evident than when they are related as undifferentiated wholes. Knowledge, which is initially vague, becomes ever more discriminating as various aspects of a complex whole get disassociated from the mass. Ever more nuanced distinctions can be made, and reasoning ability is measured by the power of disassociating hitherto unrecognized characteristics. This creative spontaneity is elicited by our practical and aesthetic interests, the “irreducible ultimate factors” in the growth of knowledge (James 1983a, 16). Experience is not equivalent to a predetermined outward order because “without selective interest, experience is an utter chaos” (19). Unlike other animals, humans have the ability to break up the literal sequences of the order of things and imaginatively rearrange them. This disassociation of varied characteristics from a total phenomenon, as well as the ability to associate aspects not immediately perceived as connected, most clearly distinguishes human reasoning from nonhuman organization of experience.

The reasoning by analogy that distinguishes human thinking characterizes both poetic and analytic, or scientific, thinking, which differ in that the analytic thinker can explain the ground of the analogy, whereas the poet prefers to let the analogy resonate without discursive explanation. Neither is intellectually inferior to the other, although James prefers the splendor of poetic leaps of connection to the dry, plodding connections made in ratiocination. But after reaffirming the lack of superiority of the analytic mind to the intuitional one in any absolute way, he says that it is still true that the analytic mind represents the higher stage. To support this view he constructs a series of hierarchies, such as that philosophical reasoning by abstraction is a later stage historically than that of “savages,” who can associate by analogy without knowing why the two cases are similar. The example he gives is that of Dr. Livingstone arguing with a “Negro conjurer.” The savage state is to the civilized one as the uneducated to the educated, which he illustrates by contrasting an Irish girl with a male, educated friend. He thus easily conflates savagery, Africans, the Irish, women, and ignorance.

Finally, man's most essential characteristic is said to be his ability to negate all fixed modes, to break up the received order into elements and combine them anew (James 1983a, 36). Man is preeminently human because he is an educable animal, not one who settles problems instinctively. But some humans are more educable than others. Italians, for instance, are not only said to be more instinctual and Germans more rational, but they will remain so despite education. An identical difference is said to exist between women and men. Women's likes and dislikes are set early in life, and their character is fully developed at twenty. A young boy of the same age is less developed and is awkward compared to the young woman. But this absence of a fixed character, of unfinished brain development, “is the very condition which ensures that it shall ultimately become so much more efficient than the woman's” (37). The “masculine brain” can more flexibly determine classificatory schemes and deal with new complexities than can “the feminine method of direct intuition.” No matter how admirably feminine intuition performs within its limits, competing with masculine rationality remains a vain hope.

“Brute and Human Intellect,” which begins with the continuity of nonhuman and human, of primitive and developed, of contemplative and rational thinking, of feeling and intellect, and of art and science, ends with making a new hierarchy of them. It is true that James's sympathies are more often with the devalued terms of emotion, embeddedness in a holistic experience, contemplation, and poetry than with the more commonly valued terms of reason, abstraction, analysis, and science. He speaks, for instance, of “admiration at the gracefulness of the primitive human mind” and “disgust at the narrowness of modern interpreters” (James 1983a, 3). He even denies that the analytic mind represents a higher intellectual stage and the intuitive mind a stage of arrested development (30). But his ethnic, class, and gender prejudices distort his pluralistic and developmental model. The equation of humanness with his own ethnocentric maleness effectively renders women and other races, nationalities, and classes as less than fully human. In these crucial areas he could not “break across in unaccustomed places,” and he thus fell short of instantiating his own criterion for the distinctively human.

<2>3. James's Ethics of Care

James believes that the ability to sympathetically enter into the life-worlds of other persons is an asset, a positive ability, certainly not a negative one. He argues that this precious natural ability of women not only can but ought to be learned by men, since it is an ability necessary to the proper moral development of everyone. Therefore, what is natural in women should become a learned moral habit in men. His ethics of care anticipates a similar version first elaborated by Carol Gilligan and further developed by others, such as Barbara Houston, Jane Roland Martin, Nel Noddings, and Mary Brabeck (Brabeck 1990). James, along with these feminists, believes that care and concern for others play a much greater role, perhaps even a dominant one, in women's ethical judgments, in contrast with men's moral reasoning, which emphasizes justice. They argue that ethics should be redefined to make caring a central moral issue.

Both current versions of an ethics of care and James's earlier version strike me as problematic (see Seigfried 1996b, 202-23). The first difficulty with James's analysis, one which is also true of recent versions, is that he takes this sympathy to be a natural endowment of women. Since they do not have to strive for it, it does not seem something for which they should receive moral credit. James says in Principles of Psychology, “If there is anything intolerable (especially to the heart of a woman), it is to do nothing when a loved one is sick or in pain. To do anything is a relief. Accordingly, whatever remedy may be suggested is a spark on inflammable soil. The mind makes its spring towards action on that cue, sends for that remedy, and for a day at least believes the danger past” (James 1981, 2:939). Rather than in their exercise of sympathy, women's highest moral worth for James consists in their willingness to serve others uncomplainingly. Such morally praiseworthy selfless service is facilitated by women's natural sympathy and empathetic ability to enter into lives other than their own.

There is no need, however, to attribute to sex-linked natural characteristics any systematic differences found in women's and men's differing approaches to moral reasoning. Not only women but any disadvantaged group whose well-being depends on the goodwill of others quickly learns to interpret nonverbal cues of the dominant group as a basic mechanism of survival. This learned ability comes to be seen as natural because it is so pervasive in women and so foreign to men who are able to ignore the interests of others because of their power to control them directly. Being the perceptive psychologist that he is, James is acquainted with these phenomenal facts, but he does not use them to rethink his appeals to innate gender differences. He says that “the impulse to conceal is more apt to be provoked by superiors than by equals or inferiors” (James 1981, 2:1050). The examples he gives of this hierarchy of concealment are boys toward their parents and servants toward their masters, including male and female servants, who must be hypocritical, given the unequal power relationships, since “servants see more of their masters' characters than masters of servants'.”

That James does not draw a feminist conclusion from these insights is especially striking since Mill uses a very similar argument in The Subjection of Women to show why men cannot know how much women suffer under their oppressive rule-despite the fact that men live with women as wives, mothers, and daughters. They must wait until women tell them how their behavior is viewed “from below.” And women are unlikely to disclose either minor annoyances or any mental or physical abuses they may suffer in the home as long as the complaints must be directed to the very person who, both by custom and by law, exercises nearly unlimited control over them. Since he reviewed Mill's book, we know that James was familiar with this line of argument. It is therefore even less defensible that he simply dismissed it, especially in light of the fact that he himself cited independent corroborating evidence of the psychological state in question.

James's belief that men are naturally belligerent and women naturally nurturant led him to systematically distinguish male from female virtue. Heroism is first of all a male virtue, but since it is thus a preeminently human one, women can also share in it-but only according to their separate nature. James says that “wars, of course, and shipwrecks, are the great revealers of what men and women are able to do and bear” (James 1982, 134). And he gives as “the most genuinely saintly person” he has ever known a friend of his who was suffering from breast cancer and who, despite her considerable pain, continued to help others cheerfully (143). Heroism always includes an active resistance to overwhelming odds, but men's heroism is described as taking place in the public sphere and women's in the private sphere. Furthermore, men's heroism is aggressively active, affecting whole civilizations, while women's is somehow passively active, primarily affecting only their immediate family and friends.

Women's heroism is categorized as “chronic” in comparison to men's “acuter proofs of human nature's reserves of power” (James 1982, 152-53). James's “humbler examples” of women's sustained moral heroism include the cases of “illness nursed by wife or mother” and of “exemplary housewives,” whereas masculine heroes include a man who survived a coal mine explosion and kept thirteen other men alive until they could be excavated twenty days later, and an army officer who carried on attacks despite sickness and appalling injuries. Female heroism is characterized by “sustained endurance” and selfless service of others, while male heroism is characterized as taking command over and disciplining others. Moreover, women are also expected to remain cheerful despite exhaustion, while it is all right for men to prop up their courage by taking brandy! Men's opportunities expand in heroic action, women's remain constrained; women can only be the “humble heroines of family life” while men are said to take on “new position(s) of responsibility” (153).

<2>4. “The Maternal Joys of a Cat”

James's chapter on instinct in Principles is a veritable compendium of traditional sexist beliefs about the differing natures of women and men. Already at the nonhuman animal level, females and males are said to exhibit strikingly different instinctual behaviors. Females invariably either actively exhibit maternal instincts or are the passive objects of sexual love. Even the language James uses in examples of maternal instincts is condescending to the point of sarcasm. He says, for instance, that the hen “submit[s] herself to the tedium of incubating such a fearfully uninteresting set of objects as a nestful of eggs”; the broody hen would think it monstrous that every creature would not also find a nestful of eggs “the utterly fascinating and precious and never-to-be-too-much-sat-upon object which it is to her”; and “what a voluptuous thrill may not shake a fly, when she at last discovers the one particular leaf, or carrion, or bit of dung, that out of all the world can stimulate her ovipositor to its discharge?” (James 1981, 2:1007-8). Examples of sexual receptivity include “To the lion it is the lioness which is made to be loved; to the bear, the she-bear” and “bees follow their queen . . . because . . . the odor or the aspect of their queen is manifestly agreeable to the bees-that is why they love her so” (2:1008).

Male animals exhibit a wider range of behaviors, ones invariably active rather than passive: “The cat runs after the mouse, runs or shows fight before the dog, avoids falling from walls and trees, shuns fire and water, etc.”; “a hungry lion starts to seek prey . . . ; he begins to stalk it . . . ; he springs upon it . . . ; he proceeds to tear and devour it”; and a Scotch terrier made “a very elaborate pretense of burying things. . . . He scratched the carpet . . . dropped the object from his mouth . . . and then scratched all about it.” (James 1981, 2:1005-6, 1019).

The nature of these sex-liked instincts would be a mere curiosity were it not for the principle that James uses in selecting them; namely, that “we can only interpret the instincts of brutes by what we know of instincts in ourselves” (James 1981, 2:1007). But women are not part of the seemingly gender-neutral collective pronouns just used: we and our. The perspective adopted is not that of humanity, but of male humans, as all of James's quotations make clear. Note the masculine gender of the word our in the following sentences: “The possession of homes and wives of our own makes us strangely insensible to the charms of those of other people. . . . The original impulse which got us homes, wives, dietaries, and friends at all, seems to exhaust itself in its first achievements” (2:1015). Since I cannot possess wives, he cannot be speaking to me, and yet he is describing human characteristics. He also gives the following definition of “The Empirical Self” or me: “In its widest possible sense, however, a man's Self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank-account” (1:279). Even the widest sense of self is not only gender bound but class bound.

Since James is best known for his arguments against determinism and for subjectively spontaneous creativity, these residues of belief in a fixed nature when it comes to gender are the more surprising. Female animals and women are assumed to be naturally caring and sympathetic; male animals and men are naturally pugnacious and violent. Sympathy, especially between mother and child, is given as an example of a primitive human instinct: “Danger to the child blindly and instantaneously stimulates the mother to actions of alarm or defense” (James 1981, 2:1029). Hunting and pugnacious instincts, such as is exhibited in “the cruelty of collections of men hounding each other on to bait and torture a victim,” characterize men's instinctive nature (2:1030). The sympathetic instincts are not entirely lacking in men, but can easily be overpowered by their more dominant instincts of hunting and cruelty. Nor are women entirely devoid of pugnacity. They are even said to get angry oftener than men, “but their anger is inhibited by fear and other principles of their nature from expressing itself in blows” (2:1033). Exactly what women have to fear from men is not explored.

As these examples show, men tend to see women from their own perspective, and therefore women's potentiality is reduced to the two most important roles they play in men's lives-as mothers and wives. The question is never raised as to how women view their own lives. Just as the two instincts of maternity and sexuality are preeminent in James's descriptions of female animals, they are taken to be definitive of female humans. James asks, “Why does the maiden interest the youth so that everything about her seems more important and significant than anything else in the world?” He answers, “Nothing more can be said than that these are human ways . . .” and “The common man can only say “ . . . of course we love the maiden, that beautiful soul clad in that perfect form, so palpably and flagrantly made from all eternity to be loved!” (James 1981, 2:1007-8). Woman as the object of desire is traditionally inseparable from unbridled passion, and James duly notes this danger for men: “The sexual passion expires after a protracted reign,” and therefore habits of sexual restraint acquired in youth will tell in maturity: “Exposure to bad company then makes him a loose liver all his days; chastity kept at first makes the same easy later on” (2:1021).

Although men are urged to keep their instincts under proper control, women are urged to wallow in them, as long as the wallowing is directed to men's well-being. James quotes at length G. H. Schneider's “lively description” about maternal instincts. Female cats are said to exhibit the instincts of “higher animal-mothers”: “The maternal joys of a cat, for example, are not to be disguised. With an expression of infinite comfort she stretches out her fore-legs to offer her teats to her children” (James 1981, 2:1055). This quotation occurs in a passage extolling human motherhood because it causes a woman to turn away from exclusive interest in herself as a vain object of men's attention and to center her world instead on her child.

James adds to the passage from “the worthy Schneider” that “the passionate devotion of a mother-ill herself, perhaps-to a sick or dying child is perhaps the most simply beautiful moral spectacle that human life affords. Contemning every danger, triumphing over every difficulty, outlasting all fatigue, woman's love is here invincibly superior to anything that man can show” (James 1981, 2:1056). Women receive the highest praise when they fulfill to excess their natural function of taking care of others. But there are indications that not all women see themselves primarily as mothers. Schneider remarks that “Thus, at least, it is in all unspoiled, naturally-bred mothers, who, alas! seem to be growing rarer; and thus it is with all higher animal-mothers” (2:1056).

The valued human characteristics that James describes are the same as the characteristics ascribed to males. Women are defined as differing from men in specific ways and therefore differing from the human as such. When James says he is “leaving lower animals aside, and turning to human instincts,” he reviews the stages of human life: the child, who plays; the youth, who engages in bodily exercises and enjoys “friendship and love, nature, travel and adventure, science and philosophy”; and the man, who exhibits “ambition and policy, acquisitiveness, responsibility to others, and the selfish zest of the battle of life” (James 1981, 2:1020). These life stages are then explored further, beginning with examples drawn exclusively from boys and continuing with we, us, men. In delineating the special human instincts of locomotion, vocalization, and imitation James again gives extended examples of children, who are in every case boys (2:1022-28). Women and “savages” do show up in some of the categories of human behavior patterns, such as those of human shyness, modesty, shame, sexual love, and parental love. James's ideal of the wife/mother who selflessly wears herself out serving the male sex is strikingly illustrated in a letter he sent to his wife from Vienna. After having arranged for a year's leave from Harvard, he was touring Europe while she stayed at home in Cambridge to take care of their two little boys. He wrote her in 1882:


Dear, perhaps the deepest impression I've got since I've been in Germany is that made on me by the indefatigable beavers of old wrinkled peasant women, striding like men through the streets, dragging their carts or lugging their baskets, minding their business, seeming to notice nothing, in the stream of luxury and vice, but belonging far away, to something better and purer. Their poor, old, ravaged and stiffened faces, their poor old bodies dried up with ceaseless toil, their patient souls make me weep. “They are our conscripts.” They are the venerable ones whom we should reverence. All the mystery of womanhood seems incarnated in their ugly being-the Mothers! the Mothers! Ye are all one! Yes, Alice, dear, what I love in you is only what these blessed creatures have; and I'm glad and proud when I think of my own dear Mother with tears running down my face, to know that she is one with these.

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When James recalled this earlier impression in Talks to Teachers (1889), he did not explicitly link women with motherhood and unremitting labor (James 1983b, 155). Instead he invoked the unremitting labor of peasant women and set the incident in a context that emphasized class and ethnicity rather than gender (154-63). It is given as one of the examples of the heroism of the laboring classes, whose patient endurance of backbreaking work is said to be as worthy of public monuments as are the deeds of those traditionally honored, such as generals and poets. Romantic idealism is blamed for blinding us to the heroism of everyday life, and it will continue to do so as long as we look at life “with the eyes of a remote spectator” (154). In a passage reminiscent of Walt Whitman, James testifies to undergoing a conversion experience on a train speeding toward Buffalo, when he says he noticed the daily heroism of the laboring classes (including Italian and Hungarian subway workers) “on freight-trains, on the decks of vessels, in cattle-yards and mines, on lumber rafts . . . and a wave of sympathy greater than anything I had ever before felt with the common life of common men began to fill my soul.”

The passages are taken from one of the last three chapters of Talks to Teachers, which are separately listed under the heading of “Talks to Students.” From the way James identifies those in our midst who are usually ignored and with whom “we” are being asked to sympathize, it is obvious that the authorial we, which encompasses both author and student, is middle- or upper-class, a member of a privileged ethnic group, educated, professional, and male. James is not only acknowledging a debt to those whose sacrifices make his privileged life possible, but also drawing the attention of his students to the heroic sufferings of the laboring classes, so that they will sympathize with, rather than despise, them. But there is no corresponding call to overthrow or even question the hierarchical relations that separate them.

James fears Tolstoy's “leveling philosophy” because phenomenal differences are not superficial but are the very relations that constitute personal identity (James 1983b, 157-67). Nonetheless, he believes that humanity progresses by means of great prophets who preach “the religion of democracy,” and thus nudge the world toward more humane relationships. But although he thinks that society should progress toward “some newer and better equilibrium,” including the redistribution of wealth, true nobleness resides for him in the realm of ideals and high-mindedness, joined with “manly virtue.” James's goal, finally, is not to question or undo the advantages accruing from unequal relationships, but only, sub specie aeternitatis, to develop a willingness “to live and let live.” Such conclusions could seem desirable only from the point of view of one who was already on the favored side of the hierarchies: rich and poor, educated and uneducated, ethnic privilege and ethnic devaluation, professional and laborer, male and female. “Sympathy, insight, and good will” can indeed lead to “tolerance, reverence, and love for others” without shifting one iota the continued privilege on one side and disadvantage on the other.

Since in the original letter from which the later passage selectively quotes, laboring-class women are emblematic of all mothers and wives, that is, of women as such, then the distinctions of class, ethnicity, and education do not change women's status in the same way they change men's. Relegated to the private realm and to a distancing otherness does not leave women anything to hope for in democracy's slow progress to a new and better equilibrium. Rich or poor, black or white, educated or uneducated, women remain men's conscripts, alien lives “bent on duty, envying nothing, humble-hearted, remote” (James 1983b, 155).

<2>5. Mother Nature

James reproduces without criticism the ancient mythology that equates women and nature. He says that though idealists and empiricists use different analogies in their disputes with one another, as human beings they share the same essential interests. “Both are loyal to the world that bears them; neither wishes to spoil it; neither wishes to regard it as an insane incoherence; both want to keep it as a universe of some kind; and their differences are all secondary to this deep agreement” (James 1977, 10-11). We should subordinate such minor differences “in view of the fact that, whether we be empiricists or rationalists, we are, ourselves, parts of the universe and share the same one deep concern in its destinies. We crave alike to feel more truly at home with it, and to contribute our mite to its amelioration.” James is sure that his audience will not find his empiricist spirit “matricidal,” since he is “as good a son as any rationalist among you to our common mother” (11).

His discourse echoes Emerson, who in his treatise Nature chides those idealists who ungratefully attack temporal nature in their longing for eternal, absolute spirit. Emerson (1987, 36) says, “I have no hostility to nature, but a child's love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons. Let us speak her fair. I do not wish to fling stones at my beautiful mother, nor soil my gentle nest.” This mother-child imagery seems benign and certainly close to recent ecological ethics and ecofeminism. The problem remains that the relation of man to nature reproduces a patriarchal interpretation of the relation of man to woman. The language of an absolute, brute dominance by which man tames nature has been mitigated into stewardship, to be sure, but the hierarchical relations are unchanged and nontransferable, since it would still be perceived as unnatural for nature to overpower spirit as for woman to be the guardian of man.

Emerson (1987, 45-46) continues, “I only wish to indicate the true position of nature in regard to man, wherein to establish man all right education tends; as the ground which to obtain is the object of human life, that is, of man's connection with nature.” The slippage from man to human to man is not simply an example of a generic usage of the word man. The man addressed as human is the male sex, as is more explicitly seen toward the end of “Nature.” He illustrates his insight that “the mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common” by a series of questions, including: “What is a day? . . . What is summer? What is woman? What is a child?” Woman is to man both common and mysterious. Both speaker and the audience addressed are men, as Emerson continues: “You also are a man.” One's vocation as a man, as spirit, is to transform the rest of nature, which includes women and other men, through thought and action: “Man and woman and their social life, poverty, labor, sleep, fear, fortune, are known to you. . . . Know then that the world exists for you.”

James, too, slips easily into this equation of mankind with the male sex: “When we use a common noun, such as man, in a universal sense, as signifying all possible men, we are fully aware of this intention on our part, and distinguish it carefully from our intention when we mean a certain group of men, or a solitary individual before us” (James 1981, 1:248). Even generically, man means men, which usage can be distinguished from particular groups of men or even a single man, but which is not meant to distinguish a universal sense of mankind as distinguished from the male sex as such. Thus, the use of the term man, which is superficially gender neutral, is once again shown in actual usage to apply predominantly, even exclusively, to the male sex.

<2>6. The Feminine Mystical or Magical

James criticizes the scientific ideal “of a closed and completed system of truth” according to which what does not fit is thought to be absurd (James 1979b, 222). He argues instead that the growth of knowledge depends on recognizing and taking seriously the exceptions and irregularities that challenge the rules. But nothing has been received with more contempt by scientists than mystical phenomena. “We college-bred gentry,” he says, ignore those outside “the stream of cosmopolitan culture” and dismiss even prolific authors “whose names are never heard of in our circle.” James includes himself with tongue in cheek, since he is trying to rehabilitate psychical research, in which he is immensely interested and about which he is surely knowledgeable. He satirizes the snobbery and accompanying gatekeeping of his academic colleagues by pointing out that much of the world ignores the restrictive canons of science: “It always gives us a little shock to find this mass of human beings not only living and ignoring us and all our gods, but actually reading and writing and cogitating without ever a thought of our canons and authorities” (223). The “gentle reader” he addresses is certainly male because he is characterized as not caring for those who read much popular Victorian reading material for women as Waverly and the Fireside Companion.

James warns male gatekeepers that no one perspective, even the scientific, can encompass the totality of truth. He argues from his position of pluralistic perspectivism that “something escapes the best of us-not accidentally, but systematically and because we have a twist.” He finally explicitly identifies the rational, scientific perspective as male: “The scientific-academic mind and the feminine-mystical mind shy from each other's facts, just as they fly from each other's temper and spirit.” And he argues that different perspectives disclose different facts, so that a man's world and a woman's world are not identical: “Facts are there only for those who have a mental affinity with them” (James 1979b, 224).

James's intention is to undercut the prejudices of scientific positivism by rehabilitating the feminine-mystical as a legitimate perspective that reveals aspects of reality not accessible to normal scientific procedures. All the founding members of the Society for Psychical Research were “gentlemen.” Many-perhaps most-of their subjects were women. This is not surprising since men's view of women as Other, as closer to and emblematic of nature, the untamed, the irrational, the wilderness, would make them appear to be ideal witches or psychics, more in touch with the mysterious unknown than rational man. James speaks of “a mother-sea” and a “psychic sea,” that is, a sea of consciousness to which our puny, finite consciousnesses will one day return. The mother-sea “leaks-in” through the interstices of everyday life despite efforts to block it out.

James longs to return to the primal mother-sea, which he envisions as encompassing the finite, visible world of human experience, just as the atmosphere blankets and provides life-giving oxygen to the planet. He says in “The Confidences of a 'Psychical Researcher'” (1909) that his experiences have led him to “one fixed conclusion,” namely, “that we with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest,” which “may whisper to each other with their leaves. . . . But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean's bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother_sea or reservoir” (James 1986, 374). He suggests that “our ordinary human experience, on its material as well as on its mental side, would appear to be only an extract from the larger psycho-physical world” (374-75).

The intellect misguidedly thinks of the world “as existing in a clean and regular shape.” Instead, James multiplies examples of the messy, concrete world we live in. He dips into abnormal psychology to tell us “of oddities and eccentricities, of grotesqueries and masqueradings, incoherent, fitful, personal,” so unsatisfactory to the “cut and dried classifications” of the medical and psychological minds of professionals (James 1988, 63). We know that rationality and science are male domains for James and that untamed nature is female. Thus, when he says that “everything here is so lawless and individualized that it is chaos come again,” he is referring to both physical nature and women. He continues by saying that most professionals “don't wish a wild world. . . . They are perfectly willing to let such exceptions go unnoticed and unrecorded.” Facts can be noticed and accommodated in science only insofar as they can be made to fit an orderly pattern. But James believes that all great advances in science break the accepted order. In defending the wilderness against the inroads of science, he also celebrates women, who are associated with otherness, with disorderliness not tamed by men's rational order.

James can thus be read as arguing for pluralism, since he seems to be valuing different perspectives equally for their irreducibly distinct disclosures of reality. But this benign interpretation only works up to a point. Unfortunately, his characterization of these differences as male and female leads him to undermine the consistency of his perspectivism, which is infected and distorted by his belief that women are essentially different from men and naturally subordinate to them. The implicit denigration in the hierarchical subordination of women to men is extreme and undermines a genuine pluralism of creative difference by assuming a primal, predetermined one. Since creative spontaneity is for James the defining characteristic of the human, women's reduction to a predetermined nature can only dehumanize us. The oppressive hierarchy which is believed to properly characterize the subordination of women to men likewise characterizes the relation of male-defined rationality to a nature defined as feminine. Once the feminine-mystical facts have been “indisputably ascertained and admitted, the academics and critical minds are by far the best fitted ones to interpret and discuss them-for surely to pass from mystical to scientific speculations is like passing from lunacy to sanity; but on the other hand if there is anything which human history demonstrates, it is the extreme slowness with which the ordinary academic and critical mind acknowledges facts to exist which present themselves as wild facts, with no stall or pigeon-hole, or as facts which threaten to break up the accepted system” (James 1979b, 224). Male-defined rationality thus has for its primary task the control and forcible restriction within bounds of the unbridled, irrational female elements in nature and society.

James is profoundly ambivalent about the sexual dualisms men have read into nature and the human appropriation of the world. On the one hand, he supports the symbolic order in which the masculine scientific mind ought to interpret the feminine-mystical. On the other hand, he wants to protect the wilderness of mysticism and psychic experiences from being explained away by scientific rationality. The same ambivalence that mysticism introduces is found in regard to saintliness because both place a higher value on qualities traditionally associated with the feminine. Because of his failure to criticize the conflation of humanity with masculinity, James finds himself struggling to defend saintliness as an ideal that embodies feminine values while countering his own fears that it emasculates men.

He does not quarrel with the “ancestral evolution [that] has made us all potential warriors” and the military discipline that roots out excessive tenderness in regard to one's own person but only with developing them into extremes that can turn us into “monster[s] of insensibility” (James 1985, 291). He also fears the opposite tendency, which is manifest in the material wealth and luxury of the age and which makes for “effeminacy and unmanliness.” His strategy is to argue for “a renovated and revised ascetic [religious] discipline” to replace the traditional military discipline of war, which is “too savage, too cruel, too barbarous” to serve as an appropriate “bulwark against effeminacy” (292). If the great appeal of his proposal for a “moral equivalent of war” is that it develops a moral ideal of the strenuous life that does not need to go about “crushing weaker peoples” in order to avoid becoming like women, then the denigration of women is being woven into the very fabric of morality.

James's defense of saintliness against Friedrich Nietzsche's scorn is profoundly ambiguous and convoluted because James shares with him the equation of heroism and leadership with masculinity and the saintly qualities of sympathetic service, purity, and patience with femininity (James 1985, 294-97). “The overpowering man of prey” excites “thrills of wonder veiled in terror,” while women and saints embody “the mystery of gentleness in beauty” (295-296). James concludes that “both aggressiveness and non-resistance are needful” and argues against any “one intrinsically ideal type of human character” (297). He ultimately favors the saint as “abstractly a higher type of man than the 'strong man,'” but in concrete situations he admits that saints are liable to appear rather “insignificant and contemptible” (298).

James labors mightily to show that saints are indeed greater and more appropriate heroes for the complexities of modern civilization than are “the strong men of this world,” who easily degenerate into “bullies, robbers, and swindlers,” but his struggles to do so all stem from his acceptance of the very masculinist view that he is trying to overcome. Although he includes such women as Agnes Jones, Margaret Hallahan, and Dora Pattison among the saints, he reminds us that “we must not forget” that “in discussing saintliness, we ask if it be an ideal type of manhood” (James 1985, 298-99). That it is an idealizing of womanhood is taken for granted. Since he strongly valued women as Other in their subordinate complementarity to men, he seems to be struggling with himself as well as with a masculinized culture in generating convincing arguments as to why men should find saintliness to be an ideal of manhood. His courage failed him, however, at the task of rethinking and rejecting the continuing masculinizing of rationality as the source of the distortion and disorientation.

Acknowledgment of the fact of women's full humanity and rationality would necessarily “break up the accepted system” of male domination, and James could not relinquish the privileges that accrued to him under the old system. Just as men and women are assigned separate spheres, so are facts and theories conceptually hierarchized into dominant and submissive. “In psychology, physiology, and medicine, wherever a debate between the mystics and the scientifics has been once for all decided, it is the mystics who have usually proved to be right about the facts, while the scientifics had the better of it in respect to the theories.” James says that he has been forced to recognize that mystics have access to “certain kinds of phenomenal experience,” but he soothes the unacknowledged but obvious male anxiety over the “wildness” of the facts disclosed through female perspectives by assuring his male colleagues that philosophers can successfully deal with the repugnant mystical style of philosophizing by “reflecting upon them in academic-scientific ways” (James 1979b, 224). In other words, men can legitimately appropriate women's insights by transforming them into masculinized rational discourse.

The woman-as-nature analogy carries over into James's assessment of the nature of women's rationality. Nature speaks out of women; they do not have to pursue nature by use of a logical method. Since they are the objects of a masculine search for knowledge, they cannot themselves be striving for what they supposedly already are. As with moral sympathy, women cannot be credited with striving for and conquering truth, a state that they simply inhabit. In a brief, one-paragraph review praising Jane Addams's The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, James points out how all its details flow from her central insight or persuasion. But analysis fails him: “Of how they flow I can give no account, for the wholeness of Miss Addams' embrace of life is her own secret. She simply inhabits reality, and everything she says necessarily expresses its nature. She can't help writing truth.”

Admittedly, this is highest praise from James, who all his life tried to reach through rational means the wholeness exhibited in a mystical oneness with reality (Seigfried 1990, 61-64). But it also strips women of their dignity as human beings, that is, those whose greatest suffering and greatest triumphs alike come from the struggle to organize the Walpurgis-like chaos of life into a finally satisfactory harmony. If women are the reward of the struggle or the oasis of escape from the burdensome duties of public life, they cannot themselves be engaged in the struggle as partners. The bitter effect of such a marginalized existence restricted to the private sphere is poignantly illustrated in the life of William's brilliant sister, Alice, who was sickly all her life with one of those mysterious Victorian “wasting” illnesses with no diagnosed name, but which included mental depression (Strouse 1980). She wrote to William: “I think the difficulty is my inability to assume the receptive attitude, that cardinal virtue in women, the absence of which has always made me so uncharming to & uncharmed by the male sex” (quoted in Yeazell 1981, 107). Unlike her mother, Alice was self-assertive; but, like her, she could imagine no acceptable, ladylike career outside of marriage to absorb her energies. One may speculate whether it was her invalidism or her indomitable personality, a Jamesian family characteristic that served her two famous brothers well, that accounted for her “sour spinsterhood” (121), as she herself called it, and her wasted talents.

<2>7. Masculine View of Creativity

In a 1907 interview with the New York Times James explained the core of his philosophy in gendered terms. He boldly claimed that “mind engenders truth upon reality.” Rather than simply copying a reality complete in itself, “the use of most of our thinking is to help us to change the world.” Adopting this perspective frees us “to use our theoretical as well as our practical faculties . . . to get the world into a better shape, and all with a good conscience. The only restriction is that the world resists some lines of attack on our part and opens herself to others, so that we must go on with the grain of her willingness” (quoted in McDermott 1968, 448-49). James thus unselfconsciously paints a picture of the philosopher as a predatory male, one whose attacks are sometimes resisted, sometimes welcomed by a world/woman who literally “opens herself to others.” Just how big a grain of willingness is needed to justify such an attack, undertaken, “with a good conscience”? The fact that such passages have begun to be criticized only recently by feminists shows how easy it is to internalize the masculinist perspective that permeates traditional learned discourse.

Late in life James is repeating, and thus reinforcing, a masculinist insemination view of how truths are forced upon the world. He had already linked engendering to a submerged rape metaphor in Pragmatism, where he explained the creativity of our cognitive as well as our active life in a grammatical trope asserting that we make real additions to the subject as well as the predicate part of reality. He continued: “The world stands really malleable, waiting to receive its final touches at our hand. Like the kingdom of heaven, it suffers violence willingly. Man engenders truths upon it” (James 1975b, 123). From the later reappropriation, we know that in this passage he is also thinking of the world as a she, not an it.

The explicit recognition of this masculinist perspective makes plausible the textual development from seeing the world as malleable, as receptive to further touches “at 'our' hand” (which certainly cannot be referring to my woman's “hand”) to a willing suffering of violence. No woman who suffers violence at the hands of another would call her participation willing. I in no way imply that philosophers who quote these and similar passages are consciously responding to the submerged rape metaphor, but rather to the largely unrecognized, because so familiar, heroic masculine perspective. It is surely worth reflecting on the fact that women as well as men have been educated to take for granted a masculinist perspective of rationality, one which celebrates violence as a paradigm of knowledge. It takes a genuine paradigm shift, such as feminist theory introduces, to even recognize the hidden sexist assumptions operative in normal discourse.

But James does not simply take over from the tradition such an extreme masculinizing of rationality. And this fact helps account for the continuing attractiveness of his philosophy for both women and men. Characteristically he resists such hegemonic moves by strongly rejecting appeals to rationality as the forced imposition of received truths, as is evident in his defense of psychical research. He knows that “dingy little mediumistic facts” would not impress Huxleyan, that is, scientific minds, but he goes on to criticize the reductionism of the increasingly positivist view of the science of his time. He argues that science advances “by the little rebellious exceptions to the science of the present” (James 1986, 375). Feminists, both women and men, can identify with these rebellious refusals that James provides but was unable to carry through to a liberating conclusion for women.

In “The Sentiment of Rationality,” published in The Will to Believe, James struggled with “the unsatisfactoriness of all our speculations” (James 1979b, 61). But they are unsatisfactory for a different reason for women who, as the objects rather than the subjects of the speculation, are not included in the possessive case our. I will try to make visible this exclusion by engaging in a brief, rebellious dialogue with James's text, one that his own attitude invites. In an extended passage (61) James sharply criticized the one-sided intellectualist drive toward theoretic simplification, which can retain a semblance of multiplicity only by invoking an “empirical sand-heap world.” But “the practical man” is said to despise such an “empty barrenness,” which mocks genuine diversity and fails to identify the essence of this or that concrete thing. How much more does “the practical woman” experience the empty barrenness of so many philosophical classifications that ignore the concrete specificity of her life?

James continues: “We are thus led to the conclusion that the simple classification of things is, on the one hand, the best possible theoretic philosophy, but is, on the other, a most miserable and inadequate substitute for the fullness of the truth.”

The simple classifications of things as advanced by canonical philosophers most miserably and inadequately substitute for the insights of unrepresented groups and individuals, which is why there is currently pressure to expand both the diversity of philosophers and the subject matter of philosophy. The fullness of the truth would have to include women's and minorities' experiences and varying perspectives.

“It is a monstrous abridgment of life, which, like all abridgments is got by the absolute loss and casting out of real matter.”

The lives of women and minorities are abridged more than the lives of James and his sex, class, and race, and their loss is often absolute.

“This is why so few human beings truly care for philosophy.”

Especially, I might add, minorities and women, whose numbers in philosophy are far below those in other liberal arts disciplines.

“The particular determinations which she [philosophy] ignores are the real matter exciting needs, quite as potent and authoritative as hers.”

Yes, how much of women's lives and experiences have been ignored in philosophical reflection? How much resistance still remains to incorporating noncanonical texts by minorities and women into the philosophy curriculum?

“What does the moral enthusiast care for philosophical ethics? Or the artist for classical aesthetics?”

Or what do women care for a philosophy that stubbornly ignores or denigrates their lives and intellectual contributions?

Ironically, James may have seen women as marginal to the business of philosophers, but part of him desperately wanted to be on the margin with them. His fascination with the misfits of society and his belief that they-like instances of ecological diversity in nature-are an irreplaceable resource for the renewal of society surely account for the poignancy of his reflections and the passion with which he challenges philosophical business as usual. In warning Harvard University against stamping “a single hard and fast type of character upon her children,” James (1987, 77) insisted that “our undisciplinables are our proudest product.” His own ambivalence toward the socially defined masculine role and his attraction to the feminine opens a rebellious space which feminists can enlarge and reclaim.

<2>8. Continued Influence

Mary Whiton Calkins, Ethel Puffer Howes, Jane Addams, and other women students and friends have testified to James's friendly support for their intellectual endeavors, a support that was especially noteworthy at a time when so many academic doors were closed to them. But James's influence on women's education extended beyond the small number of women students that he taught during his lifetime, and, as we have seen, the beneficial nature of his written texts for women is more ambiguous. An excerpt from “Ethical and Pedagogical Importance of the Principle of Habit,” taken from Psychology: Briefer Course (James 1984, 132-38), turns up in 1925, for instance, in a small work intended as a handbook for young women just entering college. Both his stature and the perceived relevance of his views for women are evident in the fact that the selection is the only posthumous one included. The Freshman Girl: A Guide to College Life (Jameson and Lockwood 1925) is a collection of essays written by administrators, professors, and one dancing instructor, for the purpose of easing the transition from high school to college. It is plain why the excerpt from James is included, since it encourages the growth of good habits in young people. It both motivates by emphasizing that habits largely determine character, and it gives practical advice on how to “make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.”

But it also exemplifies the ambivalence created in women trying to understand their own role in life as college-educated women when they learn that role through male-defined texts and authors. For one thing, the youths addressed in the selection are upper-class gentlemen, destined for such “arduous career” as those of doctors, ministers, and counselors-at-law. For another, activity itself is explicitly conveyed as prototypically male. The sentimentalist and dreamer are called contemptible types of human character because they wallow in “a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion,” never undertaking a single “manly concrete deed.” Just as disturbing as the sexism is the racism and classism of the beliefs expressed. James praises habit, for instance, as the great conservator of the status quo of society because it discourages class warfare, prevents the lower classes from deserting the drudgery of hard labor, and “keeps different social strata from mixing.”

James's criticism of those who praise the Good in abstract terms, but never act to carry it out in the messy particulars of everyday life, would scarcely be energizing for young women too often sententiously preached at and then denied any practical outlets for their zeal. His example of Rousseau arousing mothers to follow Nature by nursing their babies themselves and then sending all his own children away to a foundling hospital aptly characterizes the hypocrisy too often encountered. So does the example of a Russian lady weeping at a play while her coachman freezes to death. But then James goes on to label excessive novel reading, theatergoing, and indulgence in music as similarly “monstrous.”

By selectively reading the essay as a call to action, young women could be and probably were encouraged to become responsible for their awn actions on a larger, non-domestic stage. But the message is embedded in a pervasive sexism that could also inculcate ambivalence about the propriety of such an active role for themselves. It is directly addressed to male youths, and all the positive images are masculine ones, while many of the negative examples are taken from activities typical for women of that time. James even seems to go out of his way to criticize an emphasis on feeling that he usually defended in other contexts.

But the most misogynist remarks would not even be recognized at the time and so could affect the earlier readers only insofar as the attitude they express is conveyed as a pervasive background belief. They are to be found in James's readily recognizable class-based distinction between the habits of character that are set by twenty years of age and those set by thirty. By the age of twenty, he says, a person's personal habits, such as vocalization, gesture, and body language, are fixed. He illustrates this claim by saying that if a man is not born and bred a gentleman, the habits acquired after twenty will always betray his lower-class origins. The next plateau is the age of thirty, by which time a man's intellectual and professional habits are formed. The period between twenty and thirty is a crucial one because habits cannot be changed once one is set in a career path. It is even said to be a good thing that our character is set like plaster by thirty years of age because it is this factor that keeps the different social strata from mixing.

The ages of twenty and thirty are not picked at random. Recall that in an earlier article, “Brute and Human Intellect,” James had said that a young woman of twenty knows how to act with alacrity in any circumstances in which she may be placed because her likes and dislikes are already formed and her opinions will not change much throughout life. “Her character is, in fact, finished in its essentials” (James 1983a, 37). A boy of twenty, by contrast, is still developing. With this knowledge we can see in hindsight how inappropriate it was to include the article on habit in a guide for “freshman girls” unless the intent was to encourage them to develop personal, but not professional, habits and to polish their skills but not their minds. The demeaning remarks about women at the end of the article on “Brute and Human Intellect” were later included in Chapter 22 on reasoning in Principles (393). James even added a footnote explicitly limiting women's abilities to the domestic sphere and emphasizing their lower position (along with “savages and boors”) on the cultural scale (James 1981, 2:991n25). These passages were most likely as little known to the editors of the 1925 book as they were noted by later pragmatists. But as with so many beliefs about women whose origins are now scarcely recoverable, the pervasive background of James's sexism colors and subtly biases less explicit texts. They will continue to do so until they are brought fully into consciousness and critically examined.

<2>9. Conclusion

Although James is well known for his pluralism and emphasis on novelty, which challenge the accepted order of things, his romantic notion of women as Other leads to a glaring failure to challenge sexist stereotypes. Women's nature and role in society remain uncriticized and therefore unreconstructed. The association of men with reason and women with nature is so much a part of our culture that the uncharacteristic sexism of Dewey's remark in the following sentence in which he praises James can pass unnoticed, even by women: “America will justify herself as long as she breeds those like William James; men who are thinkers and thinkers who are men” (Dewey 1978, 96).

The association over the centuries of women with breeding and men with thinking has been challenged by many feminists, who have argued that the linking of rationality with maleness has distorted explanations of rationality as well as unfairly endowed masculinity with superior human qualities (see Bordo 1987; Lloyd 1984; Schott 1988; Warren 1989). It is worthwhile to trace James's view of women because only by identifying the extent to which his sexism informs his philosophical analyses can we be empowered to reject the insidious because unrecognized embeddedness of misogyny in supposedly neutral analyses. Not only do we acquire one more bit of evidence for the maleness of Western philosophical conceptions of reason, but it becomes clearer how difficult it is to uproot sexist beliefs if they can infect even such an acute critic of hegemonic rationality as William James.

Since I have argued that James's philosophy exhibits many attributes traditionally associated with femininity and thus escapes many of the criticisms of feminists about the extreme masculinizing of philosophical thinking, his own severe circumscription of the nature and role of women presents an interpretive challenge. How can James both value and devalue the feminine, both use and abuse feminine style? My analysis has sought to show that valuing a femininity constructed within a patriarchal order of race, class, gender, and heterosexual privilege unacceptably narrows the possibilities of both women and men and distorts the multitude and variety of women's perspectives on the world. Only when James's own interpretive horizon of patriarchal values is recognized and rejected are we free to appropriate the subversive feminine that is also part of his text.




<CT>“The Woman Question”

<CST>James's Negotiations with Natural Law Theory and Utilitarianism

<CA>Jacob L. Goodson

Approaching William James's philosophy from a feminist perspective often proves difficult and troubling. In 1869, eleven years before the publication of his magnum opus The Principles of Psychology, James published two book reviews: one on Horace Bushnell's Women's Suffrage and, in the same publication, one on John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women (James 1869). Bushnell takes a Christian natural law approach to gender equality and comes out strongly against social equality for women, while Mill famously provides a utilitarian justification for full gender equality within marriage, politics, and society.

In his review of these two books, James mounts strong criticisms of both arguments. Because James critiques Mill's book, which has been important within the history of feminist philosophy, some feminist interpreters of James's work conclude that this review puts him on the “wrong side” of the gender-equality debate. While I remain sympathetic with this claim that James-as a privileged Victorian male who never offered a strong case for gender equality-stands on the wrong side of the debate, I have come to the conclusion that his review of Bushnell's and Mill's books cannot and should not be used as substantial evidence against him on this issue. Rather, what we find in this early review by James is a philosopher becoming discontented with the two dominant positions within moral philosophy at the time: natural law theory and utilitarianism. James's criticisms of Bushnell's and Mill's conflicting visions for gender equality do not signify where he stands on “the woman question” (the phrase he uses in the review), but instead signify his discontent with both natural law and utilitarian reasoning. This discontent eventually leads him to substantial reflections on a relational-centered moral psychology, which we find in his Principles of Psychology.

Why does this matter for contemporary feminist philosophy? The answer lies in James's ability to help us recognize alternatives to liberal feminism. Because I find that, from a feminist perspective, many of James's habits and instincts are male dominated, I do not wish to overstate James's constructive potential for contemporary feminist philosophy. Nonetheless, I believe that the combination of James's pushback against Mill's Subjection of Women and his later works on relational-centered moral psychology provides a valuable way to map the philosophical differences between feminist theories. Mill's “sentimentalism” (the word James uses most to describe Mill's logic in The Subjection of Women) and utilitarianism serve as foundational arguments for liberal feminism (Donner 1993), assuming the primacy of individualism, emphasizing “women's rights,” and focusing on the legal and political aspects of gender equality (Tong 2014, 11-48). James alternatively anticipates some of the concerns found within radical feminism. Instead of espousing a rampant individualism, radical feminists tend to be more “communitarian” in their thinking and offer theories of identity that push beyond the individual (Snyder 2008). Although not against “women's rights,” third-wave feminists tend to explore ways in which women can flourish in their different human roles (not enacting, exclusively, a “female identity”) as writers, workers, teachers, spouses, social activists, mothers, grandmothers, and daughters.

The difference between liberal feminism and radical feminism can be described as an emphasis on either “negative” or “positive” freedom. Both types of freedom are necessary and critical for thinking about equality and the moral life: liberal feminism tends to focus its energies on issues pertaining to “negative freedom,” or freedom from, while radical feminism tends to emphasize “positive freedom,” or freedom for. What is this freedom for? It is freedom for women to flourish, to live their daily lives, and to make their lives their own on the terms that fit their communal identities-rather than on the terms of “social patriarchy” or “women's liberation.” When scholars label liberal feminism “essentialist,” they mean that within this version of feminism women remain defined by overgeneralized conceptions rather than by their own on-the-ground experiences of daily life (Snyder 2008, 184-88).

Lastly, for the purposes of this introduction, radical feminism takes the legal and political aspects of gender equality into consideration but also looks closer at the moral and social conditions for gender equality. Changing human laws represents one feat; changing “the hearts of men” is another important task, which requires a different set of skills and strategies. In his philosophical writings, James is more concerned with the skills and strategies that speak to our moral and social relationships than with our legal dealings and political associations. While it is dishonest to say that James serves as a proponent of the commendable “cause” of radical feminism, my suggestion is that he anticipates some of the philosophical shifts made between liberal feminism and radical feminism. This means that James's moral psychology matters for contemporary feminist philosophy because it gives us another way to map the underlying differences between liberal and radical feminism. This mapping provides clarity about the agreements and disagreements within these complementary, yet distinct, feminist positions. In other words, disagreeing with Mill's Subjection of Women does not necessarily mean a stance against gender equality, but may, in fact, signify reasonable doubts about whether utilitarianism necessarily serves as a foundation for gender equality (MacKinnon 1989, 41-47).

<1>A Feminist Criticism of James's Review of Bushnell and Mill

In Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric, Charlene Haddock Seigfried (this volume, 000) puts forth the argument that James “supported Horace Bushnell's more reactionary book, Women's Suffrage, against John Stuart Mill's more revolutionary book, The Subjection of Women.” In relation to Bushnell, Seigfried thinks that a specific remark by James necessarily signifies his agreement with Bushnell's natural law reasoning. In spelling out Bushnell's argument against full equality for women in society, James makes the judgment “So far, so good.” Seigfried (000) explains James's remark in this way: “Bushnell argues against women holding public office or exercising the suffrage on the grounds of their feminine nature, which is naturally subject and meant to yield to evil rather than combat it with violence. Rather than finding this position morally repulsive . . . , James at this point says: 'So far, so good.' He continues by saying that as long as Bushnell attributes these attitudes to 'inexplicable sentiment' and holds them as ideals, 'he remains in a strong position.'” In her response to James's “So far, so good,” Seigfried assumes that James means “I agree.” However, another possible interpretation of James's intended meaning is something like: “Up to this point, Bushnell has committed no logical fallacy.” In the next section, I show how this second possibility is a more plausible interpretation.

In his review, James explains how Mill makes the case that there is “no fixed condition” concerning the standards to which men and women should be held. James then offers a quick judgment on Mill's thesis: “Yet nevertheless he [Mill] keeps speaking of woman's present condition as a distorted and 'unnatural' one” (1869, 560). According to James, Mill cannot have it both ways: he cannot claim that there is “nothing fixed,” which implies that there is no standard, and also claim that the current state of “women” fails to meet the standard. In her critical engagement with James's review, Charlene Seigfried (this volume, 000) takes issue with James's calling Mill out on this inconsistency: “James superficially criticizes Mill as quibbling over whether women have a fixed nature or not, since Mill argues that there are no fixed natural differences between men and women, only differences of education, and yet calls women's present condition unnatural. But in context Mill makes it clear that the Victorian exaggeration of differences between the sexes is not based on nature . . . , but on socialization, and is only in this sense unnatural.” I disagree with Seigfried that this is a superficial question. James has the task of reviewing an important book-a momentously important book, in hindsight-by a philosopher whom he admires. Given the nature and purpose of a book review, it is a profound and proper strategy to highlight logical inconsistencies within the argument of the book. Identifying logical inconsistencies is not a sign of disagreement with the overall argument but, rather, a matter of disappointment that an important societal vision was not articulated as well as it needed to be.

Regarding James's response to Mill's Subjection of Women, Seigfried (this volume, 000) also claims, “Mill advocates that a morality of justice, in which two human beings live together in equality, with leading and following reciprocally shared, ought to supplant the present state of marital affairs in which the husband is the absolute master. James responds that Mill is confusing friendship with love and that his advocacy of reciprocal superiority threatens 'the conception of a wife as a possession.' Although it is obvious that men's status is enhanced by their power to virtually own women, James never questions why women should welcome being treated as objects.” Seigfried's criticism here comes at the cost of an accurate representation of James's actual words. The passage in which James uses the words “the conception of a wife as a possession” comes immediately after a page-long run of quotations from Mill's book. This list of quotations ends with Mill's words:


“What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality-similarity of powers and capacities, with reciprocal superiority in them, so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and being led in the path of development-I will not attempt to describe. To those who can conceive it, there is no need; to those who cannot it will appear the dream of an enthusiast. But I maintain . . . that this, and this only, is the ideal of marriage.” (James 1869, 562)

<end ext>

James's initial response to this claim is to agree with Mill's prediction: to those who cannot conceive of Mill's claims, they will appear the dream of an enthusiast, because Mill's vision-in James's words, quoted by Seigfried-“is clearly inimical to the conception of a wife as a possession, as a finality” (562). James does not say that Mill's vision “is clearly inimical to my conception of a wife as a possession.” Instead, he simply agrees with Mill's diagnostic prediction.

As to the connection Seigfried makes between friendship and love, it cannot be found in the review in the way that Seigfried describes. James (1869, 563) writes that some critics of Mill might say, “Love is now as common as friendship is rare,” and he provides Mill's response to this potential criticism. James's actual response to Mill's reasoning on these issues takes James back to his own reflections on the significance of difference and how Mill collapses the category of female into male.

This point leads me to the final peculiarity of Seigfried's critique: that James endorses “separate spheres” for men and women-for husbands and wives. This is an unfair and unjust interpretation of James's review, and I affirm James Livingston's (2001, 133) response to Seigfried on this particular point: “James declares, and creates a 'somewhat nervous anxiety to efface even the present distinction[s]' between men and women. Notice that James is not insisting on the validity of separate spheres-that is, on an innate and unyielding difference between the sexes, or on an essential nature of women. In fact, he has already rejected that position in his remarks on the reverend Dr. Bushnell. He is instead resisting the reduction of female to male which Mill's logic . . . promote[s].” In this context, Seigfried's criticisms of James's review become problematic. By taking some of James's sentences out of context, she does not give an accurate portrayal of the complexity of James's engagements with Bushnell and Mill. In this chapter, I provide a different kind of engagement with James's review. While the review does not say what it should say about gender equality, it does represent a struggle between Bushnell's natural law reasoning and Mill's sentimental utilitarianism. In the following sections, I dive into the details of James's review, articulating his struggle between natural law theory and utilitarianism.

<1>James's Comments on Bushnell's Women's Suffrage

Horace Bushnell published his treatise on women and women's rights, Women's Suffrage: The Reform Against Nature, in 1869. William James reviewed it in the same year. Bushnell was a preacher in the Congregationalist church in Connecticut but was pushed out of the pulpit by other Congregational ministers who attempted to censure him. After his resignation, Bushnell remained active as a thinker and writer. His primary task during this period of his life became, in Roger Ward's (2012) words, to “shed Christian light on public issues.” Women's Suffrage fits within this purpose by offering a Christian-based natural law account of the moral and social superiority of men over women.

William James's summary of Bushnell's book reads, “Dr. Bushnell's thesis is, that although the present status of women is in many respects one of wrongful 'abridgment,' and although they ought to have facilities for education and occupation opened to them in many hitherto untried ways, society should nevertheless make a resolute stand against admitting them to share in any sort of 'government.'” What is Bushnell's primary reason for this strong thesis? James's answer is that, according to Bushnell, women are “not 'created' to mingle in any kind of strife, or 'to batter the severities of fortune.'” Furthermore, “women are 'naturally subject,' 'subordinate,' meant to yield to evil and violence, not to combat them with answering evil and violence.” James makes the quick and noncritical judgment “So far so good,” and he expresses Bushnell's thesis in these terms: “The universal sense of mankind hitherto, and its almost universal sense now, will uphold [Bushnell's position]” (1869, 557). This is a descriptive claim, not a normative one.

James goes on to offer a more critical interpretation: “But [Bushnell] is naturally tempted to illustrate the doctrine and enforce it by arguments derived from different orders of consideration, which to our mind are far from making it more imposing.” James introduces a list of Bushnell's actual arguments by telling his readers the singular mistake that Bushnell makes in all of them: his arguments are “unsound themselves, [and] tend to infect it [Bushnell's thesis] with their own decay, and so undo the authority it possesses in its brute dogmatic form” (1869, 557). After making this judgment, James lists the “unsound” arguments Bushnell uses to defend the thesis of Women's Suffrage. James discusses, in detail, two of these-one theological and one moral. We will examine Bushnell's moral reasoning, as James understands it, leaving the theological point to the side.

James writes that Bushnell says, in effect, “Women now are something, but if allowed to meddle with government they will become less than nothing.” He continues, “Their nature is so very tender and evanescent that it requires the most carefully adapted medium or 'element' to save it from degenerating into mere repulsiveness” (1869, 558). This means that, morally, Bushnell thinks that women's participation in government will debase their “nature” so much that they will become more corrupt than men are within government. James concludes his summary of Bushnell's moral reasoning by taking a step back and offering insights into Bushnell's two tendencies: first, Bushnell makes “a vociferous proclamation of the utter and radical peculiarity of the womanly nature,” and second, he displays “a nervous tenor of [the womanly nature] being altered from its foundations by a few outward changes” (559).

This observation concerning Bushnell's nervousness is James's most helpful insight in his review of Woman's Suffrage. Not surprisingly, given his deep interest in the philosophy of psychology, James prefers the psychological term “nervous tenor.” However, psychological critique gets us only so far in understanding the real problems of Bushnell's natural law reasoning. James's observation also helps us identify the logical problem of Bushnell's moral reasoning: it is a “slippery slope.” Bushnell's argument runs like this: If some women take part in government, then those women will be required to be tough instead of tender. If some women become tough instead of tender, then all women will become tough. If all women become tough, then they will lose their tender nature. If they lose their tender nature, then “they will become less than nothing.” Therefore, no woman shall partake in governance.

Importantly, James (1869, 559-60) concludes his review of Bushnell's book thus: “On the whole, it does not seem to us that the author has very vividly realized the practical importance of the matter he has undertaken to discuss, or that his essay is a very serious contribution to the literature of the subject. . . . The little book leaves . . . one a strong impression that rhetoric-the mere delight of listening to one's self making sweet music-was an important motive in its production. Even in that respect it cannot be considered wholly a success.” In catastrophic ways, Bushnell's natural law approach provides the “representative” view of women at the time (Morita 2004, 21-47, 89-113). For James to poke fun at it with the phrase “the mere delight of listening to one's self making sweet music” runs the risk of going against the grain of the common assumptions and practices of the readers of the North American Review. James wants no part in Bushnell's natural law approach to women in society, and he makes that clear to readers.

Seigfried's criticism neglects the details of James's actual comments on Women's Suffrage and mistakenly concludes that James sides with Bushnell's natural law reasoning. It is hard to imagine a harsher criticism of a philosophical book than saying that it fails (“it cannot be considered . . . a success”), even in the “mere delight of listening to one's self making sweet music.”

<1>James's Comments on Mill's Subjection of Women

John Stuart Mill also published The Subjection of Women in 1869. Mill was a British philosopher and is best known for his work in utilitarianism. The Subjection of Women employs utilitarian reasoning in order to defend the equality and rights of women. Mill claims that his wife, Harriett Taylor Mill, coauthored the text. However, in his review, James never considers the difference that this coauthorship might make in appreciating and understanding Mill's proposal.

According to James, the thesis of Mill's Subjection of Women is this: “There is nothing fixed in character, but that it may, through the education of a sufficient number of generations, be produced of any quality to meet the demand.” James is quick to point out, “Yet nevertheless he [Mill] keeps speaking of woman's present condition as a distorted and 'unnatural' one” (1869, 560). As I noted earlier, James argues that Mill cannot claim that there is “nothing fixed,” implying that there is no standard, while simultaneously claiming that the current state of “women” fails to meet the standard. James consistently uses the word “sentimental” to describe the foundation or grounds of Mill's argument; this is intended to suggest to readers that Mill's proposal reflects his own desires and does not provide a “rational” argument. However, in contrast to his comments on Bushnell's book, James does not mock Mill's sentimentality. He seeks to understand it and to suggest ways in which it remains limited.

Most of the statements that James quotes from Mill's work are not problematic for James. For instance, he offers lines such as “We have had the morality of submission and the morality of chivalry and generosity; the time has come for the morality of justice” and “The principle of the modern movement in morals and politics is, that conduct, and conduct alone, entitles to respect; that not what men are, but what they do, constitutes their claim to deference.” However, James quotes two statements in particular that serve as the basis for his reservations about Mill's “sentimental” proposal: “Unlikeness may attract, but it is likeness which retains; and in proportion to the likeness is the suitability of the individuals to give each other a happy life” and “Any society which is not improving is deteriorating, and the more so the closer and more familiar it is” (1869, 562). These lines from The Subjection of Women make James reluctant to sign on to Mill's societal vision, which signifies James's struggle with utilitarian reasoning.

First, James displays discomfort with Mill's emphasis on “likeness” at the expense of “unlikeness.” He does not develop an alternative to Mill's tendency within this review, but we find an alternative in James's Principles of Psychology, published eleven years later. Instead of the terms “likeness” and “unlikeness,” James uses “foreignness” and “intimacy.” In The Principles of Psychology (1950, 2:619), he defines experience in those terms: “Experience means experience of something foreign supposed to impress us, whether spontaneously or in consequence of our own exertions and acts.” According to Russell Goodman, James's philosophy of psychology seeks to maintain both our connections with the world (intimacy) and “the world's otherness” (foreignness). Goodman says, “Experience discloses foreignness and alterity as well as intimacy and kinship, disjuncts as well as conjuncts.” While James conceives of experience in terms of relations, “they all are not of the same type, and some . . . show us our distance from as well as our proximity to, other things” (Goodman 1990, 86). While James distinguishes between foreignness and intimacy, he does not make that distinction into a binary or vicious dichotomy. For James, all experience contains both foreignness and intimacy. The distinction is a matter of degree. James does not want to confuse intimacy with control, manipulation, or possession. Intimacy between subject and object should never be understood in terms of the subject possessing the object, where the quest for certainty overdetermines and smothers the object. In other words, even the most radical instances of intimacy still contain elements of otherness, in the sense that intimacy does not entail or include control, manipulation, or possession. Intimacy remains a necessary part of experience. Foreignness should not come at the cost of losing intimacy within knowledge and personal relationships.

This means that, eleven years after publishing his review of Mill's Subjection of Women, James deliberately refuses the reduction of foreignness (“unlikeness”) to intimacy (“likeness”). In the review, he openly worries about Mill reducing the differences between women and men in the name of and for the purpose of equality. When we consider James's worries in our twenty-first-century context, we might flag him as a “hierarchical,” “natural law,” or “patriarchical” thinker who simply wants to reassert male/female difference for the sake of maintaining male power and privilege. I would caution against such binary thinking: to seek to maintain difference does not necessitate control, manipulation of power, and possession of the other. It has meant this in the past, in different manifestations (not only in “natural law” thinking), but does not have to mean this for us today. James's concerns over Mill's reduction of female to male do not come across in this “hierarchical” or “natural law” way-especially when interpreted through the categories of foreignness and intimacy found in The Principles of Psychology.

Second, with regard to Mill's claim that “any society which is not improving is deteriorating, and the more so the closer and more familiar it is” (James 1869, 562), James hesitates to agree because our options are not either deterioration or improvement. This is part and parcel of Mill's utilitarian-based moral reasoning. While it may be true that the society in which Mill found himself was deteriorating, and the mistreatment of women was one of the causes of this, James pauses in his agreement with Mill's societal vision because of these overgeneralizations. James also pushed back against binary thinking-which we see in his criticisms of The Subjection of Women. Mill presents his work as “logical” and “rational,” and especially “well calculated” in terms of utilitarianism, but James finds these characterizations to be deceitful. Why deceitful? Because Mill publicizes his rationale in terms of “rational calculation,” but in reality his claims are made from his own sentimentalism. The sentimentalism is not bad-it is right, obligatory, and good to champion and promote gender and sexual equality-but the argumentation and reasoning ought to be honest.

While not necessarily “feminist friendly,” James's chapter “Habit” in The Principles of Psychology (1950, 1:104-27) provides a more honest, logical, and truthful account of how societal “improvement” is difficult and slow work. By more honest, I mean that James emphasizes the importance and necessity of patience when seeking change at the individual and social levels. By more logical, I mean that he neither commits logical fallacies (like Bushnell does) nor offers gross generalizations (like Mill does). By more truthful, I mean that James's philosophy (like that of all pragmatist philosophers) provides a bottom-up democratic approach, whereas utilitarianism tends to involve top-down strategies that are difficult to implement “on the ground.” Utilitarian reasoning assumes that habits do not matter, that mathematical calculation overrides our habits and tendencies. James's moral psychology takes our habits seriously and, therefore, provides a more realistic account of societal change.

When scholars draw the conclusion that James favors Bushnell's Women's Suffrage over Mill's Subjection of Women, they are wrongly interpreting the significance of James's hesitations with Mill's argumentation. While it is true that later in his writing career James dedicated Pragmatism: A New Name for Old Ways of Thinking to Mill, the early James exhibits substantial differences from Mill's utilitarianism. The early James is best described as a “virtue theorist” who shies away from any and all hints of utilitarianism throughout his 1,400-page Principles of Psychology-which means it should not surprise us that eleven years before the publication of Principles, James calls out the foundations and inconsistencies of Mill's application of his utilitarianism to the treatment of women.

<1>James Versus Mill on Moral Reasoning

Because of the misunderstandings found within scholarship on James's review of The Subjection of Women, we should continue to explore the differences between James's and Mill's approaches to moral reasoning. I use the phrase “moral reasoning” because to say “ethics” limits us to the positions that they take. Unlike James, Mill comes to the right conclusions (from a feminist perspective) about women, and James admittedly misses an opportunity to say clearly that he agrees with these conclusions. However, determining how Mill gets to his conclusions is what James cares about more (and, most likely, what James recognized to be his job as the reviewer). We need to address two criticisms, one explicit and one implicit, found within James's review of The Subjection of Women. These regard the role of sentimentalism within our thinking and the significance of relationality within our ethical reflections and moral arguments.

<2>Mill's Sentimentalism

James uses the word “sentimentalist” as a critique of Mill's argumentation in The Subjection of Women. What he means by this is that the foundation of Mill's claims are his subjective desires for equality-and not an objective account of moral and political equality. There are two points to make here. First, James admires Mill's utilitarianism (though he does not wholly agree with it) partly because it provides a potentially objective account of morality-but not the only objective account of morality, as Jeremy Bentham and Mill often claim about their utilitarianism. James makes the judgment that Mill departs from the objectivity involved in his utilitarian reasoning and grounds his claims more on his individual passion for equality than on his more trustworthy utilitarian calculation of the consequences of equality for all.

Second, James's review foreshadows an argument that he made later in his life, found in his essay on moral reasoning, “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings.” In that essay, James argues that while sentimentalism is “good,” we need to be aware of our “feelings” because they might blind us from seeing the full picture. He writes, “Yet so blind and dead does the clamor of our own practical interests make us to all other things, that it seems almost as if it were necessary to become worthless as a practical being, if one is to hope to attain to any breadth of insight into the impersonal world of worths as such, to have any perception of life's meaning on a large objective scale” (1962, 121-22). Admittedly, it is odd to claim that Mill's Subjection of Women displays a particular form of blindness when it seems that everyone else at the time lived with this horrible form of blindness to the treatment of women. And it is odd to claim that James's critique of Mill points out this blindness when James himself seems to be on the “wrong side” of the debate at the time. Defenders of James's pragmatism wish that he had simply agreed with Mill on this particular issue, and James gets trashed by contemporary feminist philosophers for not doing so. My claim is not that James overcame his own blindness toward the treatment of women; in practice and in thought, he does not meet the standards for how women should be treated or viewed. My claim is, rather, that James noticed in Mill's argumentation a stumbling block for getting others to see the legitimacy of Mill's moral and societal vision.

The inconsistency within James's review of The Subjection of Women comes to light when we recognize that James criticizes Mill for being too subjectivist (“sentimentalist”) and too utilitarian-which turns moral reasoning into an objective calculation of happiness through pleasure. In some sense, James struggles to articulate in this review what he will outline so clearly (and much later) in Pragmatism: the differences between the “tough-minded” and the “tender-minded.” Interestingly, in her description of The Subjection of Women, Catherine MacKinnon (1989, 7) labels Mill's moral reasoning as “empirically rationalist”; if this is an accurate description, it suggests that James has a difficult time placing Mill's book into his own classifications of thought.

<2>James's Relational-Centered Moral Reasoning

James's implicit critique of Mill's moral reasoning concerns how Mill's sentimentalism and his utilitarianism lack relationality. James seeks to ground our moral reasoning in a grammar of relationality. In The Principles of Psychology (1950, 1:245-46), he writes, “We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but, and a feeling of by, quite as readily as we say a feeling of blue or a feeling of cold.” The way to reason, both epistemologically and morally, involves talking about the reality of relations by naming our feelings of relations-learning to emphasize the words “and,” “if,” “but,” and “by” in our objective accounts of moral and scientific reasoning. Emphasizing these relations requires us to redescribe the category of experience, because the relations lack clarity and distinction. They are difficult to grasp and hold on to; we cannot catch them and put them into a neat formula. Utilitarianism tends to neglect these relational words and, indeed, attempts to put the moral life into a neat formula.

Because of this relationality, we will have experiences that cannot be categorized or conceptualized. However, our intellectual inabilities do not mean that these experiences are meaningless or useless. Instead, they mean that we are not always in control of our experience. And, for James, this is good! The grammar of relationality matters for epistemology and for ethics, and Mill's moral reasoning blocks the significance of relationality. In this sense, James's implicit critique of Mill's Subjection of Women is that it teaches us to talk in the wrong way about our actual relationships. If one of the goals of contemporary feminist philosophy is to reflect on how our actual relationships function within the world, then James's relational-centered moral reasoning provides a better foundation than Mill's utilitarianism for contemporary feminist philosophy.

In his review of Mill's Subjection of Women, James applies his later-formulated radical empiricist moral reasoning to the relations between men and women-particularly in the marital relationship. James's criticisms of Mill's conclusions include that Mill overconceptualizes the relationship between men and women: men and women relate only because of their common interest in an object, instead of their interest in each other. Bringing up Mill's claim that a husband and wife will be bonded through caring for “great objects,” James throws his radical empiricist flag (tinted by Victorian glasses) and warns Mill's readers, “According to this, the most important requisite in an astronomer's wife is, that she should have a passion for astronomy” (1869, 564).

Within James's moral psychology, subjects relate to each other-in a primary way-and shape the way in which we relate to objects; subjects relate to objects in mediated, or secondary, ways. In order to know the chair on which I sit while writing this chapter, I must give some epistemological consideration to how this chair has been in relationships with other sitters. James's epistemology informs his moral reasoning, and we can recognize how his reasoning resembles Kant's deontological moral reasoning: both James and Kant emphasize persons as persons and objects as objects. Neither James nor Kant wants our moral reasoning to ever collapse persons into objects. Mill's Subjection of Women, however, describes the marital relationship as two persons who relate only through some common object; James makes the judgment that Mill collapses the significance of the two persons in this relationship to that of some object. Therefore, James concludes, Mill's Subjection of Women remains problematic in terms of a relational-centered moral reasoning.

James misapplies his radical empiricist moral reasoning at this point; he, too, seems to carry around an assumption of the clarity and neatness in male and female relationships, especially marital relationships:


We think that the ideal of the representative American is opposed to this [Mill's personal ideal of independence]. However he might shrink from expressing it in naked words, the wife his heart more or less subtly craves is at bottom a dependent being. In the outer world he can only hold good his position by dint of reconquering it afresh every day: life is a struggle where success is only relative, and all sanctity is torn off of him; where failure and humiliation, the exposure of weakness, and the unmasking of pretence, are assured incidents: and he accordingly longs for one tranquil spot where he shall be valid absolutely and once for all; where, having been accepted, he is secure from further criticism, and where his good aspirations may be respected no less than if they were accomplished realities. In a word, the elements of security and repose are essential to his ideal; and the question is, Are they easily attainable without some feeling of dependence on the woman's side-without her relying on him to be her mediator with the external world-without his activity overlapping hers and surrounding it on almost every side, so that he makes it as it were the atmosphere in which she lives. (1869, 562-63)

<end ext>

This is not a “radical empiricist” reflection on marriage. It does not emphasize the complexities of the marital relationship, but rather says that (a) “the wife” ought cut down on the ambiguity that men feel at home and (b) husbands should “mediate”-that is, lessen-the experience of the complexities found within the “world.”

At the same time, however, James's critique of The Subjection of Women helps us recognize that the certainty and neatness found in Mill's account lacks an attention to detail concerning the ands, ifs, buts, and bys that characterize so much of the moral life. In other words, relationships are complex and difficult, whether they be relationships between men and men, relationships between men and women, or relationships between women and women; any moral theory that makes claims about these relationships needs to account for the ambiguities involved in them. Mill's Subjection of Women disappoints on this standard, and James's description of the “American ideal” of marriage fails us as well.


James's hesitations in signing on to Mill's societal vision for the equal treatment of women should signify to us that James worries about both the foundations and consequences of Mill's logic. In terms of the foundations of that logic, James finds that Mill argues out of his own sentiments; if Mill's readers do not share his sentiments, then it will be impossible to persuade them of the importance of equal treatment for women. Mill needs to ground his claim on some objective plane that does not depend on the sentiments of Victorian males in New England. James recognizes that not everyone shares Mill's sentiments about giving women equal status.

In terms of the consequences of Mill's logic, James points to how Mill's account fails to include any reflection at all, in contemporary terms, on moral psychology. Social relationships come with ambiguities and complexities, and Mill's theory in no way accounts for the psychological aspects of our moral and social lives. Within the contours of his review, however, James likewise fails to reflect upon the ambiguities and complexities found within the marital relationship.

By way of conclusion, I simply want to point us back to James's review. In particular, I will conclude with his accurate prediction concerning Mill's Subjection of Women, which we find in the final paragraph of the review. James (1869, 565) praises Mill's book in terms of its potential outside of James's own Victorian New England context:


For it ought to be read by every one who cares in the least degree for social questions. . . . No one can read it without feeling his thought stimulated and enlarged; numbers of those who are at present skeptical or indifferent will be converted by it; and many will be toughened in their resisting conservatism by the suggestive glimpse it affords of the ultimate tendencies of the democratic flood which is sweeping us along. It may be that Mr. Mill's fervid passion for absolute equality, “justice,” and personal independence, as the summum bonum for everyone, is a personal peculiarity. [However, it] may be that he is only more far-seeing than the majority, and that the wiping out of everything special in any man's relations to other men-of every moral tie that can possibly be conceived of as varying in varied circumstances, and therefore as artificial-is but the inexorable outcome of the path of progress on which we have entered. If this is so, there can be little doubt that this small volume will be what the Germans call “epoch-making,” and that it will hereafter be quoted as a landmark signalizing one distinct step in the progress of the total evolution.

<end ext>

Any account of James's reviews of Bushnell's and Mill's books on gender equality that argues that James favors Bushnell's argument over Mill's societal vision fails on two fronts. First, it fails to recognize how James's review represents his struggle between natural law theory and utilitarianism. Natural law theory provides an objective and relational account of human interaction, but Bushnell's natural law reasoning comes with a “nervous tenor” and falls into a slippery-slope fallacy. Utilitarianism gets us to a place of gender equality, but Mill's version of gender equality (a) reduces difference to sameness and (b) lacks realistic reflections on the role of relationality within the moral life. Second, any account claiming that James favors Bushnell's book over Mill's neglects James's conclusions about each book: James (1869, 565) openly pokes fun at Bushnell's book, but he labels Mill's book “epoch-making” and suggests “that it will . . . be quoted as a landmark signalizing one distinct step in the progress of the total evolution.”




<CT>Women and William James

<CA>Erin McKenna

Without the impetus of this volume, I would probably have been happy to continue to work from Charlene Haddock Seigfried's basic analysis that James was not himself a feminist but that his style of philosophy is feminist friendly. I am still in general sympathy with this analysis and find much of value in James's work. However, I have come to worry that there is something in James that feminists should not ignore. He does not just have some problematic beliefs about women's nature and role in society, but he repeatedly refuses to be open to the idea that his ascribed role for women simply mirrors societal conventions that are structured for the benefit of males. On this topic, he does not follow his own admonition to seek the liberation of human energies. John McDermott (1977, xi-xii) notes a similar limitation in James's analysis of poverty. He writes,


James had an extraordinary ability to diagnose the obstacles to a creative personal life and an equal capacity so to stimulate us as to break the fetters of the obvious and the assumed. Long before the term was common, he had a deep insight to the perils of self-deception, especially our tendency to accept our situation as necessarily ours. . . .

What James does not see, however, is that certain social conditions are self-perpetuating and self-enforcing. Poverty, for example, is not merely the absence of “material attachments” or the absence of the burdens of acquisition. Rather, it is the presence of a social conditioning which often wrecks the capacity to exercise the very “energies” and “powers” which James so brilliantly extols. . . . The creative possibilities of individual life are inseparable from the transformation of social institutions.

<end ext>

Similarly, not all women of his time experienced their lack of choices and opportunities as something that freed them from anguish or despair. In fact, the social constraints they faced limited their “energies” and “powers,” as well as the scope of the energies and powers they did manifest. Focusing their energies and powers on men and family was not without some good consequences for men, families, and society as a whole, but it often took quite a toll on the women themselves. That this remained invisible to James is what concerns me here.

Many reading this book will be familiar with some of the things James said that most feminists find problematic. Seigfried has done a good job of presenting these passages and pointing to the bias that left such passages largely ignored for so long-a bias that she too admits she suffered from for quite some time. For instance, she notes, “In one respect . . . his sympathetic insight failed him, and that is in regard to women, whom he consistently viewed from a masculinist, or ideologically patriarchal angle of vision; that is, one which equates humanness with maleness and believes that women's proper role is to serve men's interests. As a result of this devaluation of women, their experiences are distorted when they are not ignored outright, and customary and institutional barriers to women's emancipation are not challenged” (this volume, 000). She also points to James's analogy of “automatic sweethearts,” who would not be equivalent to real women, as they could not “sympathetically reaffirm the importance and moral worth of their men” (000). James believed that men crave “inward sympathy and recognition, love and admiration” (000) and that this is the proper work of women. Seigfried says that, in James's work, “women are defined not only in relation to men but as fulfilling very definite needs of men. No reciprocity is implied or even logically possible because James is supposedly describing women's essential role as women. He gives as the curiously limited 'feminine offices' of 'a spiritually animated maiden' those of 'laughing, talking, blushing, nursing us'” (000). Seigfried makes it clear that, for James, women exist to charm, sooth, and support men.

Here, one of my tasks is to highlight some additional passages for discussion. But my main goal is to show that James had a general attitude and disposition that, as a feminist, I find problematic. The problem is his assumption that he and men in general are the central figures who deserve the support of women. This infects his ideas about how to be in the world. He assumes the support without being aware of it. This is a good example of what many feminists recognize as the backgrounding of women. Their labor and support is assumed to be there, but it remains in the background and is not acknowledged. I think this attitude or disposition is something with which we must wrestle when we use James for any purpose, but especially when we use his work for feminist projects or feminist analysis-as I have done myself on at least one occasion with feminist epistemology. Pointing to these issues does not mean that no use of James can be made, but awareness and caution are required.

My main point is that James seems to have remained almost completely unaware of his white privilege and his class privilege, though moments of awareness and critique do appear. However, he seems not even to have thought about his male privilege as privilege-it's just natural. While this is not something wholly unexpected for a man of his times, I think it is unexpected for a man, like him, who was exposed to many people engaged in talk and action surrounding the “woman question” or the “women's movement.” Outside of his family, and even within it, he encountered strong activist women, but seems not to really have understood their concerns, much less shared them.

<1>Women Colleagues

Just a couple examples of such women with whom James had encounters are Melusina Fay Peirce and Jane Addams. “Zina” Peirce, who was the first wife of Charles Sanders Peirce (James's friend and the inspiration for his use of pragmatism), was a pioneer of the cooperative housekeeping movement; its first meeting took place just a few doors down from James's home. This movement encouraged women to share household duties with one another on a rotating basis. Working together, they shared equipment and labor, completed tasks more quickly, and gained a sense of community with other women. This community, along with the free time that resulted from cooperating on domestic work, allowed women to be more politically and socially active. Many Harvard faculty members and their wives were involved in this movement. Zina was a public figure, having five articles published in the Atlantic Monthly. We also know that Zina, James's sister Alice, his mother, and Kathryn Loring (later to be Alice's life companion) were all part of the Female Humane Society for the Poor. Zina had attended the school for women headed by Louis Agassiz (the scientist with whom James went to the Amazon), which preceded the efforts to create Radcliffe, and we know that Benjamin Peirce (father of Charles and professor at Harvard) taught at Agassiz's school. Given all these contacts, it is safe to assume that James knew what women were talking about; he knew that many craved education and greater freedom.

Professionally, he had contact with Jane Addams, among other women. For instance, he and Addams were both involved in the Anti-Imperialist League, and both spoke on the nature of war at the 1904 Universal Peace Congress. James read Addams's work and complimented her on it, even as he downplayed her intellectual ability by attributing her insights to her female nature. While Addams is known for many things-her pacifism, her work with immigrants, her support of women's suffrage-behind all her work is the idea that for women to be involved in such public discourse and action they need to be relieved of the burden of domestic duties. Addams understood the desire of many newly college-educated women for a life beyond that of wife and mother. While cooperative housekeeping was one way to free up some time for married women to become publicly engaged, Addams turned to the idea of the settlement house-specifically, Hull House. One of the reasons she established Hull House was to provide a way for single women (and some men) to live and work without taking on domestic duties as their main task. The duties of the house were shared among the residents, and many groundbreaking women leaders emerged from Hull House and the settlement house movement as a whole. Addams wrote about this in Democracy and Social Ethics and Twenty Years at Hull-House. While James acknowledged Addams's contributions to theorizing about democracy, he did not comment on her push to change the lives of women in more concrete ways. James was aware of all of this, but he largely ignored it, as do many who write about him.

For example, C. Hartley Grattan (1962, 1) wrote The Three Jameses in 1962, noting, “The masculine roots of the James family do not run deep into American history. . . . On the female side, however, the line runs back to the Revolution and beyond, with occasional low hills of eminence to vary the genealogical flatlands. But in our patriarchal society, the female line is of but incidental importance, so it seems, and certain it is in this case that is was the male blood in a new environment that lifted the family from mediocrity to distinction.” Grattan also failed to mention James's sister, Alice, in his book. More surprising, though, is that Robert Richardson wrote a biography on William James in 2006 with absolutely no mention of Addams. While he discusses at length James's anti-imperialist work, conferences that included Addams, and many of James's colleagues and contemporaries-some quite minor figures-he ignores Addams (and most other women) completely. Such oversights perpetuate the invisibility of women and limit the possibilities for a critical reading of James.

Despite James's exposure to and apparent admiration for some strong women, neither his family life nor his life as a Harvard professor really challenged the idea of male privilege. In fact, his life and, I will argue, some aspects of his work actually served to support such male privilege (along with class privilege and white privilege). In many, many letters, he anguished about his choice of profession, changing his mind regularly. In one letter to a female cousin, he wrote that she could not understand the pressure he faced, since women have their choices made for them. There is no hint that he grasped that this very fact was felt keenly by many women of his time. The anguish James faced was the result of his class, race, and gender privilege. The opportunity to exercise “free will” was not shared equally, and he could not see how his freedom intersected with the oppression of others.

<1>Family Influences

Beginning with his family, it is clear that James learned from his father that to be complete a good man needed a wife. That wife should serve the man. According to Henry Sr., “She was the 'patient bondsman of the latter's [man's] necessities, the meek unresisting drudge of his lusts both physical and moral, so wooing him, and at last winning him, out of his groveling egotism into the richest social and aesthetic dimension.'” Women's devotion and service made men better. Henry Sr. did argue for greater freedom to divorce, though, on the grounds that without it men would come to see women as their property and inspire women to rebellion, despite their naturally submissive nature. But he did not support free love or too much freedom. He noted that he married his wife with the idea that she was perfect, but soon learned that this was not the case. The consequence of this realization was that he lost his desire for her. But, for him, this was not enough reason to leave or stray. “I will abide my chains,” he wrote (Townsend 1996, 56). He owed her because she had done so much to make him the man he was. Building on his father's observations, James once wrote to a friend that in “most women there is a wife that craves to suffer and submit and be bullied” (70). James's sister, Alice, also internalized these ideas of their father. She once wrote to her brother about her mental depression, saying, “I think the difficulty is my inability to assume the receptive attitude, that cardinal virtue in women, the absence of which has always made me so uncharming to and uncharmed by the male sex” (Seigfried, this volume, 000). Henry Sr.'s ideas of what a woman and wife should be carried over to the next generation.

The wife of Henry Sr. was, of course, the mother of William James. She is described as a selfless person, completely devoted to her family (Townsend 1996, 58). Sometimes this devotion took the form of severe critique of her children and grandchildren, and she is said to have attempted to control their lives. In F. O. Matthiessen's The James Family, he quotes Henry Jr.'s description of a trip home, where he found his mother tired and needing rest. But she wouldn't take any rest, and he found that touching. “Summer after summer she never left Cambridge-it was impossible that father should leave his own house,” the younger Henry wrote. “The country, the sea, the change of air and scent, were an exquisite enjoyment to her; but she bore with the deepest gentleness and patience, the constant loss of such opportunities. She passed her nights and her days in that dry, flat, hot, stale and odious Cambridge, and had never a thought while she did so but for father and Alice. It was a perfect mother's life-the life of a perfect wife” (Matthiessen 1961, 128-29). If great men can only be great with wives and mothers like this, can there be great women?

William and Henry's sister, Alice, was on the one hand devoted to William, but on the other hand found him self-absorbed and unable to settle and be satisfied. Once it was clear that she was going to remain in England until her death, she asked William to take care of some of her furniture. He ignored her instructions completely, and she said she was not surprised since the wishes of others seldom were important to him. William reinforced his father's views with Alice. At one point, he wrote to her, “You must also remember that a woman, by nature needs much less to feed upon than a man, a few emotions and she's satisfied” (Matthiessen 1961, 282). Never mind that Alice was not very satisfied and struggled with physical and mental collapse her whole life. James referred to his sister as “that idle and useless young female, Alice, whom we shall have to feed and clothe!” and regularly said he was filling his letters with gossip and stories that would “interest her female mind” (1969, 49, 69). He wrote to his father to implore that he make sure Alice learned some good manners and noted that he had come to appreciate how a good education could add to a woman's charms (Matthiessen 1961, 135-36, 155). But here is his idea of these charms: “Let Alice cultivate a manner clinging yet self sustained, reserved yet confidential, let her face beam with serious beauty, & glow with quiet delight at having you speak to her; let her exhibit short glimpses of a soul with wings, as it were (but very short ones); let her voice be musical and the tones of her voice full of caressing, and every movement of her full of grace, & you have no idea how lovely she will become” (Strouse 1980, 124). This could easily be straight out of Rousseau's idea that Sophie exists to complement and support Emile. Despite some moments of appreciation for his sister's mind and how she conducted her life, William continued to see women as valuable only in their roles as wives and mothers-charming, soothing, and selfless. When a brother had his first child, a daughter, James (1969, 53) wrote that he hoped he wouldn't regret that she was not a boy. As Jean Strouse (1980, 124) noted in her biography of Alice James, William liked strong women but didn't want them stronger than himself.

<1>Women He Loved

As for the women William was attracted to, he was in love with his cousin Minnie Temple, but felt that he should not marry anyone due to his own physical and mental ailments. He also had strong opinions against the pairing of blood relatives for biological reasons. Given this, his feelings seemed to cause him some anguish. Minnie had tuberculosis and died young. After that, James seemed to redouble his commitment not to marry anyone, though he had numerous attractions. In fact, his mother warned him to be careful about his tendency to be attracted to many women. Then William's father found Alice Gibbens, and William's friend Thomas Davidson introduced the two of them. They subsequently married. While she was fluent in several languages and well traveled, William viewed the role of his wife just as his father had seen the role of his wife. It seems that Alice saw her role in the same way, even as she may not have found herself completely suited to it. “She would never consider her 'self-sacrifice' complete, but it was the ideal toward which she strove,” Kim Townsend notes (1996, 70). “Hers was 'a quiet life of helping you,' she told him in 1882. While on some occasions he expressed appreciation for her care, he also felt oppressed by it. [He wrote,] 'A young husband has neither will nor freedom.'”

As we know, James regularly left on trips when Alice was delivering a baby. James's letters indicate that he thought it best to get out of the way, and he wrote that science dictated that a new baby should have its mother to itself as much as possible. Others have agreed that James was needy and that Alice would have found it a blessing to have him out of the way when she had a new baby in her care. Richardson describes Alice's close relationships with her mother and her sister and suggests that James, as a male presence, was a distinct outsider and not fully welcomed. At the same time, Alice apologized during these absences for being so hard to live with-implying another take on James's departures. And yet it seems likely that James himself was quite hard to live with. Townsend (1996, 73) writes, “Alice was inclined to castigate herself for draining her husband's energies or being hard to live with. The cost of standing up to him was great. When she did, their son reported, James 'would pass from surprise to bewilderment, to excitement, to desperation.' Sometimes he would explode, and 'there was Mother, holding her ground in the face of thunder, lightning and universal disintegration, her face flushed, tears finally rolling down her cheeks.'” Townsend describes an occasion when James came home with paintings Alice thought too expensive-and when she said something, he shredded them with scissors. He then expressed surprise that Alice cried in response to his action.

Another example of William's inability or unwillingness to consider how his actions might affect others can be seen in the fact that he openly expressed his interest in other women, often with the consequence of hurting Alice's feelings. One instance involved kissing a household maid; others were longer-term relationships and correspondences. I want to say that strong, educated women often had men as their natural companions, and there should be room for such friendships. Here, however, I am interested in how James conducted himself. From his side, most of these were not simply affairs of the mind, and he seems to not have cared about Alice's feelings. One relationship was with Sarah Wyman Whitman (an artist his own age), with whom he met and corresponded regularly. She helped him read the proofs for The Principles of Psychology, and he let her read his sister Alice's diary. This seems to have been mainly an intellectual friendship. Another woman, Rosina Emmett, was a cousin-niece of the beloved Minnie-who lived with the Jameses while attending Radcliffe. She brought youth and energy to the house, and William wrote to Henry that were he younger he “would aim at her hand.” Alice was hurt by his attention to Rosina. Richardson (2006, 351) writes, “Alice was unable to recover for herself the youthful, high-spirited tone that now prevailed around the house. She went to visit a sister. William typically did not draw back, even though he knew Alice was upset. He believed in acting on impulse, and he had his way. Eventually Alice came around, with what inner reluctance or misgivings we can well imagine.” The freedom to act on impulse (or free will) is a privilege not shared by all, and it is usually only successful when others are not able or not allowed to do the same. James could act on impulse without disrupting his life only because Alice accommodated him.

Then James met Pauline Goldmark, a Bryn Mawr graduate and a biologist who loved hiking and camping (Richardson 2006, 352). He yearned for her company in many of his letters. She was the one he wanted to meet and hike Mount Marcy with in 1898. When he added extra weight to his pack so that his guide could carry the belongings of the women with them, he strained his heart and an obvious decline in his health began. His wife is said to have never forgiven Goldmark for this. As Richardson writes,


William James had always been attracted to interesting women. His mother had noticed it warily. Women found him attractive too. There has never been so much as a breath of scandal about these friendships. Of course one or more of them may have taken a physical turn, of course revealing letters may have been destroyed, and certainly the Jameses as a family could keep a secret. But even if James never ran off for a fling-as his brother Bob did once . . . -James's women friends were an important part of his life and a source of dismay and sorrow for Alice. (352-53)

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Richardson notes that William's behavior exhibited a kind of selfishness. While he observes that Alice and William clearly had a special place in each other's hearts, and only once seemed to consider separation, that does not mean that all was well with the relationship. “James's spontaneity was crucial to him, to his idea of himself, and it made him reckless, self-indulgent, and sometimes cruel when it came to friendships with attractive vital women,” Richardson (2006, 353) states. “He lived off their vitality, just as his brother lived off that of Minnie Temple and Constance Woolson. If James was a natural poacher, with the poacher's dislike of the gamekeeper, he was also a natural philanderer, with the philanderer's lack of interest in settled arrangements. The cost of these happy, rejuvenating attachments never worried James. It was Alice who paid.” What concerns me is the parasitic nature of his relations with women-Alice included. That he “lived off their vitality” reminds me of Mary Daly's work, which points out the many ways that men divert women's energy to themselves. Richardson discusses an exchange between Alice and William that seemed to address Alice's having asked him whether he was sorry he married her. He said no, but a few days later was again gushing to her about Pauline Goldmark. Richardson concludes that “William James must have been quite a handful” (353). This understated conclusion does not do justice to the cost borne by Alice and does little to balance other readings of James's life that seem to accept women as helpmates as a matter of course.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, Grattan writes, “It was a supremely, a continuously happy marriage.” What he means by this is that James's health was restored by the marriage. Alice protected his time, took care of petty household matters, prevented interruptions, and arranged his “social contacts so that there would appear to be both the informality his nature demanded and the formality his position required” (Grattan 1962, 132). Gerald E. Myers wrote similarly in William James: His Life and Thought, taking up a comment made by Strouse in her book Alice James. Strouse said, “William's successful marriage probably contributed even more toward the 'cure' of his emotional troubles than his philosophical resolutions of the early 1870s did. His wife's calm practicality offset his fitful nervousness: she understood his moods, catered to his whims, protected him from the outside world and the cares of domesticity, and provided an order within which he was free to come and go as he pleased” (Strouse 1980, 180; Myers 1986, 33). What Myers does with this quote is dispute the idea that James was ever “cured.” He notes that James continued to struggle with depression and nervous tension. He does not seem to notice Strouse's main point about Alice's role as wife and mother, and her lack of freedom.

Like many others, Myers also makes the case that both William and Alice wanted time apart and that both welcomed his frequent departures. But then why, in letters he penned during these absences, does William regularly apologize for his outbursts of temper, but not his own neediness? William said to Alice, “You wrote of the 'peace' that you now have, I being gone. How sad it is that two people who live but for each other should find so much 'peace' when parted. Yesterday afternoon I was haunted by the tho't of your pale face, transparent and beautiful in bed, after each of those childbirths, still turning to me and anxious to do something for me. Darling, I do not forget.” On another occasion, he regretted leaving her behind during three separate trips to Europe. Myers writes, “James's flights from his family were escapes from human entanglement to nature, solitude, and mystical relief.” He goes on: “The letters often reflect moodiness, tension, confusion, and the combination of approach and withdrawal that often occurs in stable yet feisty marriages.” His proof of this is that “William often apologized to his wife for outbursts of temper before a parting, reiterated his love for her and his appreciation of her care and devotion, and expressed the hope that the trip was improving his nerves so that he would be easier to live with when he returned” (1986, 37). Myers says that any marital problems are not surprising, given the on-and-off courtship the two had experienced, and he explains away the kissing of the maid by noting that William wanted more warmth and affection from Alice than she provided. He quotes James as saying, “What is to become of us I don't know. But you shall see no more temper fits from me (unless you are foolish yourself) for I have achieved a moral victory over my low spirits and tendency to complain whilst I have been here [Cambridge] these days” (38-39). But we know that this was a struggle he continued to have. Blaming Alice for his fits of temper sounds more like an abusive relationship than a supremely and continuously happy one.

In Jacques Barzun's A Stroll with William James, he argues that the fact that James was working during his honeymoon meant he had found a true partner. But he also then points to Alice's management of William's life as her real contribution: “It was that Alice instinctively understood his genius, his mercurial moods, and emotional needs. A genius is never housebroken, and if a writer, he is always too much in the house, with his overflowing books and papers that must not be touched, and his odd visitors, and his superhuman need of quiet-or of immediate comforting companionship” (1983, 29). Barzun goes on to say that without Alice, William's life would have been like that of other “impatient, energetic, and articulate” men whose lives “are a succession of quarrels, misunderstandings, and short-lived reconciliations” (266). These authors miss the problems inherent in this kind of relationship from the woman's point of view.

Interestingly, one sign of Alice's point of view comes from William himself. He writes about a time when Alice had scarlet fever and had to be isolated; she was supplied with food and reading material. Richardson (2006, 255) points out William's understanding of the situation: “Alice found her situation more than tolerable. 'She is all alone there-and happy,' wrote William. She 'rightly considers that a life of such independence, without husband, babies, callers, witnesses, notes to write or duties to perform, is an opportunity for enjoyment and self-culture which comes but once in a life-time and must be made the most of when it does.'” William does not, however, seem to realize or care that she makes such a life possible for him all the time. Nor does he see that he adds to her duties when he enlists her to write much of his correspondence (sometimes even letters to the other women he admires). Later, William made a similar observation to his mother-in-law. He and the family had been living in Europe, and Alice wanted to stay. While she wrote about it being less expensive to live well in Europe, William surmised, “I think what weighs most on Alice is a real dread (I am sorry to say) of Cambridge housekeeping and no feeling of satisfaction in our house and she hates to face what to her is an evil day” (328-29). But he wanted to return, as he had trouble working in the cramped living spaces they had been renting, and so they did. Glimmers of some awareness of her unhappiness did not change his behavior or thinking on the issue of the proper roles and places of men and women.

<1>Professional Life and Views

James's professional life seems to have, in many ways, mirrored the attitudes in his private life. Harvard, where he spent his career, resisted the perceived threat of women and was one of the last schools to admit women. It accepted the idea of the Radcliffe annex only reluctantly and mainly to make sure that women did not seek admission to Harvard itself. In his book Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others, Kim Townsend (1996, 25) says this:


Before the war it had been possible to imagine women possessing manly qualities and to admire them for it. After the war, the thought of strong women-autonomous, independent-minded, educated women, for example-forced a man to try to become that much more manly. Or to reverse the logic, if a man felt he was about as manly as he could be-or his efforts about as intense as his constitution could bear-he could relax them so long as he could be sure that women remained relatively womanly. . . . That was the logic that dictated Harvard's response to the evolution of Radcliffe College from its beginnings in 1879.

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While it is admirable that James taught courses for these women and on occasion championed their requests to attend his classes, he did next to nothing to support the idea of coeducation and seems to have been mostly motivated by the money that the extra classes provided him.

Even when writing to Mary Whiton Calkins to express his regret at President Eliot's resistance to her attendance of some seminars by James and Royce, he expressed a general opposition to admitting women: “It seems very hard. But he [Eliot] has to keep guard all along the line, and I suppose that laxity would soon produce an involuntary and unintended occupation of a great many of these higher courses by women. . . . Believe in my sincere regret for this action of our authorities” (Scarborough and Furumoto 1987, 29). James tried to make it clear that Calkins was an exception, since she already had her postgraduate degree and was really fellow faculty. So this would not open the doors to coeducation more generally. At the same time, however, James tells Calkins that this resistance is “enough to make dynamiters of you and all women. I hope and trust that your application will break the barrier” (33).

Despite these glimmers of awareness, women's issues did not rise to the level of capturing James's attention. While he could recognize the unfair treatment of women, for him such treatment was natural, even though it limited women's full and free expansion. James saw women's proper role as that of supporting the full and free expansion of men's lives, not achieving this for themselves.

Furthermore, he was generally quite sentimental about his women students, but he did not always take them seriously. He expressed surprise that his friend Thomas Davidson treated the women at his summer school in the Adirondacks in the same way that he treated the men-offering challenge and critique-and yet they still liked him and seemed to bear up under the pressure. Seigfried (this volume, 000) writes, “The women's emotional attachments are emphasized by James's characterizing the women as warming themselves at the fire of Davidson's soul. He reports that Davidson, however, did not treat the women with exaggerated courtesy, but instead 'told them truths without accommodation.' Apparently surprised that Davidson did not seek to accommodate women's supposed sensibilities, but criticized them as sharply as if they were men, James remarks, . . . : 'Seldom, strange to say, did the recipients of these deliverances seem to resent them.'” Seigfried also notes passages in which he argued that the female brain is complete at a younger age than the male brain and cannot compete with the male brain-nor can the brain of the savage, the Irish, or the Italian. Seigfried (000) concludes that James's “ethnic, class, and gender prejudices distort his pluralistic and developmental model. The equation of humanness with his own ethnocentric maleness effectively renders women and other races, nationalities, and classes as less than fully human.”

I also think that Seigfried's analysis of James's critique of Bushnell and Mill on the woman question is strong, and it is supported by Townsend's analysis. While James finds Bushnell too dogmatic in his expression of his ideas, he is largely on board with Bushnell's views-woman is to be naturally a subject, to yield, to be subordinate. On the other hand, while James admires Mill's work on most matters, he questions Mill's goal of justice in gender relations. “Independence is Mr. Mill's personal ideal, and his notion of love confounds itself with what is generally distinguished as friendship,” Townsend (1996, 64) says. “But James (or 'we') has another ideal in mind: 'We think that the ideal of the representative American is opposed to this. However he might shrink from expressing it in naked words, the wife his heart more or less subtly craves is at bottom a dependent being.' James will not shrink from saying it: if the American man is ever going to assume his proper role as a married man, he will have to have a dependent woman.”

Since, for James, men are engaged in the conquering and control of themselves and the world, they need aid and comfort: “And so, a man 'longs for one tranquil spot where he shall be valid absolutely and once for all; where having been accepted, he is secure from further criticism, and where his good aspirations may be respected no less than if they were accomplished realities. In a word, the elements of security and repose are essential to this ideal; and the question is, Are they easily attainable without some feeling of dependence on the woman's side[?]'” (Townsend 1996, 64). His answer is that they are not. It is for the good of the man that a woman's dependence is required, and he repays it with chivalry. James thinks that American men are less prone to abusing women than their European counterparts, and they allow them to take up public roles outside the family proper. But to go further would risk the balance of family life.

On the other hand, Mill points out that the idealized family is often really a combination of male selfishness and female submission. He instead advocates for equality. Seigfried (this volume, 000) writes, “Mill advocates that a morality of justice, in which two human beings live together in equality, with leading and following reciprocally shared, ought to supplant the present state of marital affairs in which the husband is the absolute master. James responds that Mill is confusing friendship with love and that his advocacy of reciprocal superiority threatens 'the conception of a wife as a possession.' Although it is obvious that men's status is enhanced by their power to virtually own women, James never questions why women should welcome being treated as objects.” All of this raises concerns about using the work of William James for feminist purposes.

However, he does seem to acknowledge the need for women's position to change when he discusses the women of Norway in “The Gospel of Relaxation” (an essay discussed in more detail in chapter 7 of this volume). Having begun to snowshoe, they are now physically capable and mentally independent and brave. According to James (1958, 135), they “are not only saying good-bye to the traditional feminine pallor and delicacy of constitution, but actually taking the lead in every educational and social reform. I cannot but think that the tennis and tramping and skating habits and the bicycle-craze which are so rapidly extending among our dear sisters and daughters in this country are going also to lead to a sounder and healthier moral tone, which will send its tonic breath through all our American life.” But, given James's general view, this improved health should be placed in the service of the family-husbands and children.

How does his conflicted position on women affect other aspects of James's thinking? In many places, James refers to life as a battle and emphasizes the need for self-control-control over habits, emotions, and character. Women stir feelings and so are part of what needs to be controlled (Townsend 1996, 45, 50). This begs the question of whether his metaphors of struggle, war, and mastery fit the experience of many women (and men). Others in this volume take this up directly. Moreover, it doesn't seem to occur to James (or many who write on James) that women, too, might welcome a partner as they seek to create their character and carve out their space in the world.

One option seems to be to just take James's approach and open it to all genders more equally. But I don't think this works. Just as Aristotle's notion of the good life is dependent on women and slaves doing certain work to enable the men to lead that good life, many of James's goals for “individuals” may well require that their lives be supported by others who are not engaged in the act of self-creation themselves. Instead, these “others” exist to support those who can be “individuals.” For some, this model will fit, and they may find that they too need “a wife” to make their lives meaningful and secure. For others, though, independence built on another's dependence is not what they desire.

Those in the supporting role accept external constraints (social and physical) on their sense of self and their possibilities. This, for James, is exactly what “great men” do not do. They change the world. In “The Importance of Individuals,” we learn that individuals need heroic opportunities and strenuous effort to shake them from their certainties. But this seems to only apply in the public realm. Such individuals, who are men, are sustained in this task of self-creation and social effort by the support they receive in the private realm. Furthermore, in “Great Men and Their Environment,” James (1896, 227) writes, “The mutations of societies, then, from generation to generation, are in the main due directly or indirectly to the acts or the examples of individuals whose genius was so adapted to the receptivities of the moment, or whose accidental position of authority was so critical that they became ferments, initiators of movements, setters of precedent or fashion, centers of corruption, or destroyers of other persons, whose gifts, had they had free play, would have led society in another direction.” At times, James acknowledges that women have a reason to be upset and agitated about the limitations they face (for example, he tells Calkins that it is “enough to make dynamiters of you and all women”). At times, he sees the potential for improving society by changing the position of women (as in his discussion of the women of Norway). He writes that he would like his own daughter to meet Goldmark in order to learn from her independence (Kaag 2015, 129). But these are limited exceptions in a corpus of work that generally views the supportive work of women as natural and not to be changed. If one changes this-that is, if one allows women to be equal and focus on work outside the home-there would be none of the necessary support that the great individuals need, according to James. Women are meant to support the great men who set the precedent for change, rather than setting this precedent themselves.

McDermott (1982, xxiv) notes, however, that James's message is “that we should not allow social conventions to prevent us from being true to ourselves. . . . James believes that in the long run we are capable of far more creative activity than we now reveal; this would be evident if we but had the will to energize ourselves independently of what others have come to expect of us, since then expectations are sure to fall short of our potentialities.” I would say that this is what needs to happen with our habits in regard to gender; women and men need to find ways to act independently of society's gendered expectations. Many women were trying just this during James's lifetime, but he could not see it-or at least could not accept what he saw. In “The Energies of Men,” he acknowledges the danger of untapped potential:


Most of us feel as if we lived habitually with a sort of cloud weighing on us, below our highest notch of clearness and discernment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in deciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources. In some persons this sense of being cut off from their rightful resources is extreme, and we then get the formidable neurasthenic and psychasthenic conditions, with life grown into one tissue of impossibilities, that the medical books describe. (James 1977, 674)

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This is a perfect description of his sister, Alice, and of what most women faced. Generally, James calls for individuals to transform such situations, but as we have seen, if women transform their situation, men will be without the support and care on which they depend in order to be great individuals. Never mind that women, if they do take up such work, will have to do so on their own, since they lack domestic support of any kind-unless they live in a settlement house or are part of the cooperative housekeeping movement.

For James, rather than make space for women to live at their highest potential, their energies should remain focused on service to others. For instance, in “The Energies of Men,” he expresses his desire to find ways for nations to train “all their sons and daughters” to live at their full potential. Given his examples of women with eating disorders, cutting behavior, obsessive hair pulling, and the like, one might expect that James would point to some social habits that limit and damage the potential of women. Perhaps, given his suggestions for Yoga, he would advise the kind of physical activity he had noted in the women of Norway. But no. His women exemplars are all focused on caring for and serving men and family. Agreeing with Mill that women “excel men in the power of keeping up sustained moral excitement,” he points to the powers of women to nurse and care for others during sustained illness. A woman holds the family together “by taking all the thought and doing all the work-nursing, teaching, cooking, washing, sewing, scrubbing, saving, helping neighbors, 'choring' outside. . . . If she does a bit of scolding now and then who can blame her? But often she does just the reverse; keeping the children clean and the man good tempered, and soothing and smoothing the whole neighborhood into finer shape.” James sees such women as the “humble heroines of family life” (1977, 675-676). Similarly, his example of how one's attitude and activity can affect one's physical health is a woman with breast cancer, who has stayed well longer than expected by cheerfully focusing on helping others. As we have seen, this is what he saw in his own mother and what he expected from his wife and sister. It does not seem consistent with what he wants from and for men. Men engage the world actively and transform it and themselves. As McDermott (1977, xxxi-xxxii) notes, “For James, it is precisely the ability of man to enter into the relational fabric of the world, in a participative and liberating way, which enables him to become human. His doctrine of nature is open-ended and does not offer ready-made meanings but rather the possibilities for meaning. Intelligibility becomes then a function of the interaction between self and the world; it will not yield to any privileged a priori conceptual scheme.” But in James's view, women-and the intelligibility of women's lives-were asked to yield to the privileged gender scheme that society held at that time. In fact, the liberation (and good temper) of men depended on it.


It seems that James could not follow through on his own insights when they threatened his privilege. To really rethink the position and role of women would entail rethinking his notion of the individual and his approach to ethics and social change. His great men stood on the backs of women. Thus, to use his idea of the individual for feminist purposes requires us to first be more critical in how we read and understand his work. Some of that work can be found in this volume.




<CT>Lady Pragmatism and the Great Man

<CST>The Need for Feminist Pragmatism

<CA>Erin C. Tarver

As feminist thought gains more currency in academic philosophy in general and American pragmatism in particular, it is increasingly common to see feminist panels at pragmatist conferences, and books such as the present volume are met with more sympathetic discussion than in previous years. The growing acceptance of feminist work in pragmatist circles is to be celebrated, and it owes much to the groundbreaking work of Charlene Haddock Seigfried, whose 1996 book Pragmatism and Feminism paved the way for a generation of feminist pragmatists to engage in both critical and constructive work with classical American pragmatism. Still, while feminism has won the tolerance and (sometimes) the friendly reception of mainstream pragmatist scholars, its influence in mainstream pragmatist scholarship remains limited. Although many express sympathy with the aims of feminist thought, few Jamesian pragmatists working today have actively grappled with the implications of a feminist reading of James in their own work. This should concern us not because some philosophers do not work on feminist philosophy-it is of course true that no one can do everything-but because feminist insights, many of which could and should be accepted by pragmatists, have serious implications for Jamesian pragmatism and its contemporary uses. In her book, Seigfried (this volume, 000) refers to this concern in the following way: “Only when James's own interpretative horizon of patriarchal values is recognized and rejected are we free to appropriate the subversive feminine that is also part of his text.” In this essay, I want to revise and expand upon this claim. I argue that taking feminist philosophy seriously as a pragmatist requires a radical response to James that is willing to revise or do away with certain elements of his thought-and that only when these elements are recognized and rejected as (pragmatically, politically, or philosophically) untenable are we, as pragmatists, free to appropriate the theoretically useful and potentially subversive elements of his thought.

I will, accordingly, defend several claims in the course of my argument, some of which could be classified as fine-grained points of specific textual analysis, while others are better understood as larger, meta-theoretical claims that follow from these smaller ones. First, I will demonstrate that James almost exclusively assumes a masculine audience and agent in his texts, even in passages frequently cited by contemporary pragmatists as evidence of his supposed feminism or radical view of gender. Although James's work in general has the virtue of explicitly recognizing its own limitations and perspectival character, I argue that simply acknowledging this fact is not sufficient. Instead, we must take this assumption as seriously as we would any other component of his text, particularly since, as James (1992, 173) himself suggests, such unrecognized habits of thought tend to affect the way each of us “dichotomizes the Kosmos.” Second, I will show that James's assumption of masculine subjectivity or agency results in an untenable account of the self in some of his moral and popular philosophical writings-especially the essay “Great Men and Their Environment,” but also the more widely read “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life.” Both were published in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy in 1897. In particular, I will argue that these essays depend on the acceptance and romanticization of an untenable account of the autonomous, elite “great man,” which is inconsistent with the thickly social and relational self of James's psychological and epistemological work. Moreover, because James's moral and popular philosophy so explicitly celebrates a naturalized vision of autonomous “geniuses” who are the engines of history, it has the function of perpetuating the valorization of the dominant social order, in which women (among others) are excluded from the ranks of the “great.” Thus, because the recognition of the problems in these essays are likely to elude us if we do not adopt feminist habits of reading-such that, for example, we actively concern ourselves with the implications of the assumption of autonomous masculine agency-I will conclude that Jamesian pragmatists ought to employ feminist readings, if they are to be consistently pragmatic.

Employing a feminist reading of James, however, will require pragmatists to engage in a more radical and critical interaction with James's texts than many of us have been willing to undertake. We must be willing to take James's fallibilism and deference to new evidence seriously enough to apply it to his own works-to recognize and explicitly reject, in other words, those philosophical elements of his texts that are unworkable, whether due to inconsistency, material falsity, or political consequences. In what follows, I will undertake such a reading and argue that, far from being instances of merely regrettable-but-excisable sexism, James's problematically gendered assumptions are, in short, carried through some of his texts such that they (1) produce an untenable account of individual autonomy and (2) have political implications that are dangerously conservative and antifeminist, in addition to being contrary to pragmatism. However, Jamesian pragmatism more broadly remains viable and helpful for feminist purposes, since some of James's other texts rely on an account of situated agency in conflict with this one, which feminists should find more useful.

<1>The Masculine “We” in James's Writings

In his 1906 Lowell lectures at Harvard-later published as Pragmatism-James (1987, 481) depicted pragmatism in explicitly feminine terms. He offers no explicit explanation for this authorial choice, and as a result, contemporary pragmatists have offered various interpretations of the meaning of James's metaphorical representation of this movement, which he describes as “a number of tendencies that have always existed in philosophy,” as a woman. The deliberate inclusion of an explicitly feminine figure in such a public and prestigious venue strikes some pragmatists as evidence against the claim that James's texts are sexist or masculinist. It will behoove us, then, to take a closer look at the passages in which James represents pragmatism as a woman. In the most famous of these passages, contained in the second lecture, “What Pragmatism Means,” James paints a vivid portrait of pragmatism as a gracious lady:


She “unstiffens” our theories. . . . She is completely genial. She will entertain any hypothesis, she will consider any evidence. . . . Pragmatism is willing to take anything, to follow either logic or the senses and to count the humblest and most personal experiences. She will count mystical experiences if they have practical consequences. She will take a God who lives in the very dirt of private fact-if that should seem a likely place to find them. . . . You already see how democratic she is. Her manners are various and flexible, her resources as rich and endless, and her conclusions as friendly as those of Mother Nature. (522)

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Contemporary pragmatist scholarship on James's use of the feminine metaphor for pragmatism is largely sympathetic, interpreting his treatment of “Lady Pragmatism” as a particularly subversive element of his text. In his book Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy, for example, James Livingston (2001, 145-46) writes that James's vision of Lady Pragmatism represents the “new woman who invented modern feminism,” who is worldly, public, and free of the constraints of domesticity and chastity. Indeed, Livingston uses the Lady Pragmatism passage to support his larger claim that Jamesian pragmatism is “improbable if not inconceivable in the absence of feminism” (141). William J. Gavin (1998) offers a more ambivalent reading of Lady Pragmatism, juxtaposing this feminine image with the many other metaphors of masculinity, manliness, strenuousness, and warrior-like vigor that populate James's texts. The contrast of masculine and feminine imagery, Gavin argues, creates a tension that is left deliberately unresolved by James. Maintaining this tension, according to Gavin, enables James to metaphorically enact the tension between tender- and tough-mindedness that pragmatism is supposed to mediate. Frank Lentricchia likewise calls attention to the ambivalent presence of both masculine and feminine imagery throughout James's texts, but offers an explicitly sexualized reading of the meaning of this co-presence. Lady Pragmatism, Lentricchia (1988, 126) claims, is a metaphor for (part of) James himself, whose “androgyny” in this passage represents openness, vulnerability, and experimentation, in contrast to elitist “theory,” who is “a masturbatory Old World gentleman who can never get his hands dirty, who cannot 'unstiffen' himself.” Though these scholars are far from univocal in their interpretation of the Lady Pragmatism passage, they are united in their conviction that the metaphorical depiction of pragmatism as a woman valorizes femininity-a mark, minimally, of progressivism in a Victorian such as James.

It is worth remembering, however, that the valorization of femininity as such need not be progressive: one may, like Rousseau (2005, 425-39), sing the praises of the supposedly “natural” feminine propensity to coquetry, while advocating for the importance of keeping girls and women ignorant. What distinguishes Rousseau's valorization of femininity from, say, Wollstonecraft's, is its specific content-in particular, content whose representation of femininity celebrates the status quo of women's social subordination. If we want to know whether Lady Pragmatism promotes a progressive, liberating image of femininity or a regressive, subordinating one, we will have to look more closely at the content and context of the passage. First, it is important to note that “Pragmatism” is not the only metaphorical woman from James's Lowell lectures. In lecture VI, later published as “Pragmatism's Conception of Truth,” James (1987, 585) contrasts pragmatism's verificationist vision of truth with the conception of truth he attributes to rationalism thusly: “True to her inveterate habit, rationalism reverts to 'principles,' and thinks that when an abstraction once is named, we own an oracular solution” (emphasis added). Similarly, in lecture V, James makes a rather pointed contrast between pragmatism and scholasticism: “Vainly did scholasticism, common sense's college-trained younger sister, seek to stereotype the forms the human family had always talked with, to make them definite and fix them for eternity” (569; emphasis added). So, in the same lecture series, James presents his audience with at least three different metaphorical women, only one of whom-pragmatism-is held up as laudatory. Now, none of these women is exactly Rousseau's Sophie: both Lady Rationalism and Lady Scholasticism are referred to in intellectual terms (even if condescendingly so), and Lady Pragmatism engages with hypotheses and evidence. It is clear that, as Livingston argues, James is portraying Lady Pragmatism as a new and different sort of woman than the others. Yet, in portraying these three intellectual outlooks as women whom his audience might choose between, James tacitly reinforces and valorizes an objectifying representation of femininity. The metaphorical women we encounter here may be abstractions, but the images' rhetorical effectiveness depends on a vision of women as goods to be chosen between in the manner James describes in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”: “Shall he follow his fancy for Amelia, or for Henrietta?-both cannot be the choice of his heart” (1992, 608). So even if Livingston is correct in his assessment of the type of femininity James valorizes in the Lady Pragmatism passage (and I will argue that he is not), this valorization comes not as part of a passage that addresses women or encourages them to think differently, but rather in the context of advice to peers about which metaphorical mistress they ought to choose.

It is, of course, important to note that James is not alone in portraying ideas or ideals in feminine terms. In addition to the general practice of treating ideas-or theory as such-as feminine nouns (common in Romance languages), it was commonplace in the nineteenth century and earlier to represent such ideas or ideals as women in art and literature. Americans need only look to the “Lady Liberty” of New York Harbor for evidence of this historical trend, which has deep roots in Western thought and cultures. As Simone de Beauvoir argues in The Second Sex (2011), this feminization of ideas and ideals is a double-edged sword: for every Liberty and Victory, there are Pandoras and Eves-and even, in the case of James, “the bitch-goddess SUCCESS” (James [1906] 1920). The recurrence of feminine imagery in the case of abstractions, good or bad, is no accident, according to Beauvoir. In literature as well as religion, she argues, “[woman] is the carnal embodiment of all moral values and their opposites, from good to bad; she is the stuff of action and its obstacle, man's grasp on the world and his failure. . . . He projects onto her what he desires and fears, what he loves and what he hates. And if it is difficult to say anything about her, it is because man seeks himself in her and because she is All. . . . Being all, she is never exactly this that she should be” (2011, 213). In such portrayals, Beauvoir suggests, actual, individual women are ironically absent, even from texts in which the idealized feminine is, for good or ill, present. This absence makes clear that the subjects of the discourses in question remain men, for whom women only represent reflections of their own fantasies, desires, or fears. The idealization of women or the feminization of ideals is thus, more often than not, a primary means of reinforcing women's “otherness” (to use Beauvoir's terms)-that is, to make them mere objects in someone else's drama.

For all his praise of Lady Pragmatism-who is certainly a different kind of lady than may have been praised in the past -James's portrayal of “her” is squarely in line with the sort of subordinating idealization that Beauvoir critiques. As I have argued elsewhere (Tarver 2007), the description of Lady Pragmatism above rings not so much of a co-inquirer as a courtesan: “She is completely genial. . . . Her manners are various and flexible.” She is the perfect hostess, “entertaining” hypotheses and offering “friendly” conclusions; she “will take anything,” James says, and give back “rich and endless” resources. Pragmatism, in these depictions, is a lady whose virtues (if you will) lie in her ability to give us what we want. And who is the “we”? Well, if it were not already clear, James (1987, 508) makes it explicit in his description of the pragmatist: “A pragmatist turns his back resolutely and once for all upon a lot of inveterate habits dear to professional philosophers” (emphasis added). Indeed, each time James mentions the pragmatist-that is, the concrete individual who values the general “tendencies” of pragmatism-he switches to explicitly masculine terms. He, the pragmatist, is the rugged individual who dares to transgress the norms of his class and sect to love a mistress who is at once too good, too kind, too wise, and too unconventional for his peers. The vision of femininity here valorized, then, is less Livingston's independent woman and more an unattainable fantasy. There are clear parallels between the Lady Pragmatism passage of “What Pragmatism Means” and other outsized fantasies of ideal femininity that are as unreal as they are tantalizing.

In her classic novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen-herself a nineteenth-century woman, writing only decades before James-subtly satirizes just such a pernicious fantasy of all-things-to-all-people femininity. Austen vividly portrays the demands, at once unattainable and mundane, of genteel femininity in a now-famous passage of the novel. The character Caroline Bingley explains to Elizabeth Bennett what it means for a woman to be “really accomplished,” only to have an addendum supplied by Mr. Darcy (whom Miss Bingley hopes to impress, and who believes the compliment “accomplished” to be unjustly awarded to too many women):


“No one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” (Austen 2010, 74)

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In the face of such demands, we may well say along with Miss Bennett, “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any” (74). The perfectly accomplished woman, like Lady Pragmatism, is the idealization of normative feminine desirability-thoroughly possessed of (the right kind of) knowledge and skills, genial and refined manners, a friendly tone of voice, and graceful movement, along with (of course) a commitment to intellectual self-improvement. The fact that Mr. Darcy's description, like James's, includes the wish for a woman who is clever is of little consolation when we remember that both men also require much more traditionally feminine skills, and that neither man questions the implications of his openly enumerating a description of ideal womanhood before an assembled audience.

James's Lowell lectures, which were attended by women and men, were certainly more open than typical courses at Harvard (which did not admit women for many more decades), but their audiences were hardly representative of the public at large. Though tickets were free, they were required for admittance (Harvard Crimson 1906), as was being “neatly dressed and of an orderly behavior” (Shinagel 2009, 6). The lectures were intended to make James's philosophical pragmatism accessible to a popular audience-or, at least, to an audience beyond professional philosophers. James describes his final lecture as having been attended by “the intellectual elite of Boston,” who met his closing words with a “thunderous ovation” (Simon 1999, 351). James here clearly intends to persuade a wider audience than usual of the value of pragmatism, but he appears primarily concerned with the opinions of those whom he regards as his peers, or potential co-inquirers. That is, despite the fact that he is literally speaking to a mixed audience, it is clear that he restricts his attention-and, it seems, his address-to a subset of that group.

When we couple a close reading of James's description of Lady Pragmatism as the perfect hostess (if not courtesan) with his use of masculine language to describe the pragmatist, it is evident that the sphere of inquirers he envisions and to whom he speaks-the “we” and “our”-is an exclusive one. This gender-exclusive form of address is, additionally, consistent throughout much of James's corpus. In his Principles of Psychology, James writes, “The friends we used to care the world for are shrunken to shadows; the women once so divine, the stars, the woods, and the waters, how now so dull and common!-the young girls that brought an aura of infinity, at present hardly distinguishable existences.” He continues, “Our immediate family is a part of ourselves. Our father and mother, our wife and babes, are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. When they die, a part of our very selves is gone” (1992, 157; emphasis added). Later, in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,” after musing on the choice between Amelia and Henrietta, James asks, “Shall he have the dear old Republican party, or a spirit of unsophistication in public affairs? . . . Some part of the ideal needs to be butchered, and he needs to know which part” (608). The masculine language James uses in the Lady Pragmatism passage and in essays praising “great men” (to which I shall return in the next section) cannot be dismissed as a matter of semantic convention at the time. James, in other words, is explicit in his presumption of a masculine subject-and, elsewhere, a white, Western masculine subject.

To what extent does this matter, though? James may have assumed a problematically narrow audience and subject of inquiry, but need this fact affect us contemporary pragmatists? My answer to this common concern is that if it is the case that some of James's commitments are sustained, in whole or in part, by this presumption of masculine neutrality, then these commitments will-minimally-need to be subjected to further scrutiny, if not ultimately rejected. I will argue, in what follows, that James's outsized emphasis on the agency of autonomous individuals, his advocacy of “hero worship” in “Great Men and Their Environment” and “The Importance of Individuals,” and his concomitant commitment to moral or social change only in cases of exceptional individuals are precisely the sorts of commitments that rely on his presumption of a masculine subject-and thus they ought to be rejected by feminists and pragmatists alike.

<1>Great Men, Great Women, and the Social World

In “Great Men and Their Environment” and its companion piece “The Importance of Individuals,” James argues against hardline sociological causal explanations for the existence of “great men.” James, in fact, is so concerned with rejecting the notion that such individuals are the mere “products” of their social environment that he explicitly takes the opposite hardline position that great men are simply born-the result of spontaneous biological variation that just happens to produce, here and there, “geniuses.” Translating the Darwinian account of spontaneous variation and environmental selection into the human realm, James suggests that the social environment does work to “preserve” these geniuses by recognizing them as such, but he maintains that this role is entirely distinct from their production. James (1992, 625) writes, “The causes of production of great men lie in a sphere wholly inaccessible to the social philosopher. He must simply accept geniuses as data, just as Darwin accepts his spontaneous variations.” Even more strongly, he claims, “If anything is humanly certain it is that the great man's society, properly so called, does not make him before he can remake it” (632). On James's account, then, social change happens largely because of the genius of individual men who had the fortune to be born in exactly the right time, but whose individual choices cannot be causally accounted for by pointing to other social facts beyond their control. In fact, as James puts it, social change happens because of “two wholly distinct factors,-the individual, deriving his peculiar gifts from the play of physiological and infra-social forces, but bearing all the power of initiative and organization in his hands; and, second, the social environment, with its power of adopting or rejecting both him and his gifts” (629). James is clear, then (as the title of his second essay indicates), that the agency of great individuals, not the social structure surrounding them, is the driving force for our social order. And lest we get the impression that the social world's “power of adopting or rejecting” is of equal agential importance, he reminds us that (1) these are “wholly distinct” forces and that (2) “we,” the great man's environment, “can neither move without him, nor yet do anything to bring him forth” (639).

There are a few different issues here, not the least of which is James's clear embrace of a false dichotomy between causal explanations that foreground biological variation and those that attribute the characteristics of human individuals to the social world. The urgency of his rejection of early sociology leads him to rush to the opposite extreme and to suggest that there are no other alternatives. This is fairly strikingly anti-pragmatic, and I think it is reasonable to suggest that James has overstated his own view here (either out of rhetorical flourish or passion)-particularly since he apparently backs down from this extreme position in “The Importance of Individuals.” There, interestingly, he characterizes the either/or choice as “merely a quarrel of emphasis” (1992, 650). Beyond this rhetorical misstep, however, James's overwhelming emphasis on the individual agency of “great men” is cause for concern.

This is perhaps most striking in his description of the way that men of genius-a category in which James appears to include himself-operate. Presented with the same data or ideas as anyone else, James says, the great man of genius has the sudden spark of a novel thought or new hypothesis. He tests this thought (whether through literal scientific testing or the informal peer-review process of simply telling others), and it is simply taken up (or not) by those around him. “The environment preserves the conception which it was unable to produce in any brain less idiosyncratic than my own,” James states (1992, 643). Two issues stand out here, which are closely connected. The first is that, as James describes the situation, the insights of geniuses-all of whom have apparently been men-could not have been produced by anyone but these geniuses (which is to say that they could not have been produced by women). Now, this is not necessarily, in itself, a problem. We might, like Beauvoir (2011), suggest that women are (or were) rendered incapable of producing such innovations by virtue of their subordinated position, which affords them fewer opportunities and decent educations. But, since James has explicitly rejected the claim that such social factors produce anything, this explanation does not appear to be open to him-and thus he seems to be suggesting that there just are not great women. One might be tempted to try to rescue James by suggesting that potential great women simply were not being preserved by their environment-they were not, for example, being given adequate educations-but this explanation looks to be excluded by James's framing of the mostly passive role of the social environment. In other words, if we recognize things such as access to education, which nurtures our gifts, as environmental factors that are a necessary condition for the achievement of greatness, we will be effectively assenting to the very claim that James is attempting to reject. Thus, James's view appears to suggest either that women simply have not been born great or that there is more to the fostering of greatness than he has been willing to admit.

This brings us to the second problem: James's description of himself, and other great men, as the primary agential sources of innovation relies on a vision of individual autonomy that is unsustainable. Neither James the psychologist nor any other man of genius arrives at his flashes of brilliance in a vacuum. Such great men have to be educated in their fields, raised, and nurtured; they have to have their children cared for; and they have to be fed and sustained by a whole host of others-many of whom are, of course, women, despite women's curious absence in these essays. “All the power of initiative and organization” that James locates in the hands of such great men is thus, as Eva Kittay (1999) and other feminists have pointed out, conditioned on a complex web of sustaining social relations. There are, I think, only two ways that we can read such relations as merely passive elements of environmental preservation, neither of which is satisfactory. First, we could do so if we ignore the incredible efforts that activities such as teaching and caring involve. Alternatively, we could simply repeat James's nonfalsifiable assertion that none but the individual genius (be it Shakespeare or James himself) could possibly have produced his works-and thus that the environment must always remain secondary to the individual, appearances to the contrary. The former course has historically been the more popular one, as philosophers have appeared to assume such labor as a background “given,” or as a “private” matter unworthy of or inappropriate for philosophical reflection (Kittay 1999; Okin 1991). But in light of the work of feminists who have shown that this sort of caring or supportive work is both necessary and labor intensive (not to mention the corroborating experience of anyone who has undertaken it), ignoring or discounting individuals'-even great ones'-relations to and dependence on such labor raises questions. Minimally, philosophers who hope to defend an account of individual agency as strong as the one James offers in these essays must provide a substantial argument that can respond to such feminist objections.

The absence of women in this text, then, points to a larger problem. Reading from a feminist perspective, it becomes clear that the fact that James is not writing an essay entitled “Great Women and Their Environment” is no accident. Accounting for the existence of great women, or their absence, would most likely require acknowledging the importance of education, opportunity, and social support-composed largely of the labor (usually) performed by women that Kittay refers to as “dependency work” (1999, 30)-in the active nurturing of greatness. That is to say, explicit attention to the fact that “the great,” as James identifies them, tend to come primarily from one social group should occasion reflection on what is unique about that social group-which is to say, what is unique about its relations to other groups. In contrast, James's vision of the autonomy of geniuses requires the definitional exclusion of much women's work from the realm of activity, consigning it to the simple “environment,” which may only wait for geniuses to come along.

That James does not seem to notice or attempt to account for the conspicuous absence of great women is significant, for it suggests that he takes such a disparity in the ranks of the “great” as simply a given. (This is all the more telling in light of his colleague Peirce's ongoing seminar investigations of the origins of “great men,” whose catalogue explicitly included at least a handful of women [Haack 2010, 6]. ) As James (1992, 648) himself puts it in “The Importance of Individuals,” “among all the differences which exist, the only ones that interest us strongly are those we do not take for granted.” We do not have to explain why, James says, our friends have the power of speech while our canine companions do not; we expect such differences because of what we know about humans and dogs, and so we don't feel the need to give an account for them. We are surprised by greatness-which is why we feel it is so important to explain its origins. Contrariwise, James does not seem surprised by the apparently overwhelming masculinity of that greatness, leaving it as unremarked upon as a dog's lack of speech. We are, as a result, left to wonder where women fall on the human/dog continuum.

<1>A Difference that Makes a Difference

If James had noticed the gendered character of “greatness”-or, alternatively, investigated the causal conditions surrounding the emergence of a few “great women” (who did, arguably, exist)-it is likely that his own account of greatness would have required some revision. And importantly for our purposes, I think this means that reading James as a feminist requires a revision of his explanation for the origins of greatness, which would entail a rejection of his outsized emphasis on individual agency and strictly physiological explanations for variance in ability.

There are good pragmatic reasons to reject or revise this element of James's text, beyond a philosophical feminist skepticism of autonomy and agency that are abstracted from social relations. I think it is important to enumerate these reasons, since, as a friend of James, I agree that there can be no difference here that makes no difference elsewhere. This is especially important given that James's advocacy of hero worship in “The Importance of Individuals” is in part justified by what it can do for us. Hero worship, James claims, has a kind of inspirational effect on those of us who are merely ordinary. It is the way for a man to “best fortify and inspire what creative energy may lie in his own soul” (1992, 651). James's explanation here is thus akin to that in his essay “The Will to Believe”: it is useful to believe in and idolize heroes because of what it might enable us to do, just as certain beliefs enable us to make them true. Now, this might be true of hero worship (though here it does seem that we hit upon at least a minor tension, since the hard-line explanation of physiological variance seems in need of further nuance if tales of heroes and geniuses have the capacity to inspire something like greatness). But the emphasis on consequences here raises a further question: What else does hero worship do, and for whom is it effective in the way James suggests?

First, taking seriously the gendered elements of the text and James's presumption of a masculine audience, it is important to recognize that James himself defines those who stand to benefit from such inspiration as explicitly masculine. Truthfully, I think that this is an astute observation on his part, even if he would not have recognized it as such. It is, I think, difficult to imagine women and girls being inspired to harness their own creative energies by tales of great men who are simply born that way and sustained by an environment (which appears to include wives, mothers, sisters, and teachers) that can only anxiously await their coming. Contemporary feminist insights, as well as psychological studies on the effects of gendered stories of achievement and heroics on women and girls, corroborate this hunch. So, even if we grant James the claim that hero worship has positive effects on achievement (which, again, needs further development in order to be made consistent with the rest of his causal account of greatness), those positive effects-as long as we are working with James's original account of the origins of genius, and not one that modifies its outsized emphasis on autonomous agency-will be primarily limited to men and boys.

Secondarily, James's advocacy of hero worship is not merely limited in the scope of its positive effects; it is also (I think) actively harmful. Failing to take seriously the role of social conditions that enable the great to be “great”-or, for that matter, that enable us to recognize them as “great”-has the tacit effect of preserving the social order as it exists. If it is true that the social philosopher is powerless to explain the origins of genius, then we will simply not be able to ask questions about the reasons why such geniuses all seem to come from similar backgrounds, social classes, and genders. We will not be prompted to entertain reconstructions of the social world that might encourage the development of greatness in populations in whom it is infrequently seen, nor to ask questions about whether there are larger social conditions that preclude our recognition of that greatness when it looks different than we expected. Hero worship as James describes it, in other words, is a deeply conservative practice: it justifies an excessive idolization of those already in positions of social power, while precluding inquiries that might positively affect the positions of those currently subordinated. Like his valorization of Lady Pragmatism, James's trumpeting of hero worship does nothing to help actual women and, in fact, contributes to their continued subordination.

<1>Jamesian Pragmatism Beyond the Great

Why does it matter that these few of James's essays and lectures contain politically (or even philosophically) problematic elements? After all, one might reply, even if it is true that James's presumption of masculine neutrality and exaggerated description of autonomy resulted in a particularly unfortunate account of great men, this essay is a very early publication by James; it probably does not represent his “considered” view and, in any case, is not widely read or cited by contemporary pragmatists, who have by now moved beyond Victorian preoccupations with the origin of “genius.” The first objection-that “Great Men and Their Environment” is an early or immature essay of James's-appears to have some traction when we consider that James originally published it in the Atlantic Monthly in 1880, many years before his mature pragmatism. Still, it is difficult to see why we ought not consider James's work of this period a part of his legitimate philosophical corpus, given that he published “The Sentiment of Rationality,” an essay still widely read and cited, the year before in Mind. Moreover, James republished “Great Men and Their Environment” years later, including it in his 1897 volume The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, alongside such canonized pieces as the titular essay and “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life.” In any case, it is unclear what the upshot of the claim that this essay is immature or undeveloped is supposed to be. The purpose appears to be either (a) to defend James the person or to suggest that James's other, “mature” work is not susceptible to the critique being leveled or (b) to claim that even if the critique is warranted, it is somehow futile or subject to dismissal for being about a text that no one really cares about. In neither case, however, would the upshot constitute a significant problem for my argument. In the case of (a), I am happy to grant that some of James's other texts are less problematic and more useful for feminist purposes; in the case of (b), my reply is that I would be pleased to find a professional consensus that James's (and other pragmatists') essays advocating individualist hero worship are philosophically problematic enough to leave behind-the purpose of this essay is to advance such a cause-but my experience is that this is not the case.

This brings us to the second potential objection, which is more philosophically and pragmatically interesting: What can the critique of the account of individual autonomy presumed in “Great Men and Their Environment” possibly mean for contemporary pragmatists who no longer care to devote their energies to essays on the provenance of great men? To start, it means that we will have to pay close attention to other places in James's texts in which the presumption of a masculine or exaggeratedly autonomous agent plays a central role. I want to conclude this essay by offering a preliminary reading of the role of such a problematic view of agency in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,” which currently enjoys a more exalted reputation than “Great Men and Their Environment” in pragmatist circles. My claim will be that though we may accept that at least one of James's overarching metaethical claims is correct, his conclusion in this essay regarding the practical import of this claim is unsupported-and is, as a feminist reading will show, dangerous in practice.

One of James's central claims in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” is that because there are no extrahuman goods, all goods are simply good for someone or something, insofar as they satisfy certain demands (say, the demand to be fed when hungry)-and thus that perhaps the most important moral problem is negotiating between conflicting or competing demands. James (1992, 596) terms this problem “the casuistic question.” Because, again, there are no overarching rules or norms to govern this negotiation, we simply will not be able to make moral rules in advance; moral living, then, becomes pragmatically experimental. We will, in other words, have to make choices about our individual lives and the ordering of our societies with a view to “satisfy[ing] . . . as many demands as we can” (610), without any advance guarantee that such choices will have satisfying results (that is to say, that they will be the “right” or “good” thing to do).

From a generally pragmatic perspective, all of the above is perfectly reasonable; it is also plausible from a feminist perspective (though I will not address the correctness of these metaethical claims here). We run into problems, however, when James explains what he takes to be the practical implications of these facts. Because existing social structures and practices are themselves the result of previous experiments, James (1992, 611) says, “the philosopher must be a conservative, and in the construction of his casuistic scale must put things most in accordance with the customs of the community on top.” This is not to say that there is no room for rule breakers or those who would violate existing social norms, but it is to claim that there is a strong presumption in favor of the “done” thing, with exceptions made only at pivotal moments by particular unique individuals: “Surely it would be folly quite as great, in most of us, to strike out independently and to aim at originality in ethics as in physics. Every now and then, however, someone is born with the right to be original, and his revolutionary thought or action may bear prosperous fruit. . . . He may, by breaking old moral rules in a certain place, bring in a total condition of things more ideal than would have followed had the rules been kept” (613; emphasis added). James is no doubt correct to suggest that it would be undesirable for each person to “strike out independently” and fulfill their own desires at every moment, but his stronger claim that only a select few individuals-who are, like geniuses or other “great men,” simply born-have the “right” to press for radical change is more than a little disturbing. Although James does concede that “it is at all times open to anyone to make the experiment” (611) of breaking established rules, his point in the quote above appears to be that when moral philosophers attempt to evaluate the results of such experimentation for casuistic purposes, they should expect findings in favor of social convention, unless the individual in question is truly unique.

It is not clear why this presumption in favor of established convention ought to follow from James's pragmatic notion of “goods for,” since he offers little argument for it beyond the suggestion that, when one does venture to make changes, “if he makes a bad mistake the cries of the wounded will soon inform him of the fact” (James 1992, 614). The assumption, however, that all is well as long as no one is-or can be heard-crying out is quite dangerous. This danger is particularly salient when one considers the social conditions of James's present, in Boston of 1896. Such an approach to moral practice, however, is consistent with the strongly individualistic vision of autonomy and greatness in “Great Men and Their Environment”-which immediately follows “The Moral Philosopher” in The Will to Believe. If we accept that certain individuals are simply born exceptional, and that the social world has the primarily passive function of preserving such agents or not, then we will surely leave responsibility for social change to these elite few. Moreover, if we accept that “hero worship” inspires personal greatness, we will be quite likely to assume the best of our heroes and, likewise, of ourselves: surely if harm was being done, we would know! If, however, we take care to attend to the fact that heroes and geniuses and moral revolutionaries occupy certain social positions, if we note that they are dependent on a constellation of sustaining relations, and if we take time to observe that certain forms of social relations tend to result in fewer opportunities to make such changes, then we will almost certainly ask after a moral philosophy that has more to offer than respect for the status quo.

What is so baffling, and perhaps (more optimistically) so heartening, about James's work is that, given his insights elsewhere about the situated self and the perspectival character of knowledge, he ought not fall into such an apology for conservatism, nor into the individualist hero worship that is at its roots. Ultimately, I believe that James's own thought has room for the criticism I have offered-and that, were he consistent, he too would find fault with the hard-line stance he has taken in these essays on the causality of “greatness.” In fact, in his chapter “Habit” in The Principles of Psychology, we find a James who cheerfully admits the effects on individuals of being habituated into the norms of social status and class. In his chapter “The Self,” James (1992, 175) is even more explicit that our families, communities, and even our homes and property come to constitute a part of ourselves. There, we encounter a more nuanced account of agency, which neither reduces individuals to their social setting (such that choice becomes a fiction) nor suggests that such agents control every feature of their choices and actions autonomously. As Shannon Sullivan (2001) and Nathifa Greene (2013) have argued, pragmatic attention to habit and the socialized self, as in James's Principles of Psychology, gives a nuanced and thickly embodied account of agency that takes seriously the co-constituting relationship between self and world. This is the James who serves as a potential ally and resource for feminists, in spite of himself. It is puzzling to see James leave such insights behind in his moral and “inspirational” thought; contemporary pragmatists should not make the same mistake.

But how can we avoid making that mistake? If James, who knew enough to recognize the impact of socialization on the self, did not draw out the full implications of this fact, what hope is there for us? How, in particular, can we escape the specific form of failure that results in our unwittingly contributing to the continued subordination of certain social groups? These questions are especially pressing when we take seriously the epistemic humility that James (1992, 860) rightly expresses in one of his better moments: “Neither the whole of truth, nor the whole of good, is revealed to any single observer, although each observer gains a partial superiority of insight from the peculiar position in which he [sic] stands.” If it is true that our knowledge will always be perspectival and partial, and affected by our social and physical situations, then we, as individuals, cannot hope to have the final word. But if we are serious about improving the world, about realizing new goods, and about the famous Jamesian commitment to meliorism, we will not be content with lip service to epistemic humility. We will, rather, want to put mechanisms in place that explicitly call us to be self-critical in ways we would not otherwise have been, and to do so particularly in areas in which we-or the social world from which we come-have a history of making mistakes. Feminism is precisely such a self-critical mechanism, and its particular brand of gender-based self-critique is demonstrably needed not only by James but by philosophers as a group, who have a long and storied history of making mistakes where gender is concerned. Contemporary pragmatists who would use James for meliorist purposes, then, would do well to attend to and engage in feminist readings of his texts if they want to avoid repeating his own errors.

Reading James as a feminist, though, should entail that we do more than simply excavate the elements of James's thought that appear to be useful for feminist purposes. It should entail a willingness to be critical about the reach of James's gendered assumptions, even (or especially) when we are defending him as a potential ally. This critical posture, as I've argued, is necessary if we are to make the consequences of James's tacit sexism clear to ourselves-and, more importantly, if we are to avoid importing the consequences of such problematic views into our own theorizing. I have argued that James's emphasis on individualism and the valorization of autonomous geniuses carries exactly these sorts of problematic assumptions, which have non-negligible consequences for subordinated populations. Feminists, then, would do well to be skeptical of this facet of James's work, and pragmatists must be pragmatic enough to leave this, and perhaps other features of his thought, behind. The valorization of great men, the notion that geniuses are the engines of human history, and the moral presumption in favor of the status quo give us a few examples of thought that ought to be abandoned by pragmatists. My hope is that, as we do this feminist work, we will be willing to point to others-when and if we find them.



<PN>Part II

<PT>Pragmatist Ethics of Care


<CT>The Energies of Women

<CST>William James and the Ethics of Care

<CA>Susan Dieleman

William James is, perhaps, an unlikely candidate for a feminist reading-or at least for a friendly feminist reading, given the role he allegedly played in shoring up the ideals of manliness during the Progressive Era in the United States. Indeed, as Kim Townsend in Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others (1996) shows us, James not only embodied American masculinity, but also, from his pulpit at Harvard University at the turn of the century, played a pivotal role in defining and shaping American masculinity. Yet, despite this role, some feminists have suggested that there might be something of value in James's pragmatism for contemporary feminist theorists and activists. Most notably, in Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric (1996), Charlene Haddock Seigfried contends that, if one takes a critical approach to the patriarchal views that shaped James's personal and professional life, one might be able to extract something of value from his philosophy. And, indeed, Seigfried encourages and even begins such a project, writing, “Only when James's own interpretive horizon of patriarchal values is recognized and rejected are we free to appropriate the subversive feminine that is also part of his text” (this volume, 000). In other words, the “conventionally feminine” elements of “the vague, the inchoate, the irresolute, the liquid, the emotive” (Morris Grossman quoted in Seigfried, this volume, 000) that shape and color James's work can, she thinks, be resuscitated and employed for feminist ends.

Broadly speaking, the task to which I set myself in this chapter is to evaluate the viability of Seigfried's suggestion within the context of the ethics of care. However, I don't look specifically to the “subversive feminine”-to the aspects of James's work that are “inchoate” or “emotive”-to accomplish the task I have in mind. What I do instead is follow up on a later warning that Seigfried sounds: “Unless great care is exercised in the terms of the explanation, the glorification of motherhood as the source of women's strength reinforces a debilitating stereotype [of masculinity and femininity] rather than being its antidote” (1996, 220). My more specific aim, therefore, is to try to exercise this great care to show that the contemporary care ethicist-one who is concerned to avoid the gender essentialism that plagues earlier versions of the theory-can indeed turn to James's work for tools and resources. This isn't to suggest that there aren't strong overtones of gender essentialism in James's work. On the contrary, many passages-including those I will use here-suggest that James thought men and women had essential (and essentially different) natures. But I contend that these overtones of essentialism don't match up with other non-essentialist features of James's views, features that I think are more integral to his vision than his views about men and women. That is, I contend that James's gender essentialism is misplaced even according to his own lights. Because of this, it is possible for contemporary care ethicists to look to James's work to see what resources are available to complement or enrich their current efforts.

In the first section of the chapter, I provide background to this project by elaborating Seigfried's claim that James's views, taken at face value, support a problematically essentialist version of the ethics of care-what I will refer to as a cultural feminist position regarding ethics, or a feminine ethics of care. In the second section, I provide a reconstructed version of Jamesian ethics to show that it is possible to measure James's comments and examples regarding this feminine ethics of care against his own views regarding ethics more generally and, in so doing, discover a version of James that does not endorse the essentialism that Seigfried accuses him of. My aim, therefore, is to make the fairly modest suggestion that the contemporary care ethicist can use James's work without falling into the trap of gender essentialism. My suspicion is that the contemporary care ethicist would also do well to delve into James's work to see what tools or resources might reside therein. And though I don't have the space here to outline what a Jamesian-inspired pragmatist ethics of care might look like, I do gesture toward what I take to be some fruitful starting points-specifically, the concepts of the phenomenal surface and of caring habits, as outlined toward the end of this chapter.

<1>James's Essentialist Ethics of Care

Care ethics emerged largely over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, presented by some as a competitor theory, and by others as something complementary, to traditional ethical theories. Though not necessarily or inherently feminist, care ethics tends to be thought of as a feminist ethics, one that is critical of the more traditionally masculine ethical theories of utilitarianism and deontology, and, for some, virtue ethics as well. Major figures in the early and continuing development of care ethics include many familiar names: Carol Gilligan, who famously criticized Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development in her 1982 text In a Different Voice and offered us the distinction between “care thinking” and “justice thinking”; Nel Noddings, who focuses on the relationships between the “one-caring” and the “cared-for” in the development of the moral attitude; Sara Ruddick, who develops the concept of “maternal thinking” and sees mothering activities (whether practiced by men or women) as the basis for an antiviolence ethical stance; Annette Baier, who sees an affinity between care ethics and Hume's moral theory and focuses on the need to cultivate virtuous sentiments; Joan Tronto, who develops the ethics of care out of the recognition of human interdependence and explores connections between care ethics and democratic theory; Michael Slote, who develops a version of virtue ethics that draws on the ethics of care; Virginia Held, who sees the ethics of care as the wider backdrop against which the ethics of justice operate; Eva Kittay, who explores dependency work as the basis for ethics; and Maurice Hamington, for whom care is, in his own words, “an embodied, performative, and imaginative endeavor that has significant implications for what we know, who we are, and the nature of the good” (2012).

Though it's always difficult to convey the essential features of any movement or school of thought (a task with which most pragmatists are familiar, I don't doubt), it remains useful to point out some common tenets that make the care ethics approach distinct from traditional approaches. I have four such tenets in mind:


1. Care ethics is critical of using the unencumbered, autonomous, rational individual as the unit of concern or moral agent.

2. Care ethics starts from a recognition of the relationships in which we find ourselves and the responsibilities and obligations to which they give rise.

3. Care ethics sees (private) relationships between family and friends (those with whom we find ourselves in caring relations) as being equally or more relevant to morality as (public) relationships between strangers.

4. Care ethics tends to think of care as specific and contextual rather than abstract and universal. It eschews the practice of applying moral principles or theoretical tools to specific moral situations and decision making.

<end NL>

Together, these assumptions present an alternative approach to ethics that takes into account the lived reality of ethical decision making. Rather than measuring ethical competence under ideal circumstances, with an isolated and impartial rational decision maker calculating maximal utility or applying rationally derived ethical rules, care ethics sees ethical decision making as emotional as well as rational, partial as well as reflective, and as constricted by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the historical contingencies that shape us as subjects and condition the sorts of relationships we inhabit, the possibilities available to us, and the types of decisions we face.

Yet many critics-and feminists among them-have expressed a variety of concerns about the ethics of care. Some have worried that, by focusing on caring relationships, the care approach does not provide the tools needed to redress large-scale social injustices, or that it does not provide the tools needed even for everyday moral decision making because it is too contextual. Some have worried that it inappropriately valorizes the oppression that gives rise to caring traits and practices, and can lead to “caring too much,” such that women in particular might well lose sight of the need to care for one's self in the midst of the caring demands made by others. Alongside these concerns that the ethics of care will lead to problematic outcomes is a concern about the theoretical basis of care ethics, or, more specifically, that the ethics of care is essentialist. Some have rejected care ethics not (only) because it appears unviable, but (also) because it is problematically essentialist in two related ways. First, it assumes that all women share a similar nature. That is, it operates on the assumption that the category of “woman” is both primary in terms of its status as an oppressed group and homogeneous in terms of its composition. So even though feminist thought has as one of its main tasks the uncovering of the partiality of historically male definitions of human nature, it has tended to remain oblivious to its own partiality. This problem is ably outlined by Elizabeth V. Spelman in Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought. She writes, “Much of Western feminist theory has been written . . . as if not just the manyness of women but also all the differences among us are disturbing, threatening to the sweet intelligibility of the tidy and irrefutable fact that all women are women” (1988, 2). In other words, feminist theory must grapple with the intersectional identities of actual women on the one hand, and the relative ease, for theoretical and political purposes, of having a uniform and identifiable group on the other.

Second, an essentialist version of care ethics assumes that this female nature is inherently more caring (and therefore more valuable) than male nature. The worry that care ethics is essentialist in this way amounts to a critique of cultural feminism-that version of feminism that acknowledges the problematic dichotomies between culture and nature, reason and emotion, mind and body, male and female, and seeks to revalue their so-called feminine side. In other words, instead of the liberal feminist fight to show that women are as capable of possessing and exhibiting the more valued masculine traits of reason and intellect, and instead of the radical or postmodern feminist fight to undermine these dichotomies altogether, the cultural feminist seeks to revalue the devalued side of the dichotomies, including nature, emotion, body, and the female. However, in so doing, cultural feminists can be accused of uncritically accepting these dichotomies and of building their theories on the assumption that there is something essential about being a woman-namely, that it means one is closer to nature, more emotional, and more closely connected to the body, and that these are positive things that have historically been devalued. Thus, what is needed, according to the cultural feminist, is the recognition that nature is more valuable than culture, that the emotions define what it means to be human more than reason does, that the body plays a more important role than the mind, and that being female is more valuable than being male. Consequently, if care ethics is taken to be a version of ethics that is feminist because its critical impetus is the devaluation of inherently feminine traits such as caring and nurturing, then it can be characterized as this sort of cultural feminist position. For example, Sara Ruddick's position-because of its reliance on the mother-child relationship as the paradigm of the caring relationship, as some (feminists) have argued-problematically essentializes and reifies the category “woman.” To be worthy of the title “feminist” requires that one interrogate the characteristics ascribed to women, to examine from where they arise and their negative impacts. To uncritically endorse “women's ways of thinking” or “women's ways of knowing” or “women's ways of caring” is not, in fact, feminist at all.

Indeed, this is the basis upon which Seigfried launches her criticism of care ethics, including what she identifies as James's ethics of care. In short, she argues that James's views resemble the earlier (essentialist) care ethicists' views, such that they each espouse the idea that there are inherent male and female natures, and that the female nature should be held up as morally exemplary. Seigfried worries that James maintains a strong division between the public and private spheres, in which men are more suited to the former and women to the latter. Consequently, sentimentality, which resides in the private sphere, is the domain of women, who are therefore “the proper bearers of a morality based on care” (this volume, 000). Thus, James's feminism-inasmuch as he can lay claim to the label at all-is a cultural feminism, one that relies on a valorization of the feminine. This is why Seigfried rejects James's ethics of care and earlier work on the ethics of care in the same breath (or at least in the same chapter). In “The Feminine-Mystical Threat to Masculine-Scientific Order,” chapter 6 of Pragmatism and Feminism, Seigfried picks out similarities between early versions of a feminist ethics of care and James's own views, writing, “James believes that the ability to sympathetically enter into the life-worlds of other persons is an asset, a positive ability, certainly not a negative one. He argues that this precious natural ability of women not only can but ought to be learned by men, since it is an ability necessary to the proper moral development of everyone. Therefore, what is natural in women should become a learned moral habit in men” (000). She continues, “Women's highest moral worth for James consists in their willingness to serve others uncomplainingly. Such morally praiseworthy selfless service is facilitated by women's natural sympathy and empathetic ability to enter into lives other than their own” (000). James's views regarding the “natural empathetic endowment” of women leads him to postulate what Seigfried sees as distinctly masculine traits, such as heroism, and distinctly feminine traits, such as saintliness. The manly virtues are those sorts of virtues exhibited in the public sphere, in the battlefields of war and politics, and the womanly virtues are those sorts of virtues exhibited in the private sphere, in the battlefields of the household and the infirmary. In Seigfried's reading, then, James's views resemble the cultural feminist position in the context of ethics, and therefore bring with them all of the problems thus far enumerated.

Yet, despite the reservations enumerated by Seigfried in chapter 6, where she suggests that James's views fall into the same essentialist trap as the work of early feminists who develop the ethics of care, she outlines an alternative vision of the ethics of care in chapter 9, entitled “Who Cares? Pluralizing Gendered Experiences”; she believes that this vision can appropriate the “subversive feminine” in James's work in order to develop a more nuanced-and therefore non-essentialist-version of the ethics of care. In this later chapter, she highlights two ways in which James's views might help develop the ethics of care. First, she suggests that James's arguments in “The Moral Equivalent in War” demonstrate his concerns regarding traditionally masculine virtues and the violent situations that tend to bring them out. Second, she recommends developing an “ethical perspective that places something very like care at the center of its value system,” a perspective that can be developed out of James's arguments in “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (Seigfried 1996, 222). In this specific lecture, Seigfried argues, we see how feelings of care play a primary role in James's thoughts on toleration and justice. Yet, aside from these specific resources, which she thinks can be harnessed to develop an updated ethics of care, Seigfried argues that James's views on femininity and motherhood remain problematic. As noted above, she warns against an uncritical adoption of James's views, writing, “Unless great care is exercised in the terms of the explanation, the glorification of motherhood as the source of women's strength reinforces a debilitating stereotype [of masculinity and femininity] rather than being its antidote” (220). My intention for the remainder of this chapter is to take to heart Seigfried's suggestion by exercising the “great care” she mentions. My aim, therefore, is to help clarify the ways in which James's work might contribute to the ongoing development of an updated, non-essentialist feminist ethics of care. Thus, this chapter might be read as defending two theses, one stronger and one weaker. The stronger, negative thesis is contrary to Seigfried's: I argue that James's ethics do not need to be read as essentialist and that the contemporary care ethicist should not reject his views outright. The weaker but positive thesis amounts to the suggestion that the contemporary care ethicist may well want to turn to James's ethics to see what resources might be available there, resources I gesture toward in the next section.

<1>A Non-Essentialist Version of James?

In what follows, I reconstruct Jamesian ethics in a way that draws out and makes available entry points into James's work that enable us to see that gender essentialism is not necessitated by, but only incidental to, his views. These entry points may well prove useful to the contemporary care ethicist looking for tools and resources that can be used to develop a non-essentialist version of the ethics of care. I begin by looking at James's claim that moral communities emerge out of actual claims and the obligations to which they give rise. I then explore how the lives of women are particularly susceptible to the claims of others and therefore give rise to obligations unique to and traditionally held by women. This situation can be understood in terms of the Jamesian “phenomenal surface,” which refers to the way that specific types of life situations can draw out the virtues to greater or lesser degrees. The strenuous life that develops as a result of the phenomenal situation of women, who tend to find themselves in complex webs of claims and obligations, draws out the so-called energies, which in turn can help develop what James might call caring habits.

<2>Claims and Obligations

A worthwhile starting point for exploring James's ethics is his emphasis on pluralism. James is a pluralist in the domains of both epistemology and ethics. In many of his essays, we are given a glimpse into the pragmatist's pluralist approach to truth. On his account, we should be on the lookout not for the truth, but for truths. In “Pragmatism and Humanism,” for example, James (1977, 450) writes, “The whole notion of the truth is an abstraction from the fact of truth in the plural, a mere useful summarizing phrase like the Latin Language or the Law.” That there are truths and not just the truth is necessitated by his view of the knowing subject. As Erin C. Tarver (2007, 281-82) helpfully summarizes in her efforts to show the value of James's pluralism for feminists, “James is a pluralist . . . because his attention to the limitations of consciousness and the situated and constructed nature of truth require his being a pluralist. If I understand my experience as necessarily contextualized and partial, then I could not consistently hold any knowledge of mine to be absolute.” In other words, because each individual is epistemically limited by her cognitive abilities and by her situatedness-and, indeed, by the very nature of knowing itself-the whole of truth will never be available to just her.

Not only is James's understanding of truth pluralist, but so too, and more importantly for the purposes of this chapter, is his understanding of value. He writes in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” (James 1977, 157), “Ethical science is just like physical science, and instead of being deducible all at once from abstract principles, must simply bide its time, and be ready to revise its conclusions from day to day.” There are many goods, some of which compete with others and some of which, taken together, are incommensurable. As James puts it, “There is hardly a good which we can imagine except as competing for the possession of the same bit of space and time with some other imagined good” (622). The story told in “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” of coming upon the coves in North Carolina and seeing them initially as “unmitigated squalor” (630), reveals that goods abound, though not all are always recognizable to each of us. For James, therefore, the plural nature of goods forecloses the ability to use abstract principles to develop an ahistorical casuistic scale. Care ethicists, as I've already mentioned, similarly eschew the search for universal principles that can be applied to all situations, regardless of time or place. They argue instead that the sorts of values and practices that characterize concrete caring relationships ought to be enhanced. The absence of universal principles to be used in ethical decision making-the inability to provide a once-and-for-all answer when faced with a moral quandary-is a challenge that both the pragmatist and the care ethicist face. This is why James (1978, 290) thinks that the pluralist approach that he endorses “has to fall back on a certain ultimate hardihood, a certain willingness to live without assurances or guarantees.”

The rejection of abstract principles means that a different guidepost or set of guideposts is needed in ethical decision making, and here again, James and the care ethicists are on common ground. James, having rejected the method by which one applies abstract principles to concrete situations, relies instead on the relation between contingent claims and obligations. He writes, “The moment we take a steady look at the question, we see not only that without a claim actually made by some concrete person there can be no obligation, but that there is some obligation wherever there is a claim” (1977, 617). Though this focus on claims and obligations may not seem to be specific to the ethics of care-after all, human rights are thought to entail claims and obligations as well-how they appear in the larger context of James's work points to a more comfortable home in care ethics. This is because the claims and obligations arise naturally; they are to be looked for in everyday life. The imperativeness of claims doesn't, to use James's own words, “rain down . . . from some sublime dimension of being, which the moral law inhabits, much as upon the steel of the compass-needle the influence of the Pole rains down from out of the starry heavens” (148). In other words, to find the obligations necessitated by the claims that others make upon us, we don't look to an antecedent realm of absolute and universal moral truths. The answer to the question “What obligation does your demand place on me?” cannot be plucked out of the ether, as it were, such that a type A claim always requires a type B obligation. Rather, we look to practice to see what actual obligations are placed on us by the claims of concrete others in particular circumstances. Indeed, as James puts it, “each is bound to feel intensely the importance of his own duties and the significance of the situations that call these forth” (629). In care ethics, these obligations are the starting point; they are what get ethics going. The ethics of care begins from the relationships in which we find ourselves and the obligations and responsibilities to which they give rise. Or, in Jean Keller's words, “the moral agent is an 'encumbered self,' who is always already embedded in relations with flesh-and-blood others and is partly constituted by these relations” (1997, 152). How well we discharge those obligations and responsibilities that our relations impose on us is the measure of our ethical character. That this idea can be found in James's work is supported by Ruth Anna Putnam, who writes, “People who acknowledge each other's existence as human beings will make claims upon each other and experience these claims as imposing obligations, and that just is to form a moral community, and to live in such a community just is to live a moral life” (2006; emphasis added). In short, it is the claims made upon us that give rise to morality; it is not morality that gives claims their normative force. In James's words, the imperativeness of a claim is to be found only in the claim itself.

In “The Energies of Men,” we find additional support for the idea that relationships give rise to the morality that should guide our decision making. James (1977, 675) writes, “A new position of responsibility, if it do not crush a man, will often, nay, one may say, will usually, show him to be a far stronger creature than was supposed. Even here we are witnessing (some of us admiring, some deploring-I must class myself as admiring) the dynamogenic effects of a very exalted political office upon the energies of an individual who had already manifested a healthy amount of energy before the office came.” It is clear, here, that James is referring to Theodore Roosevelt, then president of the United States and one of his former students; the point can, I think, be usefully extended to include the type of work typically understood as “caring work” and typically, therefore, thought to be women's work. Surely we can conceive of the “moral dynamogenic effects” of responsibilities that arise owing to the claims made on us not by an “exalted political office” but by concrete others who are dependent on us in different ways. Indeed, James goes on to point out that women, too, benefit from the kinds of energies and moods that are called forth by the positions of responsibility they inhabit. This is the topic to which I turn my attention in the following section.

<2>The Energies of Women

In his 1906 presidential address for the American Philosophical Association, entitled “The Energies of Men,” James investigates the “second wind,” a phenomenon on which he claims to have mused for many years (1977, 671). In the context of his investigation into the reasons for varying levels of energies that are exhibited, James draws on examples of not just men but women as well, who are able to tap reserves of energy not habitually tapped. He borrows examples from John Stuart Mill, writing,


John Stuart Mill somewhere says that women excel men in the power of keeping up sustained moral excitement. Every case of illness nursed by wife or mother is a proof of this; and where can one find greater examples of sustained endurance than in those thousands of poor homes, where the woman successfully holds the family together and keeps it going by taking all the thought and doing all the work-nursing, teaching, cooking, washing, sewing, scrubbing, saving, helping neighbors, “choring” outside-where does the catalogue end? If she does a bit of scolding now and then who can blame her? But often she does just the reverse; keeping the children clean and the man good tempered, and soothing and smoothing the whole neighborhood into finer shape. (675-76)

<end ext>

Another so-called humble example reads,


Jeanne, with no money but her wages at a pasteboard-box factory, directs the household, brings up the children, and successfully maintains the family of eight, which thus subsists, morally as well as materially, by the sole force of her valiant will. In some of these French cases charity to outsiders is added to the inner family burden; or helpless relatives, young or old, are adopted, as if the strength were inexhaustible and ample for every appeal. Details are too long to quote here; but human nature, responding to the call of duty, appears nowhere sublimer than in the person of these humble heroines of family life. (676)

<end ext>

Now, Seigfried expresses surprise that James can lay claim to these sorts of examples-can, in fact, borrow them straight from Mill-while still presuming that caring is a feature essential to women's nature, since Mill is able to recognize that such features are a function of station, not of nature. That is, Mill understood that women develop practices of caring as a “basic mechanism of survival” (Seigfried, this volume, 000), not in utero. Since James had read Mill, and provided similar arguments about subordinated classes elsewhere, Seigfried is surprised that he would still retain what looks to be an essentialist account of women's ability to care. Yet I argue that these passages do not necessarily entangle James's views with the essentialism of the earlier care ethicists, as Seigfried suggests. That the situation in which women were able to demonstrate their energies-to develop virtues out of the strenuous activities they faced-happened to be the home does not mean that it ought to be the home, and I'm not sure that James's views necessitate this latter reading.

An analogy can be drawn perhaps, or lessons can be learned at least, from James's “What Makes a Life Significant?,” an address presented to students at women's colleges in New England. In that piece, James identifies specific virtues that he claims emerge out of the working-class lifestyle. Reflecting on the sense of relief he felt upon returning to the “dark and wicked world” after leaving the idyllic Chautauqua, James comes to see the heroism in the everyday struggles of everyday life. Seeing the working class and the fruits of their labor from his train, he concludes,


It began to seem as if virtue with horny hands and dirty skin were the only virtue genuine and vital enough to take account of. Every other virtue poses; none is absolutely unconscious and simple, and unexpectant of decoration or recognition, like this. These are our soldiers, thought I, these our sustainers, these the very parents of our life. . . . The exercise of the courage, patience, and kindness, must be the significant portion of the whole business; and the distinctions of position can only be a manner of diversifying the phenomenal surface upon which these underground virtues may manifest their effects. (1977, 649-50; emphasis added)

<end ext>

He continues pace Tolstoy, “Is it so certain that the surroundings and circumstances of the virtue do make so little difference in the importance of the result? Is the functional utility, the worth to the universe of a certain definite amount of courage, kindliness, and patience, no greater if the possessor of these virtues is in an educated situation, working out far-reaching tasks, than if he be an illiterate nobody, hewing wood and drawing water, just to keep himself alive?” (653). The important concept for us here, I think, is the “phenomenal surface,” which draws out or provides the backdrop for the manifestation of the virtues. In this example, James looks to the working class to discover the phenomenal surfaces likely to bring about the virtues of courage, patience, and kindness. But we have seen that the responsibilities-the claims and obligations, if you will-that arise in the household similarly draw out the energies, though in this case, because of historical circumstance, they happen to be the energies of women rather than men.

In “The Energies of Men,” James stresses that we can learn to tap the second wind-and even the third and fourth winds-by developing appropriate habits. He notes that both mental and physical activities-and, importantly, moral or spiritual work as well-can avail themselves of “amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own-sources of strength habitually not taxed at all, because habitually we never push through the obstruction, never pass those early critical points” (1977, 671; emphasis added). Indeed, it is only by habit that the individual uses their energies in a narrow way, even though a wider range is possible; James calls this “habit-neurosis.” To “live in perfect comfort on much higher levels of power”-to overcome one's “habit-neurosis”-can, however, be accomplished through education (675). Yet the various levels of energy that individuals find themselves able to reach or call forth depend not on the individual in question, or at least not only on the individual in question, but rather on the circumstances in which they find themselves. It is an “unusual stimulus” or “unusual idea of necessity” that calls forth the reserves of energy, that helps carry an individual “over the dam” to find their second or third or fourth winds (674). While in “What Makes a Life Significant?” James turned to class differences to explicate the different life circumstances that call forth the virtues, in “The Energies of Men” he provides the examples of wives and mothers, as noted above, but he also turns to the different life circumstances of city and country people to explicate how it is the environment that is largely responsible for the levels of energies exhibited by individuals. The country man or woman, James suggests, will find the rapid pace of city life “monstrous” and “terrifying.” But after a short time, “duty, the example of others, and crowd-pressure and contagion” will cause a transformation, and the country person will find themselves habitually drawing on new levels of energies that the country life did not bring forth (675). In both cases, it is the interaction between individual and environment that is relevant; the environment draws out the virtues and the energies and provides the phenomenal surface on which they are inscribed.

What I want to suggest is that James may well think-and that we can think-of caring work as the type of environment that draws out the energies of women, or as a phenomenal surface on which the virtues are inscribed. This is why James's ethics can be developed for and by contemporary ethics of care, and is not restricted to its earlier, essentialist versions. James argues, in his ethical works, that virtues are not essential. Thus, neither are there essentially masculine and essentially feminine virtues. Indeed, that there may appear to be such essential virtues is due to the fact that men and women have, traditionally, responded to specific and very different life circumstances, drawing out specific and very different types of energies and virtues. The recognition of the contingent and contextual nature of the virtues that constitute care ethics that we can find in James provides a valuable approach that the contemporary care ethicist might be interested to take. Though a Jamesian account of caring work does show it to be valuable, it doesn't presume that it is easy. It is, after all, work. The claims placed on us that require caring responses are strenuous and do demand from us our energies. Of course, for James, such virtues are inscribed through the development of habits. In the next section, I explore how the idea of “caring habits,” building on James's ethical picture, might prove useful for contemporary care ethicists interested to show how and why care seems to be essentially feminine, but is not necessarily so.

<2>Caring Habits

The potential value of the concept of habits for the ethics of care is likely unsurprising, since many (though certainly not all) who work in the area of the ethics of care understand the ethics of care to be a version or modification of virtue ethics. This characterization arises largely because of the care ethicists' focus on how caring work or caring practices and virtuous characters are mutually reinforcing. It is the person with virtuous character who will perform well in her relationships, who will excel in the caring values and practices that sustain them, and such relationships contribute, in turn, to the development of virtuous characteristics. There is clear support for this sort of account in James's work. For example, he writes, “But the fact is that our virtues are habits as much as our vices. All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,-practical, emotional, and intellectual,-systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be” (2008, 42). James believes that both individuals and the nation have a responsibility to aim for a “higher pressure” or “most useful pitch” (1977, 673) through creating strenuous environments and thereby developing good habits. The process by which one develops such habits entails four maxims: to “launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible”; to “never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life”; to “seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain”; and to “keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day” (17-20).

Indeed, James's personal schedule while studying at Harvard exemplified his faith in the idea that good habits could be trained up by calling forth one's energies: “I get up at 6, breakfast and study till 9, when I go to School till One then dinner a short loaf and work again till 5 then Gymnasium or walk till tea and after that, visit, work, correspondence, etc, etc, till ten, when I 'divest myself of my wardrobe' and lay my weary head upon my downy pillow” (James quoted in Bjork 1997, 39). In a similar vein, his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” explores the responsibility of the state in achieving the higher energies in its citizens. James was opposed to war and often criticized the imperialistic tones of the day. Yet he was in favor of the sort of character that militarism breeds, and so searched for a “moral equivalent of war”-something that would encourage the development of hardihood and prevent the degeneration of America into a nation of “Roosevelt's weaklings and mollycoddles” (James 1977, 664). James therefore recommends replacing military conscription with conscription into an army “enlisted against Nature,” which would work “hardihood and discipline” into American youth (669). This civic honor will, he thinks, create the sort of environment suited to drawing out the energies of men and to sustaining a strong “national economy” (673). As he puts it, “A permanently successful peace-economy cannot be a simple pleasure-economy” (668). Something beyond mere pleasure is required to excite the passions and implant the struggle for virtue.

Linda Schott offers a critical reading of “The Moral Equivalent of War” that sounds some of the same warning bells about gender essentialism that were sounded by Seigfried. She argues that James's call to civic service is deeply gendered: “He wanted the possibility of war to remain an option, but for men only: 'let the soldiers dream of killing.' Women's desire for adventure and self-sacrifice, he implied, was best fulfilled by the 'dream of marrying'” (1993, 248). In other words, Schott's reading of “The Moral Equivalent of War” suggests that James thinks the energies of men and women are best tapped by different strenuous contexts, and that this means that James is committed to a view of human nature that is essentially gendered. However, an alternative reading suggests that James's call to civic service is less about masculine individuality than it is about instilling community values in what seemed to him to be a grossly self-interested generation. James's call to enlist in the civic service is a call, John Kaag argues, for “the gilded youth . . . to sacrifice their private concerns and to embrace the risky, but meaningful, world of communal relations” (2009, 120). On this interpretation, James's call to turn from the private, individualistic realm to the public, communal realm, and to see one's habits as formed by the community through service to the community, bears obvious affinities to a care-based approach to ethics. It also matches up with his recommendations in “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” since he calls specifically to the gilded youth to enlist alongside the not-so-gilded youth in order to recognize the many goods that exist. Kaag writes, “By suggesting that the 'gilded youth' do the work of 'others' in a war with nature, James believes that he struck upon a way of fostering the feeling of community, a feeling that stems from the most personal and individual type of sympathy between individuals” (122). It's possible, therefore, to read James's claims about the role of the strenuous life in “The Moral Equivalent of War” in a way that frees up the concepts of energies and habits to be put to use in a non-essentialist version of the ethics of care.

Moreover, in addition to the fact that an understanding of habit resonates with the emphasis on virtue one finds in care ethics, habit might also be useful for feminists interested in developing care ethics due to its ability to navigate the difficulties of gender essentialism. That is, habit helps make sense of why we think of caring as essentially feminine: the caring work that women have historically engaged in leads to the development of caring habits, which are embodied in ways that give rise to gender, such that it seems basic or fundamental. Tarver helps develop this idea, suggesting that the concept of habit allows us to see that what seems to be essential-namely, the gendered behaviors and characteristics that are used to distinguish men and women-is really just inculcated through habit. According to Tarver (2007, 278), gendered habits form a process that creates “relative stability that can only be significantly altered through the adoption of a different, contradictory habit. This way of thinking about gender is helpful for the purposes of an antiessentialist feminism that seeks to account for the general continuity of sexual difference without appealing to masculine or feminine 'natures,' which are philosophically dubious and politically problematic in their exclusion of those individuals who are not so easily classifiable.” An updated version of an ethics of care that takes its cue from James would benefit from Tarver's application of James's concept of habit to gender. My suggestion here is that among the habits that serve to differentiate genders are what might be called “caring habits.” This notion of caring habits, moreover, might serve as a useful tool in attempts to discern what care actually is: an attitude, as Noddings sees it; a virtue, on Slote's view; or a set of practices, as defended by Held. Yet whatever care might be, what feminist care ethicists have shown is that these habits are valuable; they are virtues that women have developed because of their circumstances, in and through relationships with others. Though traditionally devalued, caring habits are revalued by the care ethicist. But this doesn't, I contend, force upon the care ethicist any commitment to gender essentialism.


In this chapter, I've provided a specific retelling of James's ethics, one intended to highlight that his views do not necessarily subscribe to the sort of gender essentialism that can be problematic for the development of an ethics of care. Thus, an ethics of care that borrows from James does not, I submit, necessarily fall prey to the essentialist problems that earlier versions unwittingly reproduced and that Seigfried argues can be found in James. Rather, an ethics of care that borrows from James can countenance and interrogate the contingent nature of the relationship between caring habits and women's social, political, and economic situations, can recognize the values that such habits embody, and can support and defend a pragmatist ethics of care for all genders.




<CT>William James and the Will to Care for Unfamiliar Others

<CST>The Masculinity of Care?

<CA>Maurice Hamington


Now the blindness in human beings . . . is the blindness with which we all are afflicted in regard to the feelings of creatures and people different from ourselves.

-William James, “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings”

<end epi>

In her groundbreaking work Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric, Charlene Haddock Seigfried probably overstates the connection between William James and feminist care ethics when she claims, “His ethics of care anticipates a similar version first elaborated by Carol Gilligan and further developed by others” (this volume, 000). James's philosophy may have areas of overlap with care, but it hardly anticipates it. Care ethics is rooted in women's experience and feminist theory through a rich relational ontology that confronts “othering” in a manner that James had neither the experiential resources nor inclination to develop. To be fair, Seigfried (000) acknowledges the limitations of the connection when she indicates that James's version of care is rooted in essentialist notions of women's heroism and selflessness, rather than feminism. Although there is much that resonates between James and feminist care ethicists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, it is not the comprehensive moral approach with notions of reciprocity, particularism, and epistemic implications elaborated by contemporary care theorists. So why bother exploring James's work for a project in feminist ethics? This question captures one of the challenges of appropriation confronted by this volume and ultimately by the Re-Reading the Canon series. Feminist recasting of classic texts and canonical philosophical figures engages in a form of proportionalism when parsing out serviceable texts: In what measure can sexist bias be filtered from texts and to what benefit? Nancy Tuana (1992, 5) voiced her skepticism over two decades ago in describing the common yet hidden assumption that “a philosopher's gender biases are irrelevant to his philosophical system.” Applying James's philosophy to contemporary care theory represents a fascinating case study in modern feminist philosophical appropriation. Despite moments of egalitarianism, James is far from a thoroughgoing feminist. After engaging James's work for many years without fully appreciating its inherent sexism, Seigfried (000) laments, “That I was wrong about the extent of James's sexist assumptions shows how difficult they are to acknowledge and reject. It seems that sexism can very well coexist not only with individually cordial relations with women but also with philosophical perspectives that systematically affirm difference.” However, one point in favor of an appropriative project is that James is not a systematic philosopher with a highly integrated, comprehensive ethical philosophy. Thus, pulling on one thread of his thought because of its usefulness may not unravel the whole knot.

Equally significant for this case of feminist appropriation is the evolution of care. Grounded in the devalued labor and moral disposition of women, early feminist analysis so completely tied care to women's experience that its early proponents, such as Carol Gilligan, Nel Noddings, and Sara Ruddick, were sometimes accused of gender essentialism (Sander-Staudt 2011). Today, scholarship on care theory is still driven by feminist theorists, but it is receiving wider acceptance, including the active engagement of male scholars such as Michael Slote (2007), Dan Engster (2007), and Tony Monchinski (2010). Care theory is also being applied in increasingly gender-neutral ways. Accordingly, the question of appropriation becomes even more obscure. James is not thoroughly sexist, nor does he offer a system that makes idea extraction so challenging. Furthermore, care theory is not singularly feminist in its current state. So what does feminist appropriation mean in this situation? In answering this question, this chapter complements the work of Susan Dieleman in the previous chapter of this volume. Dieleman also views James's philosophy, and more specifically his ethics, as potentially enriching a contemporary understanding of care ethics. She acknowledges that there can be an essentialist reading of James, particularly in regard to motherhood, but she offers a compelling case for an alternative, non-essentialist reading of James. In the conclusion of this chapter, I offer the provocative question of whether James's underlying masculinity has anything to contribute to care theory. Without denying the destructive and oppressive results of masculinity, perhaps there are elements that can support a more proactive understanding of care than theorists have offered thus far.

This chapter endeavors to offer one form of feminist appropriation. In what follows, specific ideas of James are reread for their potential to contribute to contemporary care theory. This is undertaken without stereotype or hyperbole, as is the character of some appropriations. Care theory does not need James's work in order to be a vibrant or viable moral approach, nor can James be recast as a care theorist. Yet James does have some useful ideas that can contribute to a more robust notion of care. Similar claims regarding the usefulness of canonical Western philosophers for care ethics have been offered in regard to David Hume (Baier 1987) and John Dewey (Leffers 1993; Monchinski 2010). The suggestion here is that the appropriation of some of James's ideas is motivated by a particular resonance and usefulness for care ethics and not because of a feminist character to James's work. Specifically, this chapter addresses how James's valorization of pluralistic inclusiveness, his insight into the nature of will and action, and his concept of personal amelioration can help care ethicists with the vexing challenge of caring for unfamiliar others.

<1>Care and the Challenge of Unknown Others

Care ethics has been a category of moral exploration for three decades, so it is likely that readers of this volume are quite familiar with the term. Nevertheless, given the variety of approaches to care, it is worthwhile to offer some clarifying explanation of how it is employed here. Joan C. Tronto's popular definition of care is “a species of activity that includes everything we do to maintain, contain, and repair our 'world' so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, ourselves, and our environment” (1993, 103). This definition captures the inclusive and interactive nature of this ethic but is sufficiently vague as to leave the reader wanting further clarification. Care is a relational approach to morality that originally endeavored to capture the dissatisfaction of feminist theorists with the existing language and categories of Western ethical thought. Eschewing the dominant tripart understanding of ethics as grounded in principles, consequences, or virtues, care reframed moral significance to place the central content of ethics on relationships. Unlike its more traditional counterparts, care has been conceived as open to engaging emotions (Held 2006, 10-11), emerging from context (Hamington 2011), and rooted in an engaged and sympathetic attention to the other (Noddings 1983, 24).

Care theory can be described as offering a postmodern approach to moral philosophy because it violates many of the traditional categories of ethical theory. I share the view with Cathryn Bailey (2012, 185) and Susan Hekman (1995, 35) that although care ethics is often mistakenly conceived as an approach within the paradigm of traditional moral theories, such a view overlooks the radical shift that care offers. Accordingly, I prefer the term “care theory” to the more common “care ethics.” Although care provides a presumptive moral attitude (caring), it does not offer definitive prescriptive accounts in advance of experience, other than a caring disposition. The specific actions of the caring response are derived from the context and particulars of the emergent experience of need. Care describes an emergent normativity. In other words, when a person in need of care presents themselves, the appropriate caring action can only be known through an effective inquiry into the circumstances of the situated individual. A person distraught over what to do about an unplanned pregnancy who is seeking care and counsel cannot be said to be cared for-in the sense described by care theorists-through a dogmatic response. A full sympathetic response requires a significant amount of listening to the particulars of the person's situation. The relationship and all of its entanglements matter.

The resonance between American pragmatism and feminist care ethics, which seems apparent once one recognizes the common commitments, has not been thoroughly explored in the literature. Many of those who are referred to as “classical” American philosophers can be characterized as offering philosophies that have commonalities with care. Jane Addams developed a notion of sympathetic knowledge through proximal and meaningful exchanges with unfamiliar others that can contribute to a better understanding of the epistemological dimension of care (Hamington 2009, 71-85). John Dewey's concept of habit, as well as his aesthetic philosophy, can be applied to care in order to clarify the visceral and embodied aspects of caring. Similarly, the contention offered here is that James's work on pluralism, will, and self-authorship may contribute insight into caring for strangers.

There is no more important topic among care theorists than how to widen the circle of caring. The care of those who are close to us is relatively noncontroversial and is often perceived as less morally praiseworthy than care for those who are more distant and less well known. For example, Nel Noddings (2010, 17-18) describes the care between familiar intimates as “natural caring,” as opposed to what she refers to as “ethical caring,” in which care extends to those with whom we are unfamiliar. For Noddings, natural caring is driven by inclination and is such an extension of our relationships with friends and family that it appears to be natural. By contrast, ethical caring takes more “work.” Accordingly, ethical caring is our response to those with whom we have not developed proximal relations, with the resultant attentiveness and actions that come easily with our loved ones. Ethical caring requires the development of listening and empathetic skills that confront the fear of the unknown and counter liberal social norms of atomistic individualism. As Noddings describes, “If natural caring never failed, if it could be extended without limit to all others, we would have no need for ethical caring” (37). As a moral ideal, care achieves fulfillment when it can be offered to unknown others. Such caring entails risk, uncertainty, and effort. When we reach out to care for someone with whom we are unfamiliar, we risk being harmed psychologically and possibly physically, but we also risk providing care that is ineffectual. However, caring for unfamiliar others also has the potential to “repair our world” in deep and satisfying ways. Ultimately, care theory elicits hope that misunderstanding that leads to hostility and possibly violence can be mitigated through authentic caring engagements. Given pervasive examples of incivility, apathy, and belligerence, some have described the contemporary global context as permeated by a crisis of care (Mahon and Robinson 2011, 11). Methods for breaching perceived boundaries between ourselves and unfamiliar others, enabling us to elevate our ability to care for strangers, are a momentous world need.

The recent surge in political theorists interested in care ethics is driven by the need for structural approaches to caring for unfamiliar others. These scholars grapple with how to make institutions, communities, and governments more caring. For example, in Caring Democracy: Markets, Equality, and Justice, Joan Tronto (2013, xi, xiii) describes expectations that the state support caring practices and “that political life is ultimately about the allocation of caring responsibilities.” Similarly, some political theorists have contended that caring for unfamiliar others can be mandated as a duty (Koehn 1998, 6). Although a thoroughgoing theoretical discussion of moral obligation is not undertaken here, there are challenges to establishing care as a duty while staying true to the notion of care as an emergent relational ethic. Such obligations are external frameworks that shift the motivation for caring from a particular relationship and its context to an external normative standard. Although there may be some good reasons for establishing moral guidelines as ethical symbols and conversation starters, mandating care cannot consistently result in authentic care. As Noddings suggests, philosophy may not be adequate to the task of fully capturing care. There are elements of personal psychology that seem to be indispensible to a robust understanding of care. This is where William James, who was such an enormous figure in both areas, may have a contribution to make.

<1>James and Care Theory

William James rather intentionally did not develop a comprehensive ethical theory, and yet James Campbell (1981, 224) declares, “To maintain that William James was essentially a moralist is hardly a controversial claim.” For James, the language and categories of philosophical ethics were inadequate to reflect the complexity of human existence. Like care theory, the philosophy that James develops is decidedly postmodern in nature, in that it defies categories and explicit definitive narratives of adjudication. James (1963b, 231) asserts, “No philosophy of ethics is possible in the old_fashioned absolute sense of the term.” Specifically, James opposes prescriptive moral theory in the sense that moral rules can be established in advance of experience and need: “There is no such thing possible as an ethical philosophy dogmatically made up in advance” (214). This is a significant claim, as it makes what James proposes unintelligible to both deontological and teleological moral approaches, because they rely on clear ethical parameters (i.e., principles, moral calculus) established prior to action. In addition, James deprecates abstraction in ethical theory as presuming a neat cosmological moral order that does not exist (221), although he does suggest that ethical abstraction can sometimes help as a guide (231-32). Ultimately, there is no objective normative position for James, a position that would cohere with the contextual notion of care.

There are a number of ideas in James's philosophy that I believe can make a fruitful contribution to care theory, but I will focus on the application of three Jamesian concepts. The first is linking the concept of pluralism to care. Pluralism is a critical component of James's pragmatist philosophy without which a moral stance is not possible, nor is social progress likely. The second contribution is understanding what is necessary to move individuals from a passive position of empathy to positive action on behalf of others. Here, James's work on will and motivation offers a means to overcome personal and social care inertia for those not in our proximal relations. Finally, James's philosophy of personal contemplation and development can be a means to view work on caring as a form of creating an ideal self. For James, this is both a physical and cognitive process.

<1>Pluralism and Attending to Others

James's work on pluralism has metaphysical and epistemological dimensions, which speak to the core of his pragmatism. For our purposes, gleaning what theoretical nuggets are useful for care theory, we will limit the discussion to James's insistence that a single perspective on truth is partial. Context matters, and thus there is a subjective dimension in claiming knowledge of others.

In “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” James (2008, 150) describes the significance of context through a vignette: “Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor.” James goes on to detail the impoverished nature of the cove and his utter disgust with what humanity had wrought there. However, he then shares an interaction he had with a local member of the community, who beamed with pride over what had been accomplished in the area. James was open to revising his assessment to account for the plurality of perspective: “The clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success. I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge” (151). Although James's description includes telltale markings of hierarchical privilege, he exercised sensitivity to how context dictates “truth” in a manner quite at odds with the certainty found in much traditional Western philosophy. James does not engage in the relational analysis of context to the extent that Addams does through her concept of sympathetic knowledge (Hamington 2009, 71-88). Nevertheless, James does lay a claim that paves the road to care ethics by suggesting that in order to participate in rich forms of inquiry, one must engage others. Knowledge is a human construct. As Erin C. Tarver (2007, 282) describes, for James, “because we cannot help but experience and know the world from particular perspectives-as selves embodied in particularly raced, gendered, and classed ways-what is needed is not the pretense of philosophical abstraction from these particularities but, rather, the active interrogation of them and the acknowledgment that our knowledge is always particularly situated.”

This interrogation is another way of describing the engrossment or attentiveness required for caring. I cannot care for a person or thing I do not know about, and furthermore that care cannot be effective unless I have a more than superficial understanding of the cared-for's context. Actively listening for understanding opens the door for need-based care, rather than the caregiver's abstraction of appropriate care. Care entails a form of inquiry. With a few exceptions (Dalmiya 2002), care theorists have not been as attentive to care's epistemological aspects as they might be. Of course, James does not offer a specific analysis from a care standpoint, but his notion of pluralism highlights the epistemological dimension of care. Furthermore, James is aware that knowledge and affect are not mere categories. He opens “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” with the claim that


OUR judgments concerning the worth of things, big or little, depend on the feelings the things arouse in us. Where we judge a thing to be precious in consequence of the idea we frame of it, this is only because the idea is itself associated already with a feeling. If we were radically feelingless, and if ideas were the only things our mind could entertain, we should lose all our likes and dislikes at a stroke, and be unable to point to any one situation or experience in life more valuable or significant than any other. (James 2008, 21)

<end ext>

James demonstrates why his pragmatist philosophy provides a useful source of exploration for care theorists, despite his inconsistent treatment of gender. He offers a theory of pluralistic inquiry that infuses a psychological dimension-specifically, engaging an emotive connection. Furthermore, although this has not been given explicit attention by care theorists, care is fundamentally pluralistic. It is difficult to consider someone caring without that person actively endeavoring to include the voices of others. If pluralism is to be anything other than superficial, a caring connection must be made. In other words, to truly include diverse others is not just to hear their voices, but it also involves the effort and energy to understand their positions-to care. As several commentators have noted, James firmly comes down on the side of the “inclusivist” over that of the “exclusivist” (Smith 2004, 144; Campbell 1981, 237-38; Perry 1958, 133). For example, as James (1963a, 296) describes in regard to disagreements over war, “pacificists ought to enter more deeply into the esthetical and ethical point of view of their opponents.” Note that James is not just calling for understanding the arguments of those with whom one disagrees, but asks for a deep aesthetic exploration, presumably with emotive dimensions. In the next section, we take up the moral theory of action that flows from James's nontraditional epistemology.

<1>Moving from Empathy to Action

In The Ethics of Care and Empathy (2007), Michael Slote makes a compelling case for the central role of empathy in care ethics. Employing the work of psychologist Michael Hoffman as a foundation, Slote contends that empathy is essential to personal and political morality. He reframes care ethics as “empathetic caring” to demonstrate the centrality of empathy to this moral enterprise. However, while empathy is a necessary condition of caring, it is not a sufficient condition. If caring is more than a disposition, it requires action. A performance of care is needed to give care moral significance. Appropriating James's work on motivation and will can help fill this theoretical gap between empathy and action, particularly in regard to caring for unknown others.

The contemporary scholar most often credited with naming care ethics is developmental psychologist Carol Gilligan. As care studies blossomed, driven by philosophers and then political theorists, the psychological dimension of caring received diminishing attention. James is a figure who can balance the psychological with the philosophical and political. In “The Will to Believe,” he ostensibly offers a religious apologetic. He describes the essay as “a defence of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters, in spite of the fact that our merely logical intellect may not have been coerced” (1956b, 1-2). Of course, James did not just have traditional religious institutions in mind, and his notion of will extends to areas beyond religion. James recognized the power of the mind to influence reality. This approach might colloquially be referred to as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” For example, even professional marathon runners face long odds in winning major races, given the time, length, and level of competition involved. Nevertheless, when the gun sounds, runners who wish to win must believe that they can accomplish their task successfully, without empirical evidence indicating the certainty of the outcome. The motivational goal of coaches at all levels is to get athletes to visualize and believe in their own victory. This approach often fails, but the technique is a nod to the personal and subjective aspects of human performance. Accordingly, for James, belief can, in some circumstances, help create truth: “There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming. And where faith in a fact can help create the fact” (25). James admits that this is an “insane” logic by the standards of scientific inquiry, yet he also points out that such belief permeates our lives.

Although James offers the notion of the will to believe in regard to religion, he also suggests that it can be applied to humanistic endeavors. James intimates that society, despite contemporary cynicism, could not function if its members did not possess a foundational belief in one another: “A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that the other members will simultaneously do theirs. Wherever a desired result is achieved by the cooperation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned” (1956b, 4). In the spirit of will creating reality, I extend James's analysis to caring. One is faced with numerous opportunities to care for others every day. These choices are fraught with unknown outcomes, particularly as they involve unfamiliar others who may respond in unpredictable ways. Left to pure cognitive calculation, the choice to care for unfamiliar others often appears imprudent. The ethical caring described by Noddings involves an imaginative leap of faith analogous to James's will to believe. One must believe in the moral ideal of caring and that one's efforts can lead to effective caring actions that make a difference-even when social convention opposes such caring efforts. Accordingly, the existence of the will to care can bring about the fact of caring and is ultimately a necessary condition of it. This may seem to be an obvious point, but having the will to care involves bridging perceptual barriers supported by widespread liberal isolationism and imagining the possibility of effectively engaging someone for their benefit. Contemporary Western society often valorizes separation and wariness toward engagement with unfamiliar others, as witnessed in the mantra “Don't talk to strangers.” The unknown other is frequently viewed with grave suspicion, rather than as an opportunity for hospitality, relationship, and growth. In this context, having the will to care means transgressing these social mores of suspicion to listen, learn, care, and possibly act.

James's faith in human will is not simply idealism. He distinguished between the real-world options one is faced with, describing some as “live” and some as “dead” (1956b, 2-3). Live options are those that have a resonance with one's experience and are perceived as real possibilities. Dead options have no such imaginative resonance. Applying James's distinction to caring, many choices are simply dead options. For example, despite the emotional pull, taking in all the children displaced by violence in the world and caring for them can be discarded as a sentimental impossibility; caring for one or two children might be a live option, albeit a challenging one, for an individual or couple. Another live option might be to care for displaced individuals through active engagement in organizations that are established to provide care. The clearly dead or live options for caring are not as interesting as the ambiguous ones between the extremes. This is another way to frame the scope of ethical caring or addressing the reach of one's care. Some options are dead for significant material reasons, while others are dead because of perceptual barriers I place on myself. In other words, my own patterns of behavior may contribute to my belief that a caring option is dead when it actually might be live. For example, I might see a distressed coworker but not offer to help or listen because of my belief that they would not want my intervention or because a previous experience leads me to think that caring inquiry will be unwanted. One challenge in the caring for unfamiliar others is the extent to which some options that are perceived to be dead can be reconceived as live options.

Recognizing the complexity of human experience, James adds other characteristics to his understanding of viable options for taking action. In addition to living or dead choices, he claims that options can be described as “forced or avoidable” and “momentous or trivial” (1956b, 3). A forced choice must be made, while an avoidable one does not capture the totality of the possibilities. A momentous choice has a great deal hinging on it, whereas a trivial one does not. James suggests that a genuine option is living, forced, and momentous. Caring may be undervalued in contemporary society, but decisions to care can be described as living, forced, and often momentous-living because they occur every time we confront another being; forced because, despite our enormous capacity for denial, caring decisions must be made; and momentous because decisions to care are important to those who receive care and ultimately to the caregiver. Sometimes caring gestures can appear to be fleeting and trivial, but in aggregate such caring performances are what maintain civilization. Although not speaking of care directly, in Jeremy Rifkin's metahistorical analysis of human history, he claims, “Empathy is the very means by which we create social life and advance civilization. In short, it is the extraordinary development of empathic consciousness that is the quintessential underlying story of human history, even if it has not been given the serious attention it deserves by our historians” (2009, 10). Empathy is a component of care. The point is that decisions to care are not inconsequential, as they collectively sustain our society.

Consistent with pragmatist commitments, moral deliberation must lead to action. James (1963c, 23) describes the term “pragmatism” as “derived from the same Greek word pragma, meaning action, from which our words 'practice' and 'practical' come.” At times, according to James, bringing about action requires “will” as a human means for forging into unknown territory toward a desirable truth. Pragmatists consciously advocate a method of inclusive knowledge acquisition that entails listening to widespread and diverse voices (Pratt 2002, 26-27). Instead of waiting for epistemic certainty, James indicates that at some point we must take a leap of faith and act in accordance with the best available knowledge. Action takes precedent over certainty. We thus “believe” and act as if truth has been found, even though we may amend this truth at a later time with further evidence. James (1956b, 14) observes, “Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?” James's insight is both psychological in regard to the workings of the mind's reflections on truth claims and philosophical as to the malleable nature of truth. As Charlene Haddock Seigfried (1978, 59) describes, “James points out the relation of reality to our emotional and active life.” I contend that the same mechanisms can be applied to personal care claims; whereas the quest for absolute epistemic certainty can lead to inaction, so too can the quest for personal certainty of caring expectations. The connection between our caring efforts and their received efficacy is often unclear and intensified by self-doubt and social forces that limit norms of care. Many times this skepticism is warranted, but inaction can sometimes result in death and suffering. Caring is too important or “momentous” to the sustenance of the world to wait for absolute certainty.

Richard Gale highlights the imaginative aspect of James's notion of will, referring to it as “aesthetic ideating.” He describes James's understanding of will as reflective in a manner that assists in the making of a choice but that also increases the odds that the alternative selected will be successful. Gale (1999, 81) offers the example of an actor choosing to play a role among the many scripts offered: “Getting ourselves eventually to accept one of the scripts over its serious competitors consists in vividly playing over one of the roles in our imagination until it dominates, this amounting to the that's-me feeling and thereby the decision to play that role.” This is a reflective and imaginative process into which numerous variables are factored. Ultimately, one role is selected, not with absolute certainty that it is the best role possible, but with the force of will to make it work. This process is analogous to the will to care. At any juncture, one has choices about caring, but if the choice of taking the risk of care is made, then the force of will founded on the belief that caring performances can make a positive impact creates the potential for success. Caring actions not attempted, of course, have no chance of success, and caring actions with little conviction have a meager chance of success.

James suggests that after reflection, deliberation, and decision, we have the opportunity to create our own expectations. Erin C. Tarver (2007, 290) finds great potential in applying James's limber epistemology to feminism: “Those of us of a Jamesian sentiment, then, ought not only to hope for the end of sexist oppression or the ultimate prevailing of a nonmisogynist Truth: we ought also, whenever possible, to look for ways of creating that truth, of realizing that demand.” Applying Tarver's observation to care, the task of a society that wants to foster a caring culture is to develop the imaginative caring expectations of its members. An overused term to describe the personal agency necessary to effectively care is “empowerment.” Claims of limitation-”I can't do anything about world hunger or famine in northern Africa”-are, to a certain extent, self-imposed. We have developed a plethora of reasons for not taking caring actions; some of them are warranted, but many of them are not. As Peter Singer (2000, 117) states, “What is the point of relating philosophy to public (and personal) affairs if we do not take our conclusions seriously? . . . Taking our conclusion seriously means acting upon it.” James (1958, 119-20) warns that willful action “may be neutralized and made inoperative by the presence of the very faintest contradictory idea in the margin.” If individuals both empathize with others and feel a strong sense of personal agency that transcends the ready-made excuses, the imaginative combination makes caring performances more likely.

There is a tension that exists in the claims put forth in the last section and those in this section. Valuing pluralism, as James does, suggests epistemic humility. Caring requires listening to and respecting the other, the subject of care. One cannot assume complete foreknowledge of how to act in advance of knowing and understanding the one cared for. Therefore, having the will to take caring action in the face of uncertainty may appear to stifle or cut off that epistemic humility. This tension reflects the liminality of care theory. Ultimately, all of our caring actions come with incomplete knowledge of the other. The problem of alterity prevents us from ever having perfect knowledge of whether caring will be efficacious in advance, although in many cases patterns of behavior have indicated to us that the probability is high. Furthermore, action and reflection need not be dichotomous endeavors. Having the will to take caring action does not mean that I cannot maintain epistemic humility and adjust or cease actions as appropriate. One can imagine a circumstance in which one person sees a stranger crying and chooses to take the caring action of approaching that individual to comfort, only to find out that what was witnessed were tears of joy. In such a circumstance, a commensurate adjustment on the part of the caregiver would be made. Pragmatism and care theory share a valorization of both epistemic humility and taking action. The challenge is to negotiate an effective balance between the two.

Reminiscent of James's claims about the need for a leap of faith, and prior to the emergence of feminist care ethics, philosopher Milton Mayeroff (1971, 27) included “courage” among his list of the major ingredients of caring: “I have no guarantee where [caring actions] will all end or in what unfamiliar situations I will find myself. The security of familiar landmarks is gone and I cannot anticipate fully who or what the other will become or who I will become.” The will to care may, in fact, bring about caring action in the face of challenges and even long odds. Note how, in this quote, Mayeroff finds a reciprocity in the courage to care that results in a change of self-identity. I address how James's approach to philosophy as a method of self-improvement can contribute to care theory in the next section.

<1>Authoring a Caring Self

One of the features of care theory is its expansive notion of morality that extends beyond adjudicating individual acts. In other words, care is more than a theory of right and wrong. Different from deontological or teleological theories, which focus on assessing actions, care describes an approach to ethics that cannot easily be disentangled from an individual's self-identity. As Noddings (2010, 71) describes, “Persons guided by an ethical ideal of caring do not simply break a rule when they fail to respond with care; they break something in themselves.” Thus far, we have discussed James's contribution to a theory of care that attends to its radical pluralism, as well as what James has to offer care in terms of the motivational dynamic behind caring actions. In this section, I suggest that James contributes to a radical rethinking of care as a performative theory of ethical self. To accomplish this, I will first explain what I mean by a performative theory of care and then discuss how James contributes to this notion.

Although it has received limited feminist theoretical attention, it is hard to ignore the embodied aspect of caring. Much of our caring for another is driven by physical need and delivered through corporeal means. In addition, much of care is found not only in chosen actions but also in the manner and subtleties in which those acts are performed. For example, listening is a prerequisite for a caring relationship, but that listening cannot be perceived to be superficial. One communicates their attentive listening through a myriad of habituated muscle movements, including eye contact, facial direction, tilt of head, and gestures of comprehension. Care is a bodily performance, and even when it is delivered from a distance, it is based on bodily knowledge that informs our moral imagination. We engage in performances of care, the iterations of which help instantiate our caring identity. Everyone engages in caring, but some of us have a stronger identification with caring through our interaction with others and, in particular, unknown others. Like other types of bodily performances, caring performances can be improved through attention and practice (Hamington 2013). A performative theory of care is one that integrates a notion of self-fashioning toward a moral ideal of caring.

James's philosophy of self-improvement and focus on the body support a performative approach to care. He not only had an abiding interest in bodily development, but viewed philosophy as an important vehicle of self-improvement. Richard Shusterman (2008, 136-37) finds James's interest in the body to be rooted in (1) his study of the human form when he was studying to be a painter, (2) his chronic and sometimes debilitating illnesses, and (3) his early study of anatomy and physiology. Shusterman originated the field of “somaesthetics,” which he describes as “a framework to promote and integrate the diverse range of theorizing, empirical research, and meliorative practical disciplines concerned with bodily perception, performance, and presentation” (7). For Shusterman, James is a foundational figure in the development of somaesthetics, both for his attention to the body and because of his meliorative approach to philosophy. The idea that care is an embodied phenomenon has a strong resonance with somaesthetics.

James (1976, 86) claims that “the world experienced (otherwise called the 'field of consciousness') comes at all times with our body as its centre, centre of vision, centre of action, centre of interest.” For him, underlying this claim is the Descartes-defying notion of an integrated embodied mind. James (1890, 5) explicitly cites “the general law that no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied or followed by a bodily change.” This “general law” undergirds James's theory of habit. Although Dewey elaborates a more comprehensive theory of habit than James, his work on habits represents a crucial vehicle for self-creation that is neither purely cognitive nor purely physical, but rather a synergistic partner of both. James begins with the baseline notion that habit “simplifies the movements required to achieve a given result, makes them more accurate and diminishes fatigue” (112), but extends that notion far beyond simple motions. He goes so far as to describe beings as “bundles of habits” (104) that include sophisticated combinations of mental and physical habits. However, there is a plastic dimension to habits. Their sedimentation is not necessarily permanent, and habits can be changed in a manner that promotes human improvement. Accordingly, if care is embraced as an important moral ideal and its embodied and habitual framework is understood, then caring performances can be improved through somatic attention and a will to improve. Richard Gale (1980, 13) describes James as willing to “self-induce an effective intention.” In other words, according to James, individuals can commit themselves to making a moral ideal into a reality. Different from an individual virtue, the foundation, performance, and efficacy of this care is found in relationship.

Ultimately, performative theories have an explicit political and social dimension. Performances are experienced and witnessed in the world with the power and potential to effect others. James's theory of habit has both a personal and a political aspect. He claims that habit is “the enormous fly-wheel of society” (1890, 121) in terms of how it influences patterns of interaction. As Colin Koopman (2005, 182) describes, “James's pragmatism seeks to hold together our instrumental social goals and our romantic individual goals.” Similarly, in an ironic twist back to a central tenet of feminism, Andrew F. Smith (2004, 141) asserts that for James “the political is personal.” This connection between the social and the personal is another entrée into the discussion of caring for unfamiliar others. The self-development of caring habits can improve our “natural caring” for intimate others, but its greatest potential is to develop embodied comfort and familiarity with acts of hospitality and outreach that widen the circle of caring relations.

<1>Does James's Masculine Assertiveness Add to Care Theory?


During his lifetime, James had been instrumental in establishing the standard by which men measured themselves in post¬-Civil War America. He represented energy, virility, perseverance, and even-if properly deflected-militarism. But he was also different-inspiring in his awareness of the limitation of the very standard he so impressively met.

-Kim Townsend, Manhood at Harvard

<end epi>

This chapter began with questions about what form of feminist philosophical appropriation is suitable to account for the inconsistent gender relations and gender understanding exhibited by James. The bulk of the chapter engages James's notions of pluralism, motivation for action, and self-authorship as potential contributions to an expansive theory of care. This discussion is largely gender neutral, as each concept is treated on its own merit without much connection to the less egalitarian aspects of James's philosophy. To conclude the chapter, I return to a speculative consideration of how gender might influence the connection between James's philosophy and care theory. I want to pose the provocative question of whether masculinity can add anything to care theory. Masculinity is an elusive concept, in part because it is contextually driven and influenced by social forces. Most manifestations of masculinity have rightfully been the foil of feminist analysis because of masculinity's role in the oppression of women, ignorance of hegemonic power, promotion of aggression and violence, and contribution to silencing diverse voices. Although James has been criticized for advancing a certain form of masculinity, James Livingston (2001, 180) points out that William James endeavored to “rehabilitate” masculinity and redefine man's work by offering an alternative manifestation of destructive masculinity in “The Moral Equivalent of War.” Care theory appears to be the antithesis of belligerent masculinity. The intellectual history of care theory was clearly developed through feminist analysis, as applied to women's experience. However, does masculinity, as found in the character of James's philosophy, have anything to offer care?

Because of the responsiveness to need, it is easy to assume a certain kind of passivity to caring. As Noddings (1983, 47) writes, one who is prepared to care “dreads the proximate stranger, for she cannot easily reject the claim he has on her.” However, the assumption of discrete states of “need” versus “non-need” is a modernist folly. One does not always “need” the intervention of a caregiver in a dire way. Sometimes care takes the form of an unexpected kindness. Furthermore, a need is not always fully conscious to one's self. Some relational circumstances may call for an assertive, risk-taking caregiver to engage the cared-for in more than just a receptive way. For example, those who are in a state of denial over abusive or violent circumstances might require someone to reveal their unrecognized need for help. A common trait attributed to masculinity is assertiveness. To be clear, this is not a comprehensive defense of masculinity, nor is it a blanket value judgment about assertiveness. Feminists have good reason to be suspicious about how James's masculine assumptions influence even his potential contributions to care theory. In regard to the aforementioned pluralistic approach that can contribute to care, Seigfried (1996, 133) points out that James undermines his position through his belief that “women are essentially different from men and naturally subordinate to them.” However, I would at least like to entertain the idea that there is an active aspect to James's philosophy that smacks of masculine assertiveness, which might make a positive contribution to care theory.

Sergio Franzese (2008, 8) describes James as advocating an ethics of energy, “which has moral meaning exactly because the human being is the animal that acts and human oral life is not exhausted just in thinking or contemplating the ideals but requires their enactment.” Neither James nor most of his nonfeminist commentators note the significance of gender for his emphasis on action. The association is made clear in his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.” James is both critical and ennobling of war. He claims, “Militarism is the great preserver of our ideals of hardihood, and human life with no hardihood would be contemptible” (1963a, 293). Hardihood is defined as a resoluteness or toughness to withstand difficult labor, but it also has a definition of audacity. Given the context of a discussion of war, hardihood would seem to be a form of active engagement specifically directed toward men. In offering a framework for an alternative to war, James makes the gender association explicit: “We must make new energies and hardihoods continue the manliness to which the military mind so faithfully clings” (297). For James, the active engagement in the difficult conflicts of life is not to be avoided. Of course, one's actions could also be directed at actively engaging in care. So, while rejecting the explicit assumptions about gender differences as well as the bounded nature of the possible responses if masculinity is assumed, does James provide an example of how some stereotypical masculine traits might contribute to an understanding of care?

The answer is made more difficult by the fact that a narrative of action is not always masculine. James's contemporary Jane Addams (2002, 7) offers an active approach to sympathetic knowledge, another forerunner concept to care: “We are learning that a standard of social ethics is not attained by travelling a sequestered byway, but by mixing on the thronged and common road where all must turn out for one another, and at least see the size of one another's burdens. To follow the path of social morality results perforce in the temper if not the practice of the democratic spirit, for it implies that diversified human experience and resultant sympathy which are the foundation and guarantee of Democracy.” Addams suggests that an active engagement with society offers the best path to caring, with none of the overt masculine references of James.

For the last quarter century, feminist identity has been crucial to the development of care ethics. Now that care has become more widely accepted, perhaps James offers one method for men to find themselves in an ethic of care, not only because care is a logical extension of his pluralism, motivation for action, and sense of self-authorship, but also because at least some masculine traits have a redeeming value for care.

The question of whether aspects of James's masculine approach to ethics contribute to ethics is both provocative and open. James is still relevant and potentially useful. This chapter has contended that James's philosophy can add specific insights of value to a rich understanding of care that emphasizes attending to unfamiliar others, the willingness to act on their behalf, and how such caring can become an intentional part of our self-identity.



<PN>Part III

<PT>Embodiment and Emotion


<CT>Habit, Relaxation, and the Open Mind

<CST>James and the Increments of Ethical Freedom

<CA>Megan Craig

This essay focuses on James's diagnosis of the overstressed American psyche in his Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals, in order to examine both the conservative and prescient aspects of his thinking about women, education, and possibilities for creativity and freedom. The talks to teachers were originally delivered to primarily women teachers in Cambridge in 1892 and subsequently at the Chautauqua Assembly in July 1896, while the talks to students spanned from 1895 to 1898. James first delivered his lecture “The Gospel of Relaxation” at the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics (BNSG) in 1895, addressing a group of graduating college-age women. The school was established by Mary Hemenway in 1891 as a place to provide “the best opportunities in America for men and women who desire to prepare themselves to conduct gymnasia, or to direct physical training, according to the most approved modern methods” (BNSG 1897, 5). The BNSG was part of a wave of American institutions developed in the 1880s and 1890s devoted to training teachers in physical education-a field just beginning to be granted professional status. As with other comparable programs, the enrollment at BNSG was close to 80 percent female; the school awarded 212 diplomas to women and 6 to men in its first ten years (Verbrugge 1998, 166ff.). Unlike other programs, the BNSG borrowed faculty from MIT and Harvard, implementing a rigorous curriculum in experimental science and psychology as well as applied physiology, anatomy, and Swedish medical gymnastics. The BNSG became part of the graduate programs of Wellesley College in 1917 and continued to prepare young women as physical educators until 1953. One of the early graduates, Ethel Perrin, looked back on her experience in 1930 and described the feminist implications of her education in these terms: “When they went into the field, women in Physical Education were quite looked down upon either as Physical Culturalists or as acrobatic performers. Not until those early graduates began to make their way into educational groups, and take their stand with the best of them, did the professional respect, which the young teacher to-day finds waiting for her, become possible” (162).

James had been invited to address students at various women's colleges, and after delivering his commencement speech at the BNSG, he went on to present versions of “The Gospel of Relaxation” at Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Vassar in January and February of 1896. In addition to the mandated stress on pedagogy at Harvard, the years between 1893 and 1899 included for James a transformational immersion in Tolstoy's literature as well as significant hiking in the Adirondacks; work on miracles, conversions, and mental healers; and eight lectures (delivered but never published) on “abnormal mental states.” His research was congealing into the material that would later be delivered as the “Gifford Lectures in Natural Religion,” subsequently published as The Varieties of Religious Experience. In a letter to his wife, Alice, dated July 9, 1898, James described “the most memorable of all my memorable experiences”-a night spent camping at Panther Lodge Camp with Charles and Pauline Goldmark, Waldo Adler, and a group of girls from Bryn Mawr “all dressed in boys' breeches, and cutaneously desecrated in the extreme from the seven of them having been camping out without a male on Loon Lake.” He continued, “The temperature was perfect either inside or outside the cabin, the moon rose and hung above the scene before midnight . . . and I got into a state of spiritual alertness of the most vital description.” The spiritual dimensions of hiking and physical exertion in the wild formed a significant part of and background to James's thinking during these years. His trips to the Adirondacks were also lessons in his own physical vulnerabilities (his injured leg and increasingly severe heart condition) and in the capacities of the women he hiked alongside, who “kept up splendidly, and were all fresher than I” (2008, 76). That is to say, the themes of “The Gospel of Relaxation”-physical exercise, the outdoors, and the spiritual dimensions of social life-relate to James's experience of the mountains as equalizing terrain and his sense of hiking as a therapeutic practice critical to mental health.

Believing that women were more susceptible than men to the anxieties of American life-its frantic pace and competitive spirit-James (1983, 123) began “The Gospel of Relaxation” by writing, “By the sensations that so incessantly pour in from the over-tense excited body the over-tense and excited habit of mind is kept up; and the sultry, threatening, exhausting, thunderous inner atmosphere never quite clears away.” He directed “The Gospel of Relaxation” explicitly to young women, quoting from Annie Payson Call and other female writers as he implored his audience members to resist succumbing to a (male) archetype of American success, urging them not to overwork themselves and burn out. He stressed the importance of physical education and time spent outdoors, adding, “I hope that here in America more and more the ideal of the well-trained and vigorous body will be maintained neck by neck with that of the well-trained vigorous mind as the two coequal halves of the higher education for men and women alike” (120). In sum, James cautioned the women not to take their studies too seriously or commit themselves prematurely to a single ideal, lest they miss all the surprise, adventure, and happiness in life.

Notably, James delivered this lecture in the midst of widespread cultural debate about the damaging effects of stress, and particularly the effects on women who were beginning to engage in serious intellectual work in colleges and universities. Despite the founding of the Annex (later renamed Radcliffe) by Elizabeth Carry Agassiz and Arthur Gillman in 1879 as a place for women to study with Harvard faculty, in 1896 Harvard was still stridently refusing to admit women to the university and to grant them degrees (it would not embrace coeducation until it adopted an equal admissions process for men and women in 1975). This was also the time period in which the American nerve doctor Weir Mitchell advocated sensory deprivation and an extreme “rest cure,” founding the Weir clinic in Philadelphia, where notable women, including Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, were sent for treatment. Gilman sought help there after experiencing debilitating postpartum depression and later criticized the “rest cure” in her remarkable short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892), an account of a woman who goes mad while being treated by Weir. Other doctors employed massage, electrotherapy, and dieting. This was also an era that saw a tide of self-help manuals, including the 1910 Swedish publication of Harry Bondegger's Nervousness Remedied in Two Hours. James was riding a wave of popular culture in discussing relaxation with women, but he did little to raise the question of whether these trends were further limiting or imprisoning women in the very roles they were trying to escape. He stood, however, somewhat afield of these trends in his thinking about nervous conditions and their remedies, as he advocated for increased exertion and immersion in the social world rather than either “rest” or retreat to the safe confines of one's own bed or home. His plea to the women at the BNSG to not take their studies too seriously could be interpreted as yet one more way in which a nineteenth-century man undermined a woman's opportunity to study, but it also indicates his convictions about the embodied mind and his lived experience of the relationship between solitary, consuming intellectual reflection and debilitating depression.

James saw a culture in which Americans were losing the ability to play and to relax, capacities crucial for the cultivation of imagination and creativity and central to the cultivation of open-mindedness. The human mind, as James envisioned it, sits precariously between openness and closure, primed for becoming entrenched in automatic and habitual organization, yet poised for dramatic growth and transformation. Every maturing mind risks calcifying into an increasingly fixed shape. Yet, as early as The Principles of Psychology, James stressed the mind's essential plasticity and noted the degree to which even the most stubborn habit can be dislodged by a commitment to novel action. In his famous chapter “Habit,” he urged his readers, “Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. That is, be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test” (1981, 1:126). James believed that one could prime oneself for truly difficult action (the “hour of dire need”) by a repetitive, daily commitment to novelty in one form or another. He reiterated the same advice, sometimes verbatim, in his Talks to Teachers. Devoting his eighth lecture to “the laws of habit,” he implored teachers to help their students learn by doing, and he warned them of the perils of “neglecting the necessary concrete labor,” adding, “By sparing ourselves the little daily tax, we are positively digging the graves of our higher possibilities” (1983, 51-52). James soberly recognized that change is difficult and cannot happen all at once. His own life was a vast experiment in which he emerged from episodes of depression ever more attuned to the psychophysical risks of self-rumination and inertia. Writing to his close friend Thomas Ward in the winter of 1868, for instance, James admitted, “All last winter . . . when I was on the continual verge of suicide, it used to amuse me to hear you chaff my animal contentment. . . . The fact is, I think, that we have both gone through a good deal of similar trouble; we resemble each other in being both persons of rather wide sympathies, not particularly logical in the processes of our minds, and of mobile temperament.” Later in the same letter, he entreats Ward to place his hope in his daily work and in other people, stating, “All I can tell you is the thought that with me outlasts all others, onto which like a rock, I find myself washed up when the waves of doubt are weltering over all the rest of the world; and that is the thought of my having a will, and of my belonging to a brotherhood of men possessed of a capacity for pleasure and pain of different kinds” (2008, 130-31). These lines presage James's famous essay “The Will to Believe” (published in 1896), in which he emphasized the degree to which belief and nonbelief are actions and expressions of our “passional tendencies”-for better and for worse. Across his career, James stressed the importance of keeping oneself nimble and flexible in mind and body. In his championing of the mind's power to change and reverse course, James celebrated a human freedom based in incremental acts of creative resistance to routine.

Such resistance not only is crucial to mental well-being and happiness but also grounds James's vision of ethics as the ongoing and incremental labor of creative attention to myriad forms of life. In the preface to Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals, James insists that his lectures, though intended for a general audience, elaborate his philosophical commitments and “connect . . . with a definite view of the world and of our moral relations to the same” (1983, 4). The person who becomes slave to her habits lives at a diminished pitch of energy, unable to tap into her “higher possibilities” (52). She also loses touch with the wider world as her habits isolate her from exposure to alternative ideals. James associated this condition with “a certain blindness in human beings”-an inability to see outside of one's own limited sphere of concern. He described “the blindness with which we are all afflicted in regard to the feelings of creatures and people different from ourselves” (132) as a natural, if self-perpetuating, form of blindness that renders the pluralistic universe ever more dim. In “What Makes a Life Significant?,” he elaborated the social and historical dimensions of insensitivity as “a great cloud-bank of ancestral blindness weighing down upon us, only transiently riven here and there by fitful revelations of the truth” (151). The antidote to individual and societal blindness entails immersion in the lives of others, through travel, reading, conversation, and other forms of interaction that may thrust one outside of one's comfort zone and disrupt one's habitual patterns of looking and listening. One result of such immersion is a loosening up of the mind's fixation-an opening of energies allowed to run in new directions. Psychoanalytically, this creative redirection of mental energy sounds like an early form of sublimation. Ethically, relaxation and openness become the basis for experiences of “tenderness and tolerance,” which James stressed as hallmark moral feelings.

James forcefully argues for relaxation and openness, play and an aptitude for being surprised, as crucial for ethical attention. This chapter investigates those claims in the context of James's writings about habit and imagination, but also in connection with their feminist implications and their deep relevance to contemporary American life. We have not lost the “bottled-lightning” quality (James 1983, 122) that James feared would oppress American women, deaden their imaginative spirits, and commit them to secluded and emotionally less rich forms of life. This is not to suggest that women, or American women, constitute an undifferentiated, universal block capable of being examined and diagnosed with a single prescription. As Elizabeth Spelman (1991) stresses, women have had a complicated and sometimes vicious relationship to one another, particularly when confronted with the question of who counts (and when and to what degree) as a woman. James was addressing a narrow subset of college-age middle-class white women in his lectures, without considering the wide array of lives of women of differing classes, races, and cultures-and without a word for all those other women struggling not against the pressures of academia, but in homes, fields, and factories. His ability to speak directly, and often emotionally, to the audience seated immediately before him is simultaneously a strength and a weakness of his lecture. It remains, nonetheless, instructive to reflect on the damaging effects of stress and American idealism on a fledgling group of female intellectuals at a crucial tipping point in American history, if only for the insight it provides into the inherent disparities of higher education. If anything, the qualities James identified in the American psyche in 1895 have only become more extreme over time. What does this tell us about our blindness to other lives in the present age and the degree to which the mind's fixations prematurely commit one to a stasis at odds with, and blind to, life's exuberant, excessive surge? James's concerns about an American cult of speed, automation, and isolating individualism loom exponentially more pressing in contemporary culture, where lives are increasingly lived online and education is routinely carried out in virtual classrooms.


In 1891, at the height of the American Industrial Revolution, James popularized the term “Americanitis.” It relates to Charles Beard's neurasthenia, a weakness of the nerves that results in chronic fatigue, loss of memory, generalized aches, depression, and a host of other debilitating symptoms. James, however, borrowed his term from Annie Payson Call (who attributed it to an unnamed German doctor) in order to describe a distinctly American physical posture and tension produced by habitually over-contracting one's muscles and living on the edge. Call, a Waltham author who knew James, worried about a chronic inability to relax endemic to American life and particularly damaging for women. In “The Gospel of Relaxation,” which explicitly references Call's 1891 book Power Through Repose as well as her later book A Matter of Course, James's stated goal is to “show the practical applications of [certain psychological doctrines] to mental hygiene,-to the hygiene of our American life more particularly” (1983, 117). James was himself a restless American. His letters show that there was hardly a day that went by when he was not either traveling or planning some future escape. In diagnosing a specifically American physical/psychological condition, James offers a broad critique of an American way of life and its implications for the health and well-being of its citizens. He insists that American neuroses are not the result of geography or climate (or some coincidence of chance or poor luck). Instead, he points to the pervasive overvaluation of certain ideals (ideals of labor and individualism in particular) and the coincident development of bad national habits. In short, James was convinced that Americans work too hard in the wrong way at the wrong things, perpetuating their behaviors in their children and beyond. Additionally, he worried that the American university system worked to codify and deepen such habits by subjecting students to stresses and demands that would ultimately seal their fates as neurotically overwrought Americans. James foresaw a culture in which American habits would weaken possibilities for collective action and would circumscribe individuals within increasingly narrow, closed spheres of life.

Why did James think that women were more susceptible than men to “this absence of repose, this bottled-lightning quality” of American life (1983, 122)? He follows Call in emphasizing the degree to which Americanitis afflicts women, and his insights into a psychological differentiation between men and women and varying reactions to ongoing stress are prescient in many respects. Freud would write his text on mourning and melancholia in 1917 (twenty-five years after James's lecture) without mention of gender as it pertains to melancholia. Seventy-two years later, in 1989, Julia Kristeva devoted Black Sun to the examination of feminine depression and forms of melancholia unique to female experience. Kristeva argues that women have a propensity for melancholia as a result of their early identification with and subsequent separation from the mother. According to Kristeva, girls undergo a “two-sided oedipal phase” in which the path to heterosexuality is fraught with an ever-present psychical bisexuality and a pervasive feeling of “extraneousness” in relation to the father/phallic/symbolic order. The difficulties women face in loving and forming intimate bonds with others arise from their earliest experiences of devotion and ambivalence. One potentially positive result of the extra psychic work that a woman undertakes in her quest for a love object is the development of more open, creative relationships to language and heightened sensitivity to what Kristeva calls “the semiotic”-the gestural, “trans-verbal” undercurrent of organized speech. Kristeva describes her own work as an analyst in terms of learning to listen for the semiotic (musical, unnameable) undertones erupting beneath the disjointed speech of depressed women-“to interpret the voice” and “to disarticulate the signifying sequences that become banal and lifeless-the purpose being to extract the infrasignifying meaning of depressive discourse that is hidden in fragments of lexical items, in syllables, or in phonic groups yet strangely semanticized” (1992, 55). When women remain or become profoundly estranged from the symbolic order (unable to love, unable to speak), they can experience forms of depression in which “the rhythm of overall behavior is shattered, [and] there is neither time nor place for acts and sequences to be carried out” (34). Kristeva, like James, does not explicitly raise the variable relationship that individuals have to the term “woman,” or the degree to which women resist being universally diagnosed under a single rubric of loss, language, or sublimation. Yet Black Sun includes a central chapter, “Illustrations of Feminine Depression,” devoted to case studies and testimonies from Kristeva's own patients, their voices overtaking the text. This, coupled with Kristeva's focus on specific works of art at the close of her book (in chapters devoted to Holbein, de Nerval, Dostoyevsky, and Duras), reflects her sensitivity to the intricacies and ethical/political significance of singularity. Black Sun is an attempt to write a radically polyvocal text. It not only advocates but also demonstrates the urgency of listening for other voices and other languages.

James seems poised to articulate something in 1895 that would not fully come into focus for a long time-namely, that the dominant features of American life disproportionately subject women to physical/psychological distress and exile them from normative structures of meaning. In his own lectures, James articulated such a condition in terms of an impoverished sense of possibilities and compromised “spiritual hygiene” (1983, 121). Perhaps James sensed that the guiding ideals of American life in 1895 overemphasized what Kristeva would later call the symbolic order, which stresses modes of discourse and comportment aimed at codifying and categorizing according to definitive norms. James worried about “spiritual hygiene,” while Kristeva (2012, 12) worries about a poverty of spirituality in the modern world and a diminishment of what she calls the sacred-“the desire of human beings to think, not in the sense of calculation, but rather in the sense of a need for fundamental questioning.” She offers an epistemological, rather than a religious, definition of the sacred. For Kristeva, as well as for James, genuine thinking entails radical imagination and risk-something akin to what Hannah Arendt (1971, 417) called “thinking without a banister.” Listening for the semiotic registers of language hones a unique capacity for being attuned to silence and open to alternative means of communication, including bodily gesture, glances, nonlinear prose, painting, music, and poetry. Such attunement also requires patience on the part of the listener and time on the part of the speaker. A culture built upon an idealization of speed and a single vision of success loses touch with less rigid and measurable possibilities for flourishing, ultimately blinding itself to alterity and forgetting the labors inherent in genuine thought. James predicted that an unchecked American zealotry for personal success at all costs would marginalize those who fell outside traditional, stereotyped models-women foremost (though certainly not alone) among them. Additionally, some women, particularly those already most marginalized and oppressed in America, would invariably be rendered even more abject than others under the pressure to conform to an ever more remote archetype.

James's sensitivity to the plight of women in 1895 may have been tied to the history of his sister, Alice, who suffered a major breakdown in 1890, was diagnosed with cancer in 1891, and died in London on March 5, 1892. Alice's fate must have been on James's mind as he stood facing a class of young women, their futures before them, in Boston a few years later. They, after all, like Alice, were bright, young, white, northeastern American women-the kind of women James knew so well from his own upbringing and life in Cambridge. Writing to his brother Henry after her death, James (1997, 265) offered the dispassionate lament “Poor little Alice! What a life! I can't believe that the imperious will and piercing judgment are snuffed out with the breath.” In his reply, Henry expressed relief at Alice's passing, noting the degree to which she was never at home in the world: “Even more than before (though I was particularly conscious of it during all the last year,) I feel that [Alice's] character was rare & remarkable. How it would have got on with the world if she had had to live in the world I know not; but I think she never could have lived in the world” (266). Alice detailed her own experiences in her diary, but the difficulty of her young life, her sense of utter alienation and homelessness (whether in America or abroad), and the depths of her depression had a lasting impression on the James brothers (who each suffered from their own array of breakdowns and nervous conditions). In the years following Alice's death, William James devoted much of his research and teaching to abnormal psychology and the paranormal, growing increasingly interested in the spiritual and metaphysical implications of his radical empiricism and deviations of “healthy-mindedness.”

Whatever the basis for James's interests in female psychology, there is a potentially dangerous and conservative undercurrent to his 1895 pleas that the young women in his audience “fling away the book the day before [an examination], [and] say to yourself, 'I won't waste another minute on this miserable thing, and I don't care an iota whether I succeed or not'” (1983, 128). Taken out of the broader context of James's address, this statement could sound like a way of undermining the women's potential to succeed academically-urging them to find joys in other pursuits, as if they aren't cut out for the intense concentration required for serious intellectual life. In the early 1950s, there would be a similar effort to return women to the home and family in the wake of their wartime labors, with psychiatrists claiming that ambition in women is tied to mental illness, as well as to homosexuality (Tuana 2011). There are deep feminist tensions throughout “The Gospel of Relaxation”; indeed, Charlene Haddock Seigfried, Erin Tarver, Shannon Sullivan, and others have demonstrated that these tensions punctuate James's wider work. They go hand in hand with racial, ethnic, and class tensions that have been the focus of Cornel West, Patricia Hill Collins, Jose Medina, and others. James was certainly not trying to undermine the young women he was talking to, but the claims that melancholia and other forms of debilitating psychic stress are gendered has far-reaching and complicated implications, including implications for thinking about transgender individuals, heteronormative cultures, and the ever-increasing speed at which life is lived in the digital age. Kristeva works through many of the psychic issues women face with a subtlety well beyond James, and without James's focus on Americans' unique neuroses. She underscores the psychic difficulties women face in loving and connecting with others-and, by extension, in forming communities and assuming leading political roles. Nonetheless, James embraced and entered into a wide-ranging conversation about gender, education, melancholia, and social norms as a forerunner in 1895, addressing topics that remain painfully unresolved and under-examined in contemporary life in spite of the first, second, and third waves of feminism. If anything, one could argue that the stresses of American life, particularly as they relate to women involved in higher education, have become increasingly intense and unsustainable over time.


James seems genuinely concerned for the lives of students and the degree to which they condition themselves to become neurotically intellectualized. The bulk of his talks to teachers and to students revolve around discussions of habit-both the formation of good habits and strategies for breaking bad habits. “Habit” has a neutral valence for James. In The Principles of Psychology, he explains, “When people use the word 'habit,' in the majority of instances it is a bad habit they have in mind. They talk of the smoking-habit and the swearing-habit and the drinking-habit, but not of the abstention-habit or the moderation-habit or the courage-habit” (1983, 49). James is interested in the degree to which habit is both liberating (allowing us to progress from gross motor functions to higher intellectual functions) and imprisoning (committing us to repeating the same actions incessantly and condemning us to an increasingly narrow range of possibilities). The question is how to cultivate positive, emancipatory habits while combating negative, entrenching habits. This is not simple, and it is rendered infinitely more complex by the fact that any habit has the possibility of shifting from something positive to something negative midstream. Habits therefore require constant attention and renegotiation. In addition, James (1981, 1:122) sees the “period between twenty and thirty [as] critical in the formation of intellectual and professional habits, [and] the period below twenty [as] more important still for the fixing of personal habits . . . such as vocalization and pronunciation, gesture, motion, and address.” Following Aristotle, James notes that habit formation has an optimal window of opportunity that is tied to biological age and neural plasticity. Accordingly, getting things right at the outset is terribly important for future development and growth.

Habits enable patterns of behavior that get carried out largely unconsciously. It is the nature of habit to sediment certain routines so that one no longer has to think about them. Bringing habits into focus, therefore, means bringing into focus something that usually lurks at the margins or in the “fringes” of consciousness. In “The Gospel of Relaxation,” James advocates for a more far-reaching self-awareness and diagnoses the overwrought American psyche in terms of its fixation on a single goal or ideal. Elsewhere he talks about how difficult it is to transition from a “focal object” to a “marginal object” of attention (1983, 21). Fixation indicates a stasis at odds with James's overarching emphases on flux and pluralism (most notably expressed in the metaphor of the ever-moving “stream of thought”). What one needs is a habit of disrupting fixations-a very peculiar habit in the art of self-interruption and transformation. Establishing this kind of habit will not be simple, since every habit tends to coalesce the subject into a definitive shape.

James opens his talk by invoking the James-Lange theory of emotions and stressing the degree to which obsession about one's own feelings is a particularly dangerous form of psychic fixation. As Gerald E. Meyers notes, the theory of emotions-one of the most popular of James's psychological theories-held that “emotions are actually the effects of bodily commotions, and emotion dies when the commotions perish” (James 1983, xxiii). James argues that feelings are largely outside of our control. We feel impulsively this way or that, and strong feeling tends to occlude every other feeling (as jealousy did for Othello). In the last section of his talk, James turns explicitly to melancholia as an example of a condition in which a person finds herself consumed with her own despair, unable to see past or through the thicket of her emotional life. He explains, “Strong feeling about one's self tends to arrest the free association of one's objective ideas and motor processes. We get the extreme example of this in the mental disease called melancholia” (127). What begins as psychic anchorage in an all-consuming feeling leads to the psychophysical embargo on fluidity or movement in any form. James emphasizes the degree to which mental and bodily fluidity fuel each other. Concretely, he hopes to see the American educational system become more attuned to the physical dimension of education and the body, if there is to be any hope of training students who might become flexible, energetic, and creative thinkers. He worries that women are particularly susceptible to the imbalance induced by a one-sided, overly intellectualized education, leaving them without physical resources for sustained (and potentially revolutionary) action. He was sure to find a receptive audience for these ideas at the BNSG, facing a sea of women trained in physical education. But James was advocating something more radical than additional gym classes or time spent outdoors (though these remain pressing needs in contemporary American classrooms from preschool through college, as students are confined not only to their desks but also to their screens). He envisioned a situation in which thinking and action, no longer viewed in opposition to each other, would be seen on a spectrum of whole-bodied choreography and exertion. James believed that thinking is a genuine form of movement, which therefore requires open space and time to develop. His critiques of the American educational system disrupt the notion of a traditional classroom and dovetail with Dewey's more explicit recommendations for educational reforms and his championing of experimental intelligence and plurality in Democracy and Education in 1916.


James's concern about the blinding effects of strong feeling retains potentially troubling Platonic echoes (even as his commitment to incremental habit formation links with Aristotle's descriptions of the cultivation of virtue). In The Republic, Socrates is acutely worried about intense feelings and their destabilizing impact on the young soul. As a result, he cautions against anything that might stir up the “wilder passions,” including certain forms of music, dramatic tragedy and comedy, literature, and experiences of grief and love. He also warns about the impassioned ties between family members, especially those between mothers and their children. Circumventing what Kristeva calls “maternal passion” is a central goal of the opening books of The Republic, in which Socrates advocates undermining the traditional family structure (disallowing mothers to nurse their own children, for instance) so that local, familial love will be replaced with more global, civic loyalties. Ideally, in disrupting the intimacy of the family, Socrates hopes that children will encounter every other person as a “brother” or “sister,” irrespective of birth or blood.

James doesn't discuss the family or the ways in which devotion to those closest to one may either help or hinder the development of moral sensibility (although his letters demonstrate the centrality of his friendships and detail the joys and hardships of family life). Instead, in “The Gospel of Relaxation,” he suggests forgetting feeling altogether-to the degree that it is possible-and focusing one's attention instead on a particular, practical action. The critique of feeling is strange to hear from a thinker so explicitly committed to integrating mind and body. Seigfried (this volume, 000) points out that James's work on habit is idiosyncratic in that he seems to “go out of his way to criticize an emphasis on feeling that he usually defended in other contexts.” Yet James has in mind a particular variety of feeling that indicates excessive sentimentality about oneself and inhibits both the mind and the body's range of possible motion. As in The Principles of Psychology, in Talks to Teachers, he cautions, “There is no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nerveless sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility, but never does a concrete manly deed” (1983, 50). In “The Gospel of Relaxation,” he explains, “There is no better known or more generally useful precept in the moral training of youth, or in one's personal self-discipline, than that which bid us pay attention to what we do and express, and not to care too much for what we feel” (118). This is another way of saying that we should, whenever possible, orient ourselves outward to the world and our effects on it, rather than inward to our own psyche and boundless intentions. James's rationale for the shift in focus from feeling to action is that one cannot control feeling, and we may as well not waste energy on things outside our control. Action-incremental varieties of action in particular-is more within one's range of practical power. James assures us that if we recalibrate action, feeling will by necessity follow suit. It may sound as if James is setting up a stark dichotomy between feeling and action, as if they are distinct, separable phenomena. This is not the case. Instead James insists that “action and feeling go together” (118). His point is that viewing the world through the lens of feeling tends to focus one's gaze inward and minimize one's sense of agency and responsibility. The same world seen through a lens of action turns the gaze outward and opens up new vistas of possibility, which in turn cultivate new avenues for more expansive feelings.

The first trick, then, to cultivating a more open mind and living at the optimal pitch of energy involves an active forgetting of one's own feelings and a decisive commitment to actions one has yet to master or believe in. A simple example might be to attempt to laugh or smile in the midst of sadness. James's theory is that the physical act of smiling will do more to dispel a pervasive sense of sorrow than any thinking by itself could ever do. Such actions may be utterly mundane-such as commitments to waking early, exercising, or reading more poetry. They may also be more far-reaching and difficult to begin-a commitment to sobriety, for example. But even in the case of seemingly impossible actions, James reminds us that action begins with a single step, just as he describes waking up in The Principles of Psychology in terms of putting one's foot on the floor. James's writings are suffused with an atmosphere of the incremental and the ordinary, coupled with a fascination with “the physical courage of common man” (James 1997, 357). One of the striking features of James's vision of existence is his belief in the efficacy of even the smallest action and its potential to change the course of an entire life. Freeing oneself from various forms of enslavement entails ongoing movement, however minute-a commitment to an unspecified daily form of what Jaime Schultz calls “physical activism.” Focusing on Billie Jean King and women's tennis in the 1970s, Schultz (2012, 219-20) notes that King and other female players didn't engage with the theoretical side of the early feminist movement (to the consternation of feminists such as Nora Ephron and Gloria Steinem), but they “shattered the myths of female frailty and, by necessity, cultivated and performed their tenacity, competitiveness, cooperation, independence, stamina, sweat, power, weaknesses, successes, and failures for all who cared to watch.” Rather than articulating any feminist theory or political agenda, they simply played their best tennis and showed the world that what women could do on the court altered conceptions and patterns of behavior on and off the court: “The physical is political” (217). “Physical activism,” however, need not be defined by a commitment to professional athletics or traditional athletics of any kind. It may simply entail exertions beyond the normal range of one's own physical horizons (which vary widely for differently abled bodies). Importantly, for women whose daily lives consist of repetitive physical labors, Schultz's concept of “physical activism” is broadened by James's far-reaching sense of the term “action” and his stress on the intensely active dimensions of relaxation, including resting, stretching, or simply altering the posture of one's body. Each instance of novel action has the power to set a person on a new course, disrupting the paradigm of the entrenched self and reorganizing the habit-body around new patterns of behavior.


How is the forgetting of feeling related to an aptitude for relaxation? In some sense, it seems like James is urging the students to do more, to become more active and restless. He encourages them to get outside, to move around, to travel and read widely. And yet he urges them to undertake these activities without thinking too much about them, without stress and worry about how any given act might result or where it may lead. Fixation on feeling is one particularly acute example of mental seizure more generally. The “gospel of relaxation” that he adopts from Annie Payson Call's Power Through Repose entails a relaxation of the mind facilitated by the activation of the body. James (1983, 127) explains, “If we wish our trains of ideation and volition to be copious and varied and effective, we must form the habit of freeing them from the inhibitive influence of reflection upon them, of egoistic preoccupation about their results.” The mantra of “The Gospel of Relaxation” is to stop thinking so much about oneself and start doing more, exercising one's body in new directions. In the process of elaborating the repertoire of the body's physical limits, the mind acquires new habits of flexibility and creative range.

This is why James references the revolution in Norwegian culture facilitated by women's practice of skiing and snowshoeing-activities that, in strengthening their physical endurance, strengthened and emancipated their spirits. Elsewhere he describes meditation practices and yoga as means of honing attentiveness and letting the body's energies run more freely. Writing about the subject's tendency to harden into a particular shape, James uses the image of a creased piece of paper to describe the mind's fixation on a habitual attachment. Once folded, the mind tends to bend along the same repetitive line. This is equally true for the body conditioned into particular postures (bent into a chair or confined to a narrow space, for instance). Accordingly, James worries about the localization of education to interior spaces that encourage prolonged sitting.

Deepening his suspicion of fixation in any form, James critiques the tortured, solitary, and sedentary model of the American intellectual. Without free range of motion (both physical and psychic), a person has limited possibilities for growth and imagination. Women in academia are particularly prone to sedentary lives, but even for women engaged in deeply physical labors, James would worry about the damaging psychosomatic effects of isolation and repetition. Imagination, in particular, is crucial to James's ethical thought. One striking feature of his own writing is its imaginative depth and the degree to which he prioritizes igniting the imaginations of his readers and listeners by intricately setting the stage of his lectures with personal details of place and time. The intimate style of his prose leads, at times, to exaggerations and generalizations. But more often than not, it allows his readers to envision a scene in which they become implicated as fellow thinkers and actors. In the process, his readers practice an imaginative engagement crucial for disrupting entrenched patterns of belief. The ability to imagine things otherwise, to see beyond the limits of one's own narrow range of concerns, is tied to a deeper, more substantial form of ethical vision that James elaborates in “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings.” We naturally see things through the lens of our own lives, but we have the potential to expand our lives in the same way that we have the potential to cultivate new habits. James's own radical empiricism is a way of seeing the complex interconnectivity of things-their pluralistic and chaotic overlapping. Cultivating such a vision entails more than the textbook examination of different forms of life. It requires entanglements in the thicket of new experiences, particularly those experiences that challenge or undercut one's sure footing and safely guarded beliefs, an exposure to what Cora Diamond names “difficult realities”-“a sense of being shouldered out from our ways of thinking and speaking by a torment of reality.” In circumstances where ideals are challenged by an unfamiliar, unforeseen interruption, James (1978, 658) writes, “Your imagination is extended.” Elsewhere he explicitly links an extension of imagination to what he calls “the highest ethical life,” which “consists at all times in the breaking of rules which have grown too narrow for the actual case” (625).

Human beings are constitutionally blind to the significance of other lives, but perhaps especially to lives lived beyond the familiar intellectual threshold-the lives of animals, the natural world, infants, children, the mute, or the cognitively impaired. The habituated mind tends to organize itself around similar examples of itself-own seeking own. This means that we risk growing into increasingly fixed states regulated by intellectual aims and practical pursuits, living farther afield from what James (1978, 644) called “this mysterious sensorial life, with its irrationality, if so you like to call it, but its vigilance and its supreme felicity.” Slave to habit, we are rendered incrementally blind and deaf to the visions and calls of creatures who differ from us in their shapes, voices, and patterns of behaviors.

If this is the course of life-a gradual submission to habit engrained in the biological makeup of our bodies-then how does one retain a touch of youth and animality that might keep one open to the wider world? James argues forcibly for travel and reading, but Annie Payson Call had more explicit recommendations in Power Through Repose, which was first published in serial form in the Ladies' Home Journal. James wrote an enthusiastic review of Call's book in 1891, and he borrowed heavily from her thinking as he drafted “The Gospel of Relaxation.” In the middle of his talk, he references Call's work explicitly, singling her book out for its “radical and general gospel of relaxation” and urging that it “ought to be in the hands of every teacher and student in America of either sex” (James 1983, 126). Foremost, Call advocated spending time with babies and young children so that one might learn from and emulate their physical flexibility. In chapter 11, “The Child as an Ideal,” she elaborates,


In play, we find the same freedom. When one idea is being executed, every other is excluded. [Children] do not think dolls while they roll hoop! They do not think of work while they play. Examine and see how we do both. The baby of one year, sitting on the shore burying his fat hand in the soft warm sand, is for the time being alive only to its warmth and softness, with a dim consciousness of the air and color about him. If we could engross ourselves as fully and with as simple a pleasure, we should know far more of the possible power of our minds for both work and rest. (Call 1920, 90)

<end ext>

Call suggests myriad strategies for a more conscious immersion in the here and now, coupled with a willful forgetting of future prospects and outcomes. Her advice to women is to be present in their own lives and in the lives of their children, for whom they are not only or merely caretakers. In Call's descriptions, motherhood becomes a stage of radical experimentation and discovery, with mothers and their infants interacting as fellow adventurers, playmates, scientists, explorers, and artists. The physical flexibility of the infant becomes a catalyst for the mother's own psychophysical expansion. Call devotes chapter 15 of her text to “artistic considerations,” recommending daily immersion in some artistic practice as a means of relaxation, the cultivation of a “light touch,” and the expansion of imagination (1920, 145).

Call's writings deserve their own sustained study, which goes beyond what I can do here. For the present purposes, it is enough to note that James adopts much from her descriptions, without, however, stressing infancy, artistic practice, and motherhood in the same degree, thereby omitting a critical component of Call's thinking about women's unique experiences. Call's writings, intended for a popular audience, inevitably reached and spoke to a wider group of women, particularly those at home rearing children. Her work helps us underscore the feminist implications of the “gospel of relaxation,” encouraging us to remember the relative rarity of a classroom of women in a university in 1895 and to reflect on a typical philosophy classroom or department today, in 2015. Call highlights and dignifies the sphere of the family and the idea of the home as an original school. Her descriptions of infancy and the adult's potential to learn from the infant give urgency and a special priority to the chapter of life in which one cares for a baby-traditionally and still largely the work of women, particularly in the first year of life. Her writings also foreshadow Melanie Klein's focus on young children and their varying capacities for creative play.

Most of us in America (and particularly in academia) stand in desperate need of more physical exertion as well as more exertions of imagination (see, for example, Wippman 2012). We could also use more immersion in the lives of nonverbal beings-babies and other animals. As Call stresses, they might be the best (and perhaps only) teachers of how to genuinely play and how to relax. James asks us to think about how we might engender imaginative capacities in ourselves and in others. He wonders specifically about the structures of academia and the degree to which universities actively discourage imaginative growth. He asks us to break out of our routines and to model the behaviors we hope to see reflected in the world at large. He also reminds us that cultivating imagination, flexibility, tolerance, and openness will be harder later in life. It will also be harder to the degree that physical mobility is limited or compromised. Yet we are not without hope-even if we are biologically beyond the window of optimal plasticity or imprisoned, physically or mentally. James always returns to the incremental act: standing up, getting out the door. These may not, by themselves, be transformative. But together and over time they sketch the parameters of our future selves, which widen and change with each new step.

James's pluriverse is a space of decentered subjectivity-a place in which subjects remake themselves and are remade in light of new experiences. There is something prescient and refreshing in James's optimism about the human being's capacities to inscribe himself or herself in original ways into the ever-shifting stream of life, to be more tolerant, more open, and more capable of surprise. In addition to the existential themes of anxiety, freedom, imagination, and embodiment that James explores, there are significant feminist implications to his ideas, insofar as they foreshadow the postmodern deconstruction of identity and set the stage for the idea that subjectivity is something in the making and never entirely made. The women James addressed in 1895 were embarking on their higher education-their lives ahead of them. James encouraged them in their multiple pursuits and multiple beings, entreating them to live more free, creative lives. The possibilities for women being more than one thing, maintaining multiple paths of devotion and cultivating multiple centers of gravity, have historically been more complex and fraught than James acknowledged or could foresee. Still, “The Gospel of Relaxation” resonates in America more than a century later as a diagnosis of a culture lacking adequate spiritual and physical hygiene, a culture committed to narrow paradigms of professionalization and success, a culture fostering an educational system that largely ignores or subverts the creative dimensions of play, and a culture in which women, among others, still struggle for freedom and equality.




<CT>James and Feminist Philosophy of Emotion

<CA>Shannon Sullivan


The bodily sounding-board is at work . . . far more than we usually suppose.

-William James, The Principles of Psychology

The traffic between the biological and the social is two-way; the social or psychosocial actually gets into the flesh and is apparent in our affective and hormonal dispositions.

-Teresa Brennan, The Transmission of Affect

<end epi>

What value does William James's nineteenth-century account of emotion have for contemporary feminist philosophy, and how can contemporary feminism bring out the best in James's account? These are the questions that will guide this chapter, and they follow in the wake of important feminist work in the twentieth century that challenges both the sharp opposition of emotion and reason and the idea that emotions are meaningless and/or trivial (see, for example, Frye 1983; Jaggar 1989; Spelman 1989). Feminist philosophy has argued successfully for the epistemic importance of emotion and affect, considering them to be important sources of knowledge about the world. Different groups of people tend to be allowed and/or forbidden to experience different emotions, anger in particular. Who is permitted to feel angry? When? Where? With whom? And about what? As feminists have demonstrated, the answers to these questions can tell us a great deal about gendered, raced, and other hierarchies pervading a culture or society.

As it has made its case for the epistemic significance of emotion, feminist philosophy often has drawn on cognitivist theory, and thus my suggestion that James can be helpful to a feminist philosophy of emotion might seem strange. While James (in)famously equates emotions with feelings, contemporary cognitivism insists that emotions and feelings are not the same thing, even if feeling can be a contingent component of emotion (Prinz 2005, 9). As Jesse Prinz has noted, when it comes to emotion, “the debate between [defenders of cognitive theories] and the Jamesians is old and enduring” (21). Thus, at a quick glance, cognitive and Jamesian accounts of emotions might seem diametrically opposed, putting James and feminism hopelessly at odds with each other on the subject of emotion.

But the story is far more complicated than this quick glance admits. As I will demonstrate, James's theory of emotion helps expose and challenge dismissals of the body that continue to function in many cognitivist accounts of emotion, and in that way his pragmatism can be very useful to feminist philosophy. In particular, James can help feminists fully appreciate the role of physiology in emotion without reducing emotions to something meaningless or dismissing emotions' epistemological value. In turn, feminist philosophy can bring out the interpersonal, transactional dimensions of emotion that are underdeveloped in James's account. The upshot of combining James and feminist philosophy will be an enriched account of the importance of emotion that undercuts invidious dichotomies between body and mind, individual and environment, and the biological and the social.

<1>Feminist Philosophies of Emotion

As Elizabeth Spelman (1989, 265) explains, early positivist accounts of emotion considered emotions to be “dumb,” in that they supposedly are irrational or a-rational outbursts that have nothing meaningful to say, and this made it somewhat “dumb,” or stupid, for philosophers or anyone else to pay them much attention (see also Jaggar 1989, 148-49). Along with other feminists such as Marilyn Frye and Alison Jaggar, Spelman (1989) turns to cognitivist theories of emotion to develop a feminist-friendly alternative to the “dumb view.” Cognitivist theories hold that emotions have cognitive content: they manifest beliefs or judgments. Emotions also are intentional: they are about some object or situation, and thus they are one way in which human beings project themselves into the world. On a cognitivist view, we also could say that emotions make a claim to knowledge. The claim might turn out to be wrong, but it is not a meaningless outburst. When a person is angry, for example, she is angry about something that has happened in the world. She is judging, or making a knowledge claim, that something wrong has occurred. On a cognitivist account, her claim demands uptake even if one ultimately disagrees with the judgment it makes. The claim and thus the emotion demand that they be taken seriously as a plausible way of understanding the world. This is also to say that the person feeling the emotion implicitly asserts that she is a credible individual whose worldview should be taken seriously.

It's not hard to understand why cognitive theories of emotion would appeal to feminists. Emotions long have been associated with women and the feminine, and the dismissal of one has been tightly bound up with the dismissal of the other. To argue that emotions are cognitively and epistemologically important is to allow that the realm of the feminine can be cognitively and epistemologically significant as well. It is also to take an important step in the dismantling of sharp dichotomies between reason and emotion. As a vehicle for gaining knowledge and making claims about the world, emotion is very similar to reason. Emotions often follow a particular logic, just as rationality can have different emotional overtones. Rather than being opposed, emotion and reason can be considered complementary modes of transacting with/in the world. They are related, compatible ways of gaining knowledge and, more generally, undergoing experience.

Without disagreeing that cognitive approaches to emotions are superior to the “dumb view,” I want to press feminist philosophy to develop a richer account of the embodied physiology of emotion than cognitivism allows. In particular, I am concerned that cognitive approaches to emotion continue to operate with a mind-body dualism that implicitly undercuts any authority granted to emotion. Cognitive accounts tend to explain emotions as having an affective component and a cognitive component; the affective component feels (e.g., stomach qualms and clammy hands), and the cognitive component identifies what the feeling is (e.g., anxiety) (Jaggar 1989, 149). The cognitive component tends to take center stage, however, shoving the affective side of emotion to the margins and failing to explain how the affective and cognitive components are related. As Alison Jaggar argues, the result is highly problematic: “Insofar as [cognitive accounts of emotion] prioritize the intellectual over the feeling aspects, they reinforce the traditional western preference for mind over body” (150). On a cognitivist account, bodily feelings are still dumb, and a non-bodily intellect has all the smarts.

Feminists need to be cautious that a bias against bodily feelings does not sneak back into their accounts of emotion via cognitivism. There are small signs of this, for example, even in Jaggar's excellent work on outlaw emotions, which “excludes as genuine emotions both automatic physical responses and nonintentional sensations, such as hunger pangs” (1989, 148). If feminists fully reckon with the embodiment of emotion, however, they can and should consider automatic physical responses and sensations, including hunger pangs, to be legitimate instances of emotion. (I will return later to these examples.) Feminists need a more robust account of the role that physiology plays in emotional transactions with the world than cognitivism can provide, and it is on this point that James can be of immense value to feminist philosophy. His philosophy of emotion provides an attractive alternative to both cognitivism and positivism, giving bodily feelings and physical responses center stage without construing the body as dumb.

<1>James's Theory of Emotion

In The Principles of Psychology (1950), James notoriously claimed that the popular notion that emotions cause bodily changes gets things backward. According to him, the order is precisely the reverse: bodily changes cause emotions. His theory is that “the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact,” which means that nothing intervenes between a stimulating object or situation in the world and a person's bodily response to it (1950, 449). Thus, we tremble upon seeing a bear while hiking in the forest and then feel afraid. We don't first feel something mental, called fear, and then begin to tremble. A person's stomach flutters and her intestines cramp, and so she feels anxious prior to taking an important exam. She doesn't first experience mental anxiety about the exam and then get butterflies in her stomach. Put as succinctly as possible, James claims that we are sad because we cry, not crying because we are sad.

James acknowledges that his theory will seem counterintuitive to many people, especially when stated so crudely. Let's return to the example of crying. Tears come out the eyes of my young daughter all the time, and sometimes (I discover after some difficulty) they are not tears of sadness, as I had assumed, but tears of anger (likely because of something her older sister said). What sense can one make of the claim that my daughter's anger came after her tears? Doesn't the emotion of anger prompt her physiological response of crying? Why else would she be crying? Moreover, sometimes her tears are tears of sadness after all. If crying causes the emotion, how do we explain why crying sometimes causes sadness and other times causes anger? The different emotions that can be felt when crying would seem to prove that the physiological event cannot be the cause of the emotion.

James provides convincing replies to all of these objections and more, but before I dive into their detail, I must underscore what James calls “the vital point” of his theory. It is this: “If we fancy some strong emotion, and then try to abstract from our consciousness of it all the feelings of its bodily symptoms, we find we have nothing left behind, no 'mind-stuff' out of which the emotion can be constituted, and that a cold and neutral state of intellectual perception is all that remains” (1950, 451; emphasis in original). The crux of James's theory, in fact, does not concern causation at all. It is that emotion is necessarily, inevitably, and entirely a bodily phenomenon. Emotions are not mental, as James's delightful dismissal of “mind-stuff” insists, and they cannot be disassociated from their physiological sensations. Moreover, insisting on the bodily nature of emotions does not devalue or debase them. James is adamant on this point, which is just as vital as his rejection of emotional mind-stuff. As he explains, emotions “carry their own inner measure of worth with them; and it is just as logical to use the present [Jamesian] theory of emotions for proving that sensational processes need not be vile and material, as to use their vileness and materiality as a proof that such a theory cannot be true” (453). At its heart, James's theory of emotion challenges hierarchies of mind over body that plague many accounts of emotion and, indeed, the field of philosophy as a whole. For James, insisting on the bodily nature of emotions does not debase or trivialize them, because the body is neither base nor trivial. As bodily phenomena, emotions come equipped with an inner measure of worth. They can gauge the value and status of objects in the world in their own right. As physiological, in other words, emotions are not at all dumb. They can be very smart.

This vital point demonstrates why James's self-described “crude” explanations of emotion evoking causation are somewhat misleading. James himself occasionally uses such language, as when he claims that “the general causes of the emotions are indubitably physiological” and “each emotion is the resultant of a sum of elements [organic changes], and each element is caused by a physiological process” (1950, 449, 453). But a reductionist reading of James should be resisted. The main point of his theory is not to establish which comes first-the bodily sensation or the emotion. It is to insist that nothing non-bodily, no “mind-stuff,” comes between them. The language of causation invokes a kind of misplaced dualism in which there are bodily sensations and emotions, and the task is to determine which precedes the other. In contrast, James's theory of emotion is more accurately considered a form of monism: bodily changes and emotions are just two ways of describing, or we could even say experiencing, the same situation or event. James supports this view when he claims, in contrast to the view that emotion is a “mental affection,” that “our feeling of the same [bodily] changes as they occur IS the emotion” (449; emphasis in original). James capitalizes the “is” to underscore the identity of bodily changes and emotion. There is no issue of temporal order between them. Again James asserts, “The emotion here [in the case of “morbid fear”] is nothing but the feeling of a bodily state, and it has a purely bodily cause” (459). Interestingly, James here uses causal language immediately after insisting on the identity of emotion and a bodily state, indicating that there is no tension between these two views on his account. The question of emotion's cause is that of whether emotion is a bodily or mental phenomenon. And James's answer is consistent and clear: something happens in the world that catches our attention, and we directly undergo bodily changes in response that, when felt, are emotions. Period. There is no mental perception of the event needed to generate an emotion that then triggers a bodily response to the event.

On James's account, the “exciting object” or event in the world can be ideal, imagined, and/or anticipated. It need not have occurred, or occurred yet, or it could be an event that is similar to something that happened in the past. For example, even before a person receives a painful shot in the arm, she can feel fearful about the event, recalling the pain she felt the last time she got a shot. The not-yet-happened quality of the upcoming shot does not change the physiological basis of emotional responses to it, however. One can anticipate or even imagine a situation, and that mental event can trigger bodily reactions (such as a clenched gut and tense shoulders at the thought of going to the doctor) that are felt as emotions (in this case, of anxiety and fear).

James furthermore speaks of anticipating not just events, but also emotions themselves. He gives the example of a person (apparently James himself) who once fainted at the sight of blood and then later felt anxious watching the preparations for a bloody surgical operation. It might seem in this case that the emotion (of anxiety) precedes bodily symptoms of a future fainting spell (plummeting blood pressure, dizziness, and so forth), but James argues that the situation instead is one of anticipating bodily symptoms by recalling them from the past, which helps bring on feelings of anxiety in the present. The person who once fainted and now stares at the surgical knives “anticipates certain feelings [e.g., of dizziness] and the anticipation precipitates their arrival” (1950, 458). Anxiety can beget anxiety, in other words, but this doesn't make it (or any other emotion) a piece of mental stuff. Even in their ideality-their anticipation and recollection-emotions can't be separated from actual physiological changes, because they are just the feeling of those changes.

Properly speaking, then, my daughter's anger at her older sister didn't come after she began crying, but this is not to say that her anger preceded her tears. Both causal accounts of the situation are misleading, although James would add that the first one is superior to the second, if one insists on using causal language. On James's fully considered account, my daughter's anger is her bodily response of crying (at the “exciting object” of her sister's snub) when that bodily response is felt. Her tears and her anger are part of an organic whole, an embodied organism's transaction with the world, not separate phenomena that we have to puzzle over to put back together in the correct sequence. But what, then, about tears of sadness? If bodily changes and emotions are just the same thing, how do we explain different emotions, such as anger and sadness, as felt experiences of the same bodily phenomenon, such as crying?

The answer is that it is not the same bodily phenomenon. Of course, on some gross level, it is the same: whether they are tears of anger or sadness, my daughter is crying. But why do we assume that all crying is the same? If the felt emotions of crying are different-anger versus sadness (and there are many others, such as frustration and even joy, that we could add to the list)-then why not hypothesize that the bodily changes being experienced are subtly, or even not so subtly, different too? Invoking his earlier accounts of movement and instinct in The Principles of Psychology, James takes the bull by the horns and argues that “the changes [in the body excited by objects] are so indefinitely numerous and subtle that the entire organism may be called a sounding-board. . . . The various permutations and combinations of which these organic activities are susceptible make it abstractly possible that no shade of emotion, however slight, should be without a bodily reverberation as unique, when taken in its totality, as is the [emotion] itself.” This helps explain why it is so difficult to imitate or reproduce an emotion on demand, apart from a genuine instance of its exciting object. There are many physiological changes and responses to the world that compose any particular emotion, and in addition to their large number and complex interrelations, most of those changes are not under our conscious control. “We may catch the trick with the voluntary muscles,” as James explains, “but fail with the skin, glands, heart, and other viscera” (1950, 450). As James also testifies in the epigraph above, our entire physiological being is like a sophisticated sounding board that quivers and vibrates in response to the world in innumerous ways. The shades of difference in an organism's reverberations are what give rise to a vast number of emotional possibilities, each with its own unique physiological stamp.

Again, at a gross level, this uniqueness might not be obvious. I sometimes can tell the difference between my daughter's tears of sadness and her tears of anger, but most of the time they are indistinguishable to my eye and ear. But if we obtained just a little more sophisticated physiological data, we might find that there are differences in, for example, her heart rate, her blood pressure, or her adrenaline output when she cries tears of anger versus those of sadness. Those complex bundles of related but slightly different physiological phenomena would be felt and experienced as different sorts of tears.

To my knowledge, the scientific data to fully support James's “abstract possibility” is not (yet) available, but enough is known about human tears to make his hypothesis highly plausible. For example, tears contain a variety of substances, such as proteins, enzymes, lipids, metabolites, and electrolytes, and the specific chemical makeup of nonemotional tears (e.g., reflexive tearing to clear debris from the eye) is different from emotional tears (Gelstein et al. 2011, 226-27). This last fact helps explain why a person doesn't typically feel sad or angry when she cries to flush an eyelash out of her eye. Thus, it's not that James was wrong and emotions must precede bodily changes, such as crying. It is rather that James appears to have been right in ways that were far ahead of his time: different physiological (chemical) combinations can and do feel different to an organism. A chemical combination of these proteins and those hormones, for example, is emotionally felt by the organism as different from the combination of these other proteins and those other hormones. (And, indeed, the feeling of different chemical combinations in tears isn't necessarily restricted to the organism who is crying. It also can be physiologically experienced by other people. I will return to this issue below.)

<1>Distinguishing Emotion and Feeling

I have been careful to this point to describe emotion as the feeling of physiological changes, consistent with James's claim that all emotions are (consciously) felt. James (1950, 451) makes this claim as strongly as possible, with his characteristic italics and capitalization: “Every one of the bodily changes, whatsoever it be, is FELT, acutely or obscurely, the moment it occurs. . . . Every change that occurs must be felt” (emphasis in original). But we need now to complicate James's identification of emotion with feeling. In one respect, as we have seen, this identification is entirely welcome because it insists that emotion is fundamentally physiological. But in another respect, the identification of emotion and feeling is problematic because it oversimplifies emotions by neglecting emotions that are not felt. We should distinguish two types of unfelt emotions: nonconscious emotions, which occur without our noticing them but can fairly easily be brought to conscious attention; and unconscious emotions, which tend to be tangled up in processes of repression, actively resisting conscious awareness, because they are too personally painful or socially unacceptable to consciously acknowledge. Nonconscious and unconscious emotions are physiological, but if feeling always and necessarily involves conscious awareness, then they are not necessarily felt.

James acknowledges that people often don't pay attention to the subtleties of their various bodily feelings, but he argues that if a person slows down enough to give them some attention, she will be surprised at how much emotional information about herself she can receive. As James says, “It would be perhaps too much to expect [a person] to arrest the tide of any strong gust of passion for the sake of any such curious analysis as this; but he [or she] can observe more tranquil states. . . . [And] it is surprising what little [bodily] items give accent to these complexes of sensibility. When worried by any slight trouble, one may find that the focus of one's bodily consciousness is the contraction, often quite inconsiderable, of the eyes and brows . . . and so on for as many more instances as might be named.” We might not be able to consciously control all of our bodily changes and states, but we can profitably attune ourselves to them and the way that “our whole cubic capacity is sensibly alive” (1950, 451).

No doubt James is right that much can be learned from greater conscious awareness of one's bodily changes. His work on emotion has been hailed as foreshadowing contemporary techniques of homeostatic regulation, such as biofeedback, in which a person uses on-the-spot physiological information (such as heart rate) to modify both her emotional and biological states (Kaag 2009, 438-39). But James is wrong that all emotions are or can be felt. As Jesse Prinz (2005, 17) argues, there is both anecdotal and experimental evidence for nonconscious emotions (see also Prinz 2006). He gives the example of being awakened in the night by the sound of shattering glass. You listen hard to hear where it came from while reaching under your bed for a baseball bat . . . and then you hear your cat meow and realize that she knocked a water glass off the table. Then, and only then, do you realize that your heart is racing and your body was tense but now is beginning to relax. You were afraid, but in the midst of your adrenaline-surged focus on the cause of the breaking glass, you didn't notice what you were feeling. You only became aware of your feeling of fear after the exciting event (as James would call it) passed.

James might reply that this merely is an example of one of those strong gusts of passions that a person can't be expected to arrest in order to focus on her bodily sensations. In principle, however, it could be done, and the emotions could be felt at the time they were experienced. I think James is right, but I do not think he so easily can account for experimental evidence that emotions can impact a person's behavior without her realizing what she is feeling. In a recent social psychology study, for example, subjects were presented with pictures of faces that were neutral, angry, or happy, but the pictures were presented too rapidly for the subjects to be consciously aware of what they had seen. When they subsequently were given a fruity drink and asked about the drink and their feelings, subjects who had seen the angry face and those who had seen the happy face reported being in the same mood as one another. They were statistically indistinguishable in terms of their consciously felt moods. The subjects who had seen angry faces, however, drank less of the beverage and ranked it as less appetizing than the subjects who had seen happy faces. The behavior and judgment of the subjects seem to have been impacted by their own emotional states, positive in one case and negative in another, but in both cases completely unawares. Studies such as these strongly suggest that unfelt emotions can be part of a person's self, impacting her life without her being aware of it.

Prinz uses the term “unconscious” to describe unfelt emotions, but he does not intend the term in its psychoanalytic sense, nor does he address instances of repressed emotion. However, some unfelt emotions actively resist a person's conscious attempts to identify and change or eliminate them, and those emotions alone warrant the description “unconscious.” Take the example of one of Sigmund Freud's earliest patients, Fraulein Elizabeth Von R., who was erotically attracted to her brother-in-law (Breuer and Freud 1957, 135-81). Out of love for her sister and a strong sense of conventional morality, Elizabeth did not act on her desire. Moreover, she was not even able to consciously acknowledge it (even though Freud-and perhaps others?-became aware of it). Her erotic feelings did not disappear, however; they manifested themselves in physical pain in her thigh that was medically inexplicable. It was as if being consciously aware of her painful thigh was much easier than being consciously aware of her forbidden emotions, and so Elizabeth chose the former. As Freud explains, if Elizabeth had become conscious of her erotic love for her brother-in-law, “she would also inevitably become conscious of the contradiction between those feelings and her moral ideas and would have experienced mental torment. . . . She had no recollection of any such sufferings; she had avoided them. It followed that her feelings themselves did not become clear to her. . . . Her love for her brother-in-law was present in her consciousness like a foreign body, without having entered into relationship with the rest of her ideational life” (165). As Elizabeth's case suggests, the isolation of unconscious emotions from conscious awareness isn't an accident or oversight, as if they were overlooked but easily could be felt if a person just turns her attention to them. Unconscious emotions can remain completely foreign to a person's conscious life, as Elizabeth's forbidden love apparently did. This is not a principled claim that unconscious emotions can never be felt. The goal of psychoanalytic theory, after all, is to bring unconscious emotions (and beliefs) to conscious awareness so that the pain and disruption they are causing can be ameliorated. But in practice, unconscious emotions can be thoroughly inaccessible to conscious awareness in ways that nonconscious emotions are not.

With this slight emendation of James, we can say that emotion should not be identified with feeling, but this is not because unfelt emotions are some kind of non-bodily mind-stuff. And it also is not contra cognitivism, because the feeling component of emotions is cognitively insignificant. James was right both to elevate the status of bodily feelings and to argue that all emotions are bodily, but not to insist that all bodily states are consciously felt. Some bodily states are nonconscious, and some even actively resist conscious awareness and thus are unconscious. All emotions, however, have epistemological value because whether consciously felt or not, they all say something about a person's relationship to and engagement with the world. The body is never dumb, on James's account, and thus to identify emotion with physiological changes and conditions does not trivialize or demean it. In many ways, this is the most significant contribution that James can make to a feminist philosophy of emotion: he shows us how to embrace physiology as an important source of affective knowledge.

<1>The Sociality of Emotion

But does James's embrace of physiology in turn cause a serious problem for his account, namely that of proposing an atomistic view of the individual? This would be an individual-albeit embodied in James's case-who supposedly is sealed off from the world around her, as if one could understand first the affective physiology of the individual and then secondarily ask how the individual's emotions either impacted or were changed by the world. John Dewey (1984, 157) had precisely this concern, objecting in part to James's first major book on the grounds that “the point of view [in The Principles of Psychology] remained that of a realm of consciousness set off by itself.” In contrast to Dewey, James famously focused on the value and uniqueness of the individual throughout his career. And there are passages in James's chapter in Principles, on emotion in particular, that sound as if the individual and her emotions are contained fundamentally within the self. When contrasting emotion with the instincts, for example, James (1950, 442) claims that even though they shade into each other, “emotions . . . fall short of instincts in that the emotional reaction usually terminates in the subject's own body, whilst the instinctive reaction is apt to go farther and enter into practical relations with the exciting object.” And when James discusses the “moral education” of how to eliminate unwanted and/or undesirable emotions, his instructions to the reader tend to be asocial and nontransactional, remaining firmly in the realm of willing oneself to change one's bodily comportment. As James recommends, “We must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we prefer to cultivate. . . . Smooth the brow, brighten the eye, contract the dorsal rather than the ventral aspect of the frame, and speak in a major key, pass the genial compliment, and your heart must be frigid indeed if it do not gradually thaw!” (463).

James clearly is an individualist, but I won't try to establish here whether his individualism is atomistic. What I wish to underscore instead is that his individualism-whatever its nature-and his emphasis on physiology are not the same thing. They can be peeled apart, and one can give physiology pride of place in an account of emotion (and ontology more generally) without supporting atomistic individualism. While I don't believe that a transactional account of the physiology of emotion necessarily conflicts with James's Principles of Psychology, the transactional aspects of both physiology and emotion need strengthening in his work. Bolstering James's philosophy of emotion with arguments concerning the constitutive emotional economy between people will provide the best possible account of emotion for feminist purposes.

Let me return to the section of James's recommendation regarding moral education in which he urges a depressed person not only to contract or relax certain muscles, but also to “pass the genial compliment.” Here, if only briefly, James appreciates that emotions are not sealed up within an individual, but can arise from engagement with the social environment. This doesn't mean that James is qualifying or backing away from a physiological understanding of emotion. It means instead that the physiological and the social are co-constituted in complex and dynamic ways. James suggests that saying something kind to a friend changes your relationship with the social world in ways that can change your bodily condition and thus also your emotional state. How then might this complex relationship work?

James is fairly silent in response to this question, but at least he can point us in one helpful direction. As he argued for the bodily nature of emotion, James was more correct than he realized when he claimed, “If I were to become corporeally anaesthetic, I should be excluded from the life of the affections” (1950, 452-53). James means that if a person didn't experience bodily changes and feelings-as if she were disembodied-then that person wouldn't be able to experience emotion. But the life of the affections that this mythically disembodied person would miss out on is far greater than merely one's own. It also would be the life of affections more generally, including the ability to read other people's emotions.

We can find support for this idea in a recent controlled study of the effects of Botox, which greatly reduces the ability of facial muscles to move, hence eliminating wrinkles (Neal and Chartrand 2011). People in the study who used Botox suffered an impaired ability to recognize other people's facial emotions, as compared to another group who underwent a cosmetic procedure (using a dermal filler) that didn't affect muscular movement. On the flip side, in the second part of the study, people who had a resistant gel applied to their facial skin (similar to a facial mask) experienced an amplified ability to read and understand the facial emotions of other people. The latter group was able to move their facial muscles, but to do so they had to contract their muscles in an exaggerated way to combat the resistance of the dried gel. What is especially significant about this study is that the methods it used to restrict muscular movement did not alter the participants' central nervous system. For example, they did not involve simultaneous tasks that occupied a person's attention; in that case, a person's increased cognitive load would have explained why she had trouble reading another person's face. It was rather the physical movement of muscles, or lack thereof, that correlated with a person's increased or reduced ability to understand other people's facial emotions.

The methods used in this study underscore the Jamesian claim that emotion is bodily motion, and they also help James explain why paying someone a compliment with a genial expression on one's face might alleviate depression: the world becomes less alienating and more of a place of communication and community with others. Move your facial muscles-the more vigorously the better-and not only will you amplify your own emotional life, but you also will be better able to understand the emotional world around you. Freeze or eliminate your facial muscular contractions, and not only will you dampen many of your own emotions, but you also will isolate yourself from others by losing the ability to relate to them.

Teresa Brennan's notion of the transmission of affect offers another avenue for understanding in Jamesian fashion the emotional economy that circulates between people. As Brennan comments on James's account of emotion, she deftly pushes it beyond its narrow focus on the physiological without undermining the role of the body in emotional experience. In her words, “the affect might, indeed, be the passive perception of a bodily motion (as William James surmised), but this need not mean the motion caused the affect, or the affect the motion. In some cases both affect and motion (hormones in these cases [that Brennan discussed earlier]) are responding to a third factor altogether: the social environment, whose air can be thick with anxiety-provoking pheromones (or 'human chemosignals,' to use the preferred term)” (2004, 77). Like James, Brennan insists that the important issue on the table is not whether bodily changes cause emotions or vice versa. But improving upon James, Brennan explicitly redirects the issue to more than just the bodily nature of emotions. Agreeing that emotions are bodily, she focuses on the way in which they are generated by a social environment, just as a person's physiological (and thus emotional) state helps generate a particular social, psychological atmosphere. The traffic between the physiological and the social runs two ways, as Brennan asserts in the epigraph above, which means that the social gets into the flesh of our bodies and that our flesh helps constitute the atmosphere of the social world.

The transactional nature of the social and biological also means that one person's physiology can get into the physiology of another person via emotional pathways. Brennan (2004, 3) calls this the transmission of affect: “The emotions or affects of one person, and the enhancing or depressing energies these affects entail, can enter into another [person]” (see also Christakis and Fowler 2009). For example, a friend's sadness can make you sad too, just as her joy can make you very happy. The transmission of affects doesn't necessarily produce the same affect in the one who receives it, however. A person's joy can make you feel resentful of her happiness and good fortune. Or a family member's anger can make you depressed and withdrawn. The key point in all these examples is that affective transmission is not the transmission of mental attitudes or mind-stuff. We might say that it is the transmission of “body-stuff”: one person's bodily state is transmitted to another person's flesh, altering most directly the receiving person's physiology (and then indirectly the original person's physiology as well, through the resulting bodily changes in the receiving person, which become part of the social environment that feeds back into the original person).

But what exactly is this body-stuff that is being transmitted? What is the physiological mechanism by which one person's flesh could affectively enter and alter another person's flesh in their mundane, everyday interactions? One possible answer is found in the phenomenon of entrainment. Often referred to as chemical or electrical, entrainment occurs when “one person's or one group's nervous and hormonal systems are brought into alignment with another's” (Brennan 2004, 9). Nervous entrainment tends to operate via sight, touch, and hearing, as well as bodily movements, especially those that are rhythmic (70; see also Van der Kolk 2014, 58-59). Line dancing offers an excellent example of nervous entrainment, as does a crowd's doing the wave in a large sports stadium. These examples illustrate how nervous entrainment can be compatible with conscious purpose and guidance (Brennan 2004, 70). The alignment of one's bodily gestures and muscular contractions with those of other people can be a product of deliberate, thoughtful attempts to achieve synchronization.

Hormonal/chemical entrainment, in contrast, almost always happens nonconsciously or unconsciously, and according to Brennan (2004, 9-11), it is one of the primary vehicles for affective transmission, via the sense of smell and pheromones in particular. Pheromones are “compounds that regulate a specific neuroendocrine mechanism in other people without being consciously detected as odours” (Stern and McClintock 1998, 177). A popular example of hormonal/chemical entrainment via pheromones within human circles is the alignment of menstrual cycles in a group of girls or women when they live together (McClintock 1971, 244-45). While the methodology of the initial research that made this claim has been criticized strongly, its larger point concerning the existence of hormonal entrainment has been supported in subsequent empirical studies. Evidence exists that odorless compounds taken from the armpits of women in the late phase of their menstrual cycles sped up the production of certain hormones and shortened the menstrual cycles of other women who sniffed them, while samples taken from the same women during ovulation delayed the production of those hormones in other women and thus lengthened their menstrual cycles (Stern and McClintock 1998, 177). Another, less controversial example of pheromonal influence between human beings is provided by mother-newborn interactions. Since the early 2000s, “it [has become] increasingly clear that pheromone-like chemicals probably play a role in offspring identification and mother recognition,” via chemicals excreted around the mother's nipple-areola area during and shortly after giving birth. Newborn babies will wriggle toward their mother's breast to attempt to nurse, and scientists hypothesize that women's different olfactory patterns help newborns distinguish their mother from other individuals (Vaglio 2009, 279).

Sight and hearing also can contribute to chemical entrainment, but the drawback to focusing on them is that they tend to be treated as senses possessed by atomistically separate individuals. Not so in the case of smell and pheromones. As Brennan (2004, 10) explains, “Repeatedly, we will find that sight is the preferred mechanism in explaining any form of transmission (when evidence for transmission is noted), because this sense appears to leave the boundaries of discrete individuals relatively intact. Smell and various forms of neuronal communication are not such respecters of persons.” Hormones, pheromones, and other sorts of chemosignals are material parts of a person that can waft through the air into the flesh of another person. This happens most powerfully via the nose and related neurons involved in smelling and odorless forms of olfactory perception.

The different chemosignals found in tears mentioned above further support Brennan's claims about entrainment. It's not just the case that tears of sadness, for example, have a chemical makeup distinct from that of nonemotional tears. Their distinct chemical makeup also can physiologically and emotionally impact other people in distinctive ways. In a recent study of human tears, neurobiologists demonstrated that women's emotional tears of sadness reduced testosterone levels in men (Gelstein et al. 2011, 230). They also reduced the men's sexual arousal, both self-rated and physiologically measured. The tears were collected from women who watched sad movies in isolation, and then the tears were presented to men in a separate setting. The men alternatively sniffed, on separate days, unmarked vials of either tears or standard saline, and then were asked to rate the level of sadness and degree of attractiveness of onscreen images of women's faces that were intentionally selected by the researchers to be emotionally ambiguous. The setup of this study allowed the researchers to narrow the explanatory cause of the men's evaluations of the women's faces to the chemical composition of sad tears versus, for example, their emotional reaction upon seeing and hearing a woman crying.

The emotional tears impacted the men's testosterone and sexual arousal levels even though they could not be distinguished from plain saline in terms of their odor. The overall smell, including the perceived intensity, pleasantness, and familiarity, of tears was indistinguishable from that of saline (Gelstein et al. 2011, 229). Neither the saline nor the emotional tears smelled like much of anything. Strictly speaking, then, we might say that the transmission of affect documented by the emotional-tears study is not an instance of smelling, but an instance of the transmission of pheromones. The men nonconsciously detected the sadness of the women who cried, and that “smell” altered their physiological and emotional condition.

And what about the women, we might well ask? For example, what about the impact of women's tears of sadness on other women-in general and also on their levels of sexual arousal? Or the impact of men's tears on women-again, in general and also in terms of women's libido? Reading this study with a feminist lens, these questions and a number of others follow. In particular, we could ask about the scientists' choice to study women's tears in narrow relation to men's sexual arousal (or lack thereof), as if women's sadness was significant only if and when it impacted men in unwanted ways. Because the study is silent on these issues, it has the unsettling effect of implying that sad women are to blame if men experience a low sex drive and that women should appear happy and avoid crying so that men can remain vigorously masculine. Read with a critical eye, however, the study nonetheless is valuable for its demonstration of the physiological-affective circuits that can connect people. It's not overly simple to summarize the study by saying that the flesh of sad women got into and deflated the flesh of a group of men via the chemicals “contained” in the women's tears-using scare quotes, of course, because the point is that the chemicals and women's emotions weren't contained at all. They traveled across and through people, not collapsing their emotional identities but certainly blurring the boundaries between them.

Finally, let me return to Jaggar's exclusion of hunger pangs and other automatic physical responses and (seemingly) nonintentional sensations from the realm of emotion to argue that even in this most challenging case, we can find not only affect but also its possible transmission between people. Perhaps most simply, hunger pangs can be defined as a bodily change that signals a need for nutrition. But hunger just as briefly, if not simply, could be defined as a bodily change that signals a desire for food. Being hungry does not necessarily mean that one's body lacks calories, and people can be hungry for a variety of reasons, as the term “desire” hints. Consider a homesick college student who walks past a bakery and instantly experiences hunger pangs when she smells dinner rolls just like the ones her mother or father bakes at home. Her hunger is an automatic physical sensation, a physiological response to the world that she did not consciously will. She did not “intend” her hunger, in that sense, but her hunger nonetheless is intentional because it picks out a particular part of the world as meaningful to her life. (I suspect that many physiological sensations that seem not to be about anything, that is, “dumb,” turn out to be quite intentional, or “smart,” on either a nonconscious or an unconscious level.) Above all, with James, I would say that her hunger is an emotion: the physiological pang that she feels is experienced not just as a physical pain but also as a complex affective mixture of longing, sadness, and fondness.

Lack of hunger also can tell us a great deal about automatic physical sensations as emotions. In many cases, people who are severely depressed do not experience hunger and have a very difficult time drumming up the desire to eat. Their lack of hunger is not merely a physiological event. It also is a social-psychological experience in which a person lacks meaningful, emotional connections to the world. As Elizabeth Wilson (2004, 45) has argued in her neuropsychological analysis of the gut, “The struggle to eat . . . when depressed is a struggle to mediate difficult, attenuated, or lost relations to others and the outside world.” A lack of hunger can be a statement that a depressed person does not want to take in the world, and this gut-level refusal is not a metaphor but a literal socio-affective-physiological experience. In return, for a depressed person to recover a physical sense of hunger is often for her to regain an emotional life that includes engagement and caring, both for herself and for others.

Understanding hunger simultaneously as an automatic physical response and as an emotion, we can see why it might make sense to talk about its possible transmission between people. My hunger pang might not make another person feel the same physical sensation in her stomach, but it could have a significant effect on her mood and outlook on life. My hunger could be a physical manifestation of anxiety and stress, for example, and eating could be a way for me to distract myself from my worries rather than to obtain needed nourishment. In that case, I could infect those around me with my hunger-that is, with my feelings of stress-as I anxiously gulp down a doughnut to alleviate my hunger pangs. And once I have transmitted my stress to other people, they too might begin to feel a subtly clenched pain in their stomachs-perhaps not identifying it as hunger (or maybe they too will begin to have pastry craving pangs), but physiologically changed by my original bodily sensations nonetheless.


Feminist philosophy has been at the vanguard of philosophical efforts to revalue emotion by establishing its epistemological significance. Since emotions historically have been associated with the body, the efforts of feminist philosophy also have revalued and reclaimed the materiality of human existence. Perhaps because of its dependence on cognitive theory, however, feminist philosophy of emotion has not engaged sufficiently the fields of physiology and biology. It thus has missed an important opportunity to radically challenge mind-body dualisms that plague philosophical accounts of emotion.

Feminists are right to be wary of crude appeals to physiology and biology, which notoriously have been used to justify sexism and male privilege. But the results of physiological and biological research on affect need not be a reductionist view of emotions or embodiment. As James argues, a rich account of affect can and should grapple with the sounding board that is our bodies. And as Brennan demonstrates, the bodily sounding board is more complex than perhaps even James conceived. Its traffic runs not only through the biological and the social, but also across different individuals and groups of people. Emotions are nothing but bodily states and changes, but this doesn't mean that they are merely individual. They can be transpersonal, as can the affective knowledge gleaned from them. Combining James's psychology and feminist philosophy of emotion thus benefits feminists and pragmatists alike. It results in a “smart” account of emotion that fully reckons with both the interpersonal and the physiological aspects of human existence.




<CT>“A Perverse Kind of Pleasure”

<CST>James, the Body, and Women's Mystical Experience

<CA>Jeremy Carrette


The truth is, as she [Teresa of Avila] herself understood, that the value of a mystical experience is measured not according to the way in which it is subjectively felt, but according to its objective influence.

-Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

<end epi>

William James's definition of mysticism and his account of religious experience in The Varieties of Religious Experience have been foundational for later philosophical studies examining such subjects, but-somewhat surprisingly-there has been little assessment of the gendered nature of his philosophy of religion. Patricia Davis (1995) usefully opened discussion of the gendered nature of The Varieties by marking out the 36 women's narratives (out of a total of 214) and initiating some reflections on the mind-cure women and Saint Teresa of Avila, but the important gender analysis she offered never appeared to stimulate further feminist discussion of The Varieties or wider examination of the religious philosophy of the body underlying James's account of mysticism. The embodied philosophical assumptions underpinning James's reading of women's mysticism and religious experience remained hidden in a philosophical tradition that separated the conceptual debates of experience, truth, and meaning in religion from gender and the body. Given that feminist readings of religion in the postwar period have extended the critical questions of embodiment and patriarchal domination to many areas of philosophy and religion, the nature of James's reading of women's religious experience appears to constitute an odd omission. Part of the reason for the oversight, aside from the marginalization of religion within certain philosophical discussions, is the fact that James's thinking about women in The Varieties is obscured and hidden inside his descriptive framework and the dominant accounts of men's religious experience.

In this chapter, I want to explore James's philosophical attitudes toward women's bodies, exploring in particular the history of mysticism, and James's distinct gendered, Protestant reading of women's bodies. The focus on mysticism is important because, as Amy Hollywood (2002, 6) indicates, “the meaning of the woman's mystic experience-in particular her bodily experience-has always been the site of competing interpretations and claims to authority.” What is at stake in examining James's understanding of mysticism and women's experience is precisely the way he reinforces and pushes against assumptions about women's bodies and the history of Christian thought. Christianity can be seen to assert its patriarchal domination through its philosophical ordering of the body, marginalizing women in a Neoplatonic schema that positions the body and the sexual as inferior and polluted. In this sense, the subjection of women in religious history and the struggle for male authority relate to the fact that, as Foucault ([1976] 1990, 151) understood, “deployments of power are directly connected to the body.” In the history of Christian mysticism, these relations of power become evident in the ways in which women articulate religious insights through their embodied positions, and they raise vital questions about the organization of rationality, pleasure, and pain that bring James's reflections into important engagement with contemporary feminist attitudes toward the suffering body and the mystical imagination-made even more complex in the feminist debates about sadomasochism. The ordering of women's mysticism and religious experience in James's The Varieties is therefore determined by a complex history of women's bodies, conceptions of pleasure and pain, and patriarchal religious authority. By focusing on James's philosophical and religious representation of women's bodies, we are able to see how his work offers problems and potentiality for a feminist rethinking of The Varieties and women's mystical experience.

<1>Patriarchal Power, Religion, and the Women's Bodies

The feminist philosopher of religion Grace Jantzen (1995, 156) indicates that the history of mysticism reflects a “struggle for power and authority” and a “mistrust of the female body” (203). According to Jantzen's reading of the history of mysticism, women who were denied access to sacred texts found their source of power and authority in embodied states and visions. A fundamental part of the history of women's experience is the struggle for validity of their bodies and visions. It is Jantzen's contention that the recognition of a mystic is not an “innocent” judgment, but one caught in a “gender-skewed understanding of mysticism” (156). It is male ecclesiastical leaders who determine the process of validating authentic religious experience. The feminist history of religion, therefore, reveals the strategies of excluding women from positions of power and is witness to how their embodied insights are only legitimated through male leadership and power. As Simone de Beauvoir underlined in The Second Sex, “Legislators, priests, philosophers, writers, and scientists have striven to show that the subordinate position of women is willed in heaven and advantageous on earth. The religions invented by men reflect this wish for domination” ([1949] 1997, 22). Such acts of domination and the struggles of resistance, as Beauvoir explored in her chapter “The Mystic” in The Second Sex (679-87), were specifically manifested in embodied mystical experience and the female mystic attempt to “torture her flesh [in order] to have the right to claim it” (685). This correlation of Beauvoir, mysticism, and domination took on added force for Jamesian scholarship when Margaret Simons (1999, 196-98) established a Jamesian influence on Beauvoir's understanding of mysticism. Hollywood (2002, 315n26) acknowledges Simons's link between James and Beauvoir, but questions the wider framing of Beauvoir's reading of the transcendent escape of mysticism and her insufficient account of “male authorization and legitimacy” (136). Hollywood is correct to push Beauvoir's thinking, but these discussions highlight the surprising avoidance of turning the focus toward James's own account of women's mystical experience and the underlying attitude toward the body that underpins the history of mystical experience.

Applying a critical feminist philosophy of religion to James's Varieties, and to his understanding of women mystics in particular, reveals the way James inherits and reestablishes the history of judging women's experience precisely in terms of their embodied states and the validity of the body as a form of religious knowledge. Women's voices, as Jantzen's and Hollywood's work demonstrates, are constantly marked out by selections, judgments, and exclusions, and deconstructing any type of religious body requires a recognition of the excluding logics, which always rest on a philosophical attitude toward the body. My argument here is that James-unaware of the process-deploys the same tactics of truth and authority around the body that pervade the reading of women's experience throughout religious history, but with some significant resistance to one aspect of that history-the uncritical acceptance of the suffering body. James's modernity questions the extremes of suffering bodies, particularly in Catholic history, but retains the wider patriarchal logic of gendered bodies within his theory of religion.

What makes James's philosophical attitude toward women's bodies in The Varieties even more striking is the way it is layered by his distinct gendered, Protestant reading. My aim is to show how James's Protestant reading of the female body generates two distinct ways of ordering the religious body-as a “hypnoid” body and as a revelatory body-shaped in turn by James's modernist Protestant rejection of the suffering body in Christian history. The Jamesian religious body is one that provides insight and practical wisdom, and given the gendered politics of what constitutes such embodied wisdom, we find a distinct privileging of a masculine action-led philosophy behind the account of women's religious experience.

Importantly, James's reading of women's religious experience in The Varieties is determined not by a rejection of the body or women as such, but by a patriarchal epistemology-the logic of gendered domination-submission-that denies excessive embodiment as a form of religious authority. We find, therefore, that while all religious expressions, in both men and women, have a physical correlate-including the experiences of Saint Paul, Saint Teresa, Saint Francis, and George Fox-it is women, and principally Catholic women, who are seen to lose the ability to separate insight from physicality (James 1902, 35, 339-40, 398). James, for example, acknowledges that men such as Saint Ignatius, Saint John of the Cross, and Luther can “expel sensation” in order to permit the cognitive value of revelation (339-40, 392, 394). The men in the lectures on saintliness and mysticism are thus placed in the text to demonstrate “useful human fruits” in contrast to the excessive embodied states of women (399-40). What underlines the attitude toward women's bodies in the history of Christianity is a patriarchal anxiety about knowledge and embodiment and, more specifically, about the knowledge that women may gain through their pleasure and pain. The irony of the Christian patriarchal association of women with the body is the subsequent challenge that the female body presents when it becomes a form of authority and truth in its excess of pleasure or pain. My suggestion is that, while James is entangled in complex nineteenth-century patriarchal frames and inherited models of patriarchal Christianity, his thinking about religious experience is redeemed by his recognition of the body as a key foundation, his ability to overcome some patriarchal dualisms, his appreciation of the “reality of the unseen,” and his philosophical attitude of the “more” (see James 1897, 111-44; 1902, 36, 69-91).

<1>Religion and the Body in James

The selections and divisions of religious experience in The Varieties are shaped by a wider rationale related to sensation and intellect, which in turn is shaped by James's conception of the body. But the body in James's work is not a simple matter. In many ways, his entire thinking can be seen as locating everything in the body, as we can see in his theory of emotion (see Sullivan in this volume). James was a physiologist in training, and this forms a central part of his 1890 work The Principles of Psychology. But while James roots experience in the body, the body is not the last mark of his thinking, but only the first, and there is a constant struggle in The Varieties between validating the body as a source of knowledge and the place of women's bodies in such a schema. As I have mapped elsewhere, there are many bodies interacting in James's texts (see Carrette 2013, 104-55). We can find the medical-scientific body, as seen in his physiological studies in The Principles; the social body, as evidenced in essays in The Will to Believe and in Pragmatism; and the metaphysical-plural body, as sketched in Essays on Radical Empiricism. However, in The Varieties, there emerges another level of discourse about the body. In the discussion of religious experience, the medical-scientific body becomes enfolded with what we can call, following James (1902, 33n1), the “amatory” body-the sexual and excessive body. While James builds experience through the body-insofar that states of consciousness are always dependent on the body-it does not mean that all bodily states of consciousness are of equal value. We know from the first lecture, “Religion and Neurology,” in which he defends religion against the medical materialists, that all states of mind are “organically conditioned,” including scientific and religious minds (36). The significant aspect for James's reading of religious experience is not the organic basis, but the judgment about the respective value of bodies and knowledge content, which becomes highly gendered. We also see this gendered nature of experience in James's extended work on psychical research, where truth (male-dominated science) and embodied knowledge (women's intuitive physical and extraphysical senses) operate according to a gendered hierarchy, not least seen in James's report on Leonora Piper and the psychical researcher Richard Hodgson (James 1909). It is the same dynamic of authority and truth claim that operates in the Christian mystical tradition-male ecclesiastical authority seeking validity of female experience. Women psychics, like women mystics, have to establish the validity of their experience through the apparatus of the legitimating group, the male-dominated structures of the Church or science.

In the lectures on saintliness and mysticism, the “organic sensibilities” are accepted by James as a given of human life (James 1902, 397). However, James starts to mark out an internal valuation of bodies, preferring to balance the wider organism by giving just as much weight to the digestive and respiratory systems as to the sexual (Carrette 2013, 104-33). This also entails marking out the mystic experience in a particular way by rejecting “visual and auditory hallucinations, verbal and graphic automatisms, and such marvels as 'levitation,' stigmatization, and the healing of disease” (James 1902, 393n). James admits that these states have “no essential mystical significance” and that he is interested in the “consciousness of illumination” (394n). Unwittingly, he starts to judge women's bodies in terms of their worth and contribution to knowledge, as previous theological orders had done through such divisions. In this way, James's modeling of mysticism rests on the same question of the value of women's bodies for theological truth, but more specifically, for James, this is based on a quasi-Protestant philosophical truth. So we find that the questioning of visionary bodies and concerns about lack of cognitive content mirror a particular patriarchal religious history. This is most vividly demonstrated in the case of Teresa (1515-1582), as James seems to value her pragmatic insights but deplore her “amatory” insights. As James writes of Teresa, “She has some public instincts, it is true; she hated the Lutherans, and longed for the church's triumph over them; but in the main her idea of religion seems to have been that of an endless amatory flirtation-if one may say so without irreverence-between the devotee and the deity; and apart from helping younger nuns to go in this direction by the inspiration of her example and instruction, there is absolutely no human use in her, or sign of any general human interest” (357).

As Davis (1995) has shown, there is ambivalence toward Teresa of Avila. She is both celebrated and critiqued by James, both as “one of the ablest women” and as one shown “pity” because “so much vitality of soul should have found such poor employment” (James 1902, 338). In order to appreciate this judgment of Teresa, we need to appreciate James's “empiricist criterion” for evaluating religious experience. Somewhat surprisingly, James's assessment mirrors Teresa's own internalized model. At the very beginning of The Varieties, James quotes at length from Teresa's own pragmatic defense of religious experience in her Autobiography: “Like imperfect sheep which, instead of giving more strength to the head, doth but leave it the more exhausted, the result of mere operations of the imagination is but to weaken the soul . . . whereas a genuine heavenly vision yields to her a harvest of ineffable spiritual riches, and an admirable renewal of bodily strength. I alleged these reasons to those who so often accused my visions of being the work of the enemy of mankind and the sport of my imagination” (41). Teresa is, of course, echoing the demands of her patriarchal leaders to justify her visions and imagination in terms of valid consequences and actions-pragmatic outcomes that James appreciates. However, the problem is that James's rejection of her “amatory” visions does not do justice to either Teresa's or James's own pragmatic evaluation, because James does not supply all the pragmatic evidence; this reflects one of Russell's ([1910] 2009, 111-15) criticisms of a pragmatic theory of truth-that is, that truth is established on outcomes or consequences. The outcomes in a patriarchal order already suggest a prior order of validation regarding what constitutes an outcome or which outcomes are included in the pragmatic assessment. The tension in James's reading of Teresa, and other religious women, is complex precisely because of his prior reading of the body, which is based on a hidden set of assumptions about true bodies and outcomes. The hidden patriarchal assessment is seen when an embodied religious insight is deemed worthy and when it is rejected, and yet we are never given enough pragmatic evidence to make this assessment. Yet new feminist readings of Teresa, such as that by Carole Slade, can articulate a very different picture, one with social activism at its center. According to Slade (2001, 91, 103), there is a “protofeminist” reading of Teresa that sees her as a social reformer and someone “increasing the autonomy for women.” These outcomes appear to be selectively hidden by James and others driven by a patriarchal pragmatism.

<1>Hypnoid and Revelatory Bodies: The Judgment of Protestant Masculinity

At the heart of James's reading of women's religious bodies is a classification according to “social righteousness” and “consciousness of illumination,” which rests on bodies that can speak and transform and those that cannot (James 1902, 345, 394, 398-99). While James rejects scientific reductionism in reading all religious states of consciousness as “hypnoid” and argues, instead, that some create “energy,” he still rejects some bodies as hypnoid (399). James's pragmatic criterion is the “value for knowledge of the religious consciousness which they induce” (338). His interest is always in the truth/knowledge, not the psychological state, of the religious experience, in the Kantian scheme of active-energetic rather than passive bodies, which determines his “critique of pure saintliness” (321ff.). The problem is that the hypnoid is associated with excessive “organic sensibilities” and a state of mind that lacks “value in the way of revelation” (384, 397-98). We might suggest, therefore, that James evaluates religious bodies according to a twofold order of the hypnoid and revelatory. Those that can speak and offer something are revelatory, and those that remain overly embodied are hypnoid. The latter are those connected with sexual states and those caught in a pathology of pain. What James does not realize is that such a distinction contains a gendered politics of religious experience woven throughout patriarchal Christianity. For example, in the lectures on mysticism, it is John of the Cross and Ignatius of Loyola who reflect the value of energized religious experience and Teresa and Alacoque who are trapped, in part or completely, in the hypnoid body of sex and pain.

James's reading of Teresa highlights both her revelatory contributions and her bodily excess (1902, 394-98). The excessive body of Teresa is that which is “too extreme to be borne” and something “verging on bodily pain,” which includes her famous “raptus or ravishment” (397-98). It is striking how Teresa's ravishment-the intense penetration by the spear of God into her heart-was positioned in the twentieth century by psychoanalytic literature as a sexual orgasm and subsequently debated in the study of religion (see Bataille [1957] 1986; Zaehner 1980, 151; Lacan [1974] 1998; Parrinder 1976, 169). The passage from Teresa's Life is not quoted in James but nonetheless discussed, and the positioning of the event is significant for its philosophical understanding of valid knowledge and the female body.

James struggles to manage the excess of the physical order within Teresa's experience. The excessive is both the extreme physicality and pain, but also the fact that it is “too subtle and piercing a delight for ordinary words to denote.” James cannot ignore the sexual quality of the event, even if he is unable to manage its specific revelation. As James concedes, “God's touches, the wounds of his spear, references to ebriety and to nuptial union have to figure in the phraseology by which it is shadowed forth” (1902, 398). In line with his reading of physiology as a total system and the dangers of overemphasis of the sexual, James balances the physiological framework by seeing the ravishment as the depression of “breathing and [blood] circulation” (33n1, 398). But this is soon viewed as a separation of “soul” from the “body,” of mind losing control of the bodily event, and it creates a difficult interpretative space. James attempts some redemption of Teresa as revelatory beyond her hypnoid tendency when he acknowledges, “One must read Saint Teresa's descriptions and the very exact distinctions which she makes, to persuade one's self that one is dealing, not with imaginary experiences, but phenomena which, however rare, follow perfectly definite psychological types” (398).

While James is able to value the body as a site of knowledge, the danger, for James, of embodied mystical states is their detachment and “over-abstraction from practical life” (1902, 399). James had already made it clear that mystical truths are “various,” and not all are of theological weight or metaphysical importance (396). His primary concern is when the psychological type “is naturally passive and the intellect feeble,” which assumes a distinct gendered order (399). Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross, as we noted, are types of “powerfully practical human engines,” but Teresa holds tendencies toward “a higher level of emotional excitement” (335, 399). Even though James appreciates Teresa and the passages of her work that have revelatory worth and practical value, his overall assessment is one of indulgence and excess (338-39, 398). He even goes so far as to suggest that there is “no human use in her, or sign of any general human interest” (339). It is significant that James appeals to Luther's “immense manly way” (339) after this denunciation of Teresa, invoking a distinct Protestant masculinity in order to position the overly physical Catholic woman. James's entire judgment of women's religious experience is shaped by his Lutherian rejection of Catholic indulgences in the body and a Kantian fear of passivity (321, 339). It operates by establishing a model of theological illumination against embodied hypnotism. The critique of the body is most visible in James's reading of Margaret Mary Alacoque, the founder of the Order of the Sacred Heart, but it is not a complete rejection of the body.

<1>The Suffering Body: Margaret Mary Alacoque

While Teresa is the most significant female saint in The Varieties, James's work on Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) follows soon after in terms of interest and focus, appearing on numerous occasions in the lectures on saintliness and in the discussion of mysticism. James's engagement with her is in some ways even more revealing of James's attitude toward the body, because Alacoque represents James's key rejection of pain as a form of religious insight. In this respect, James's thinking on Alacoque reflects a progressive move away from women's association of pain as a worthy religious ideal. This reflects both James's modern response to the understanding of pain and a rejection of Catholic indulgence in suffering (James 1902, 324, 338, 294). For James, the world's moral response to pain has changed, as he indicates in the lecture on saintliness:


A strange moral transformation has within the past century swept over our Western world. We no longer think that we are called on to face physical pain with equanimity. It is not expected of a man that he should either endure it or inflict much of it, and to listen to the recital of cases of it makes our flesh creep morally as well as physically. The way in which our ancestors looked upon pain as an eternal ingredient of the world's order, and both caused and suffered it as a matter-of-course portion of their day's work, fills us with amazement. We wonder that any human beings could have been so callous. (294)

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James takes a clear stance against flagellation and any deliberate inflicting of extreme pain, beyond the “arduous” that is characteristic of the Protestant work ethic. He is against the way in which the Catholic Church has “organized and codified” physical suffering and made a “market-value in the shape of merit” (296). James believes that the “Mother Church” has “largely come into desuetude, if not discredit,” and that “heroic corporeal discipline of ancient days might be an extravagance” (294).

While James rejects both male and female religious celebrations of pain, he focuses on Margaret Mary's indulgences as “perversion.” He rejects, for instance, the male German mystic Suso's self-torture as “pathological,” but in the case of Margaret Mary, his concern is with her way of turning “torment into a perverse kind of pleasure” (1902, 305). James quotes from the hagiographical work of the Catholic priest Émile Bougaud to note how Margaret Mary's “love of pain and suffering was insatiable” (306; Bougaud [1890] 2012, 186). She wanted suffering more than anything else, and for her “to live a single day without suffering would be intolerable” (James 1902, 306). As Margaret Mary states in her Autobiography, she developed such a “love of suffering that whatever I had to bear seemed but light in comparison with the ardent desire I had to suffer, that thereby I might render myself conformable to my suffering Jesus” (Alacoque 1930, 7). While James depends on Bougaud, her Autobiography illustrates that she understood “love”-God's love-as something that required punishment, and in that punishment she delighted. Her life-which makes for difficult reading in terms of the internalized hatred of the body-is characterized by the deliberate pursuit of delight through self-inflicted physical pains, humiliations, and immolations, even to the point of eating the vomit of sick people, as she found joy in debasement (James 1902, 69).

Using a Foucauldian counter-discourse, there have been attempts to reconfigure female masochism in religious history as a reversal of hierarchy and misogyny-where physical pains are turned into the pleasures of liberation (MacKendrick 1999; Burrus 2004). However, while James's concern about the suffering body is more in line with radical feminists' rejection of sadomasochism, as domination and violence, his work reveals a more complex understanding of pain. It demonstrates a clear recognition of how the mental frame transforms pain, and this offers the possibility that James might provide ways forward in reconciling feminist differences on sadomasochism (see Linden 1982; Chancer 2000).

On the one hand, James shares the feminist rejection of pain, in what Javier Moscoso (2012, 154) calls his “retrospective diagnosis” of religious mystics, by questioning motivation as well as intentionality and its pragmatic value, which on the whole reflects his Protestant rejection of the unhealthy (Catholic) internalization of pain-an internalization of the dominant cultural system and its correlating personal disturbance. It also reflects, as James's sense of the modern attitudes toward pain show, a nineteenth-century shift in views of pain in both medicine and theology. James's discussion of experiments with anaesthetics in The Varieties (1902, 373-78) captures the nineteenth-century breakthroughs in pain management and the way in which such interventions “transform human experience of suffering” (Snow 2006, 2). In addition, the shifting Protestant theological understandings of pain in the nineteenth century are such that Heather Curtis (2007, 52) suggests that this period saw a “remaking” of the “meaning and practice of pain.” It is clearly difficult in a medical culture seeking to extend pain management to celebrate “self-inflicted” pain.

On the other hand, James appears to recognize the mental potential to transform pain in his discussion of Blanche Gamond, the persecuted Huguenot and example of Protestant virtues, who endured suffering at the hands of Louis XIV. Her “greatest consolation” was “being whipped for the name of Christ” (James 1902, 285). This, for James, was an example of how the center of energy changes in someone with faith-though the emphasis is clearly the endurance of external forces rather than self-induced pain. Nonetheless, it demonstrates how the mental processes of physical pain transform through an “alteration of sensibility” (305). This transformation is brought about-as Lucy Bending (2000, 1) indicates, in appreciation of James's own work on the physiology of pain as an “enigma”-by the “framing device for understanding physical suffering” and how this changes pain and its reception (Bending 2000, 4; James 1892, 67). As Moscoso's (2012, 154) cultural history of pain demonstrates, “pain is not just pain.”

James appreciates, through James Hinton's 1879 work The Mystery of Pain-“the classic utterance on this subject” (James [1882] 1897, 102n)-that pain is not fixed, as well as the capacities for “inversion of our attitude to pain” (Hinton 1879, 13). In his appreciation of the importance of the mental framing of endurance, etiology, and transformative relief of pain, there is scope for appreciation of contemporary feminist readings of sadomasochism and religious experience. There is, however, one fundamental difference: the sexualization or eroticization of the body of the mystic and pain. James frames the pains of religious experience in a wider physiological structure than the sexualized organism and thus closes the transformative economy of eroticized pain. This is significant in light of Caroline Walker Bynum's (1991, 85) work on medieval women mystics. She questions the assumptions of the eroticized body in earlier periods of the history of Christian mysticism and allows for a different register of suffering within a theological scheme. There are different notions of sex and the body operating in different historical and cultural understandings of pain. Pain, for medieval mystics, was intended to expel the debased physical and sexual body, whereas sadomasochism reworks and transforms pain through the erotic sexual economy. When the transformative erotic economy and the capacity for “alteration of sensibility” are suspended, we can see the process of naked domination and acts of oppression more clearly. James's ability to hold the “enigma of pain” offers a middle path for assessing mysticism and masochism and the relation of sex and pain-as something simultaneously having potential for mental alteration and oppressive domination.

The contrast between Margaret Mary's self-induced suffering and Blanche Gamond's physical struggle is significant, because it shows the way in which James layers the suffering body of religious women with a cognitive confessional value. He sees Margaret Mary as having a “feeble . . . intellectual outlook,” while Blanche Gamond and Madame Guyon (the seventeenth-century French Quietist who was accused of heresy) are seen as having a strong mental attitude in line with the later mind-cure movement; it becomes part of resistance, in contrast to self-chosen submission to pain and abuse. James (1902, 337) adds more strongly that with a “Protestant and modern education” there is only “indulgent pity” to be had for Margaret Mary's saintship. The gendered and Protestant entanglement is complex, particularly as Bougaud's hagiography is written in such strong anti-Huguenot language. This is seen particularly in Bougaud's statement from the outset that Margaret Mary came to a troubled France to return it to its vocation: “Protestantism was radically incapable of satisfying France” ([1890] 2012, 18). In this way, James's text positions Margaret Mary and Blanche Gamond on two different sides of the seventeenth-century Catholic-Huguenot struggle in France. Margaret Mary's intellectual weakness is, therefore, framed at many different levels-as a gendered reading of her passive indulgences (a Kantian problematic), as a Catholic belief (a religious problematic), and as a perversion (a medical problematic). James uses one discourse to support another, but ultimately, for him, Margaret Mary failed to live an active and pragmatically useful life (1902, 336). The fruits of her life were perverted or, as James suggests, “theopathic” (335). James's self-confessed modern and Protestant reading of suffering is a distinct moral response to and a valuable consequence of “those secular mutations in moral sentiment” (345). James, in effect, is challenging the small-minded theological imaginings that would sanction a God who celebrated suffering. In this regard, James's assessment of historical theological experience in terms of “social righteousness” anticipates many later feminist rereadings of theology-both Catholic and Protestant-that question the perpetuation of patriarchal violence against women's bodies, even when it is justified through hidden patriarchal orders (345; see also Jantzen 2004). But the anxiety of excess in James is as much about the enigma of women's pleasure as their pain.

<1>The Female Jouissance: Teresa, James and Lacan

As we have seen, James's reading of women's experience as hypnoid and theopathic reflects the patriarchal anxiety about women's bodies holding knowledge outside of the so-called rational order of male power. Such knowledge is seen to evade expression in the excess of pleasure and embodiment. These bodies are seen to lack a valuable pragmatic effect on the world. We might, however, question whether this assessment is correct, given that pragmatism can allow nonrational states to have positive “fruits,” but James's assessment of female mystics does not follow some of the more positive aspects of his pragmatic thinking and seems to deny that there is any pragmatic value in their excessive/nonrational bodily states. James, of course, is not the only figure to question the emotional, inarticulate nature of women's bodies and to carry conceptual angst about this fact. As we saw earlier, psychoanalysis has also been interested in Teresa's embodied experience and the validity of the religious insight. We can gain insight into James's analysis, and the pervasive history of patriarchal readings of women's bodies, by mapping it to the later explorations of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901-1980). Lacan explicitly addresses Teresa's mysticism and women's inability to speak of their pleasures, similar to James, but with a far more extreme concern with embodiment and women's pleasure and pain. While there have been attempts to defend Lacan and many useful concepts for feminist theory developed from his work, Lacan's intellectual obscurantism hides a misogynist tone. However, the extreme reading of Lacan enables us to see what is at stake in James's reading of women's mystical experience and embodiment.

In considering women mystics, Lacan claims, in his infamous seminar 20, Encore, that women “don't know what they're saying” ([1974] 1998, 73). The common element in this assessment by James and Lacan is the long history of patriarchal knowledge and the exclusion of women: women are judged and questioned in terms of their embodied “value for knowledge.” Such a claim rests on the patriarchal demand that women speak of their pleasures, the female jouissance-a pleasure “beyond the phallus”-though Lacan seeks to assume, with all the slippage and play against his assumption, that this relates to the male symbolic order rather than the actual physical body (74). In Lacan, the claim rests on the totalizing nature of the phallic symbolic order, but such thinking demonstrates his angst about the value of women's bodies for knowledge-and, as Jantzen (1998, 53) shows, such universal signification denies women access to their own embodied voice. In patriarchy, to experience and not speak generates anxiety, an anxiety of secret knowledge, an uncontrolled knowledge, or even, more alarming for patriarchy, a knowledge outside of male experience and domination. It reflects the way that women are judged within patriarchal religious discourse and how their embodied knowledge is assessed for its worth within the institutions of male power, whether these be ecclesiastical, psychoanalytic, scientific, or academic. Women's mystical experience faces a particular challenge in this regard, because it represents the way in which embodiment and knowledge claims are joined in the attempt to speak beyond patriarchy. In this sense, any discussion of mysticism, as Jantzen's (1995) work illustrates, requires careful and critical feminist analysis.

In Lacan's 1972 seminar Encore, we witness the demand that women speak about their mystical experience. Lacan explores the mystical worlds of both Hadewijch and Teresa and reflects on Bernini's 1652 statue The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, which depicts the ravishment that had also featured in James's Varieties. Lacan ([1974] 1998, 76) asks of the female mystic, “What is she getting off on? It is clear that the essential testimony of the mystic consists in saying that they experience it, but know nothing about it.” In Lacan's world, women's jouissance is “supplementary,” not “complementary,” because it is dependent on the phallic order (73). Lacan is setting up the patriarchal order by showing how women's pleasure is dependent on men. Such a claim enables us to understand how patriarchy makes claims through a domination-submission order of pleasure. Women's pleasure can only be represented through the male symbolic order, and thus women's embodied experiences are read as inarticulate, dependent, perverted, or hypnoid; as I have noted, while this is instructive of such realities, it also closes and silences women.

In more offensive tones, Lacan ([1974] 1998, 75) claims that women know nothing of their jouissance, which is “underscored by the fact that in all the time people have been begging them, begging them on their hands and knees . . . to try to tell us, not a word! We've never been able to get anything out of them.” Lacan believes that the inability of women to speak of their-vaginal-pleasure betrays frigidity. The assumption here is that frigidity is about not knowing the experience when it arrives (74), but there is a deeper politic of bodies-and religion-in the midst of this playful ambiguity. Lacan is claiming that women's jouissance “doesn't signify anything” (74). There are two levels of claim about women's experience here-not knowing when an experience (pleasure) happens and the experience having no signification. The implication is that women are unable to be in touch with their pleasures and have no language for the experience. In contrast, in his earlier reflection, James does not appear to doubt the pleasure in Teresa or Margaret Mary. In James's assessment, they are consumed by the “amatory” and “excess,” but his concern is the lack of a pragmatic language and social change. They experience something, but its worth is unclear and it holds no value, generating nothing but ethical “pity” in James.

James and Lacan, with different levels of intensity, are entangled in the historical problematic-the patriarchal angst-of women's bodies as sites of knowledge or the lack of knowledge. Grace Jantzen (1998, 53) rightly argues, in response to Lacan, that women do express their experience, but Lacan is not listening or reading the texts of women mystics sufficiently. This is certainly true; women's texts and pleasures are expressed and ignored, because they escape the patriarchal order. Indeed, in her autobiographical account, Margaret Mary expresses very well her pleasure in suffering, a pleasure shaped by a violence and hatred of the body instigated through the patriarchal logics operating in Neoplatonic Christian thought. However, there is also another dimension of concern. In the Jamesian schema, knowledge consists of two forms, a knowledge about and a knowledge by acquaintance (intimate knowledge), and these forms of knowledge consist of different levels of intimacy and relation (James 1890, 249-50). If James is correct, it means that gendered embodiment is shaped by an ontological acquaintance and immediacy of pleasures, raptures, and ravishments within women's religious experience. James assists a feminist theory of religion by showing the distinct nature of embodied religious experiences, and it is precisely this link between knowledge and body that Lacan's later abstractions betray.

The problem is that James, within his nineteenth-century context, cannot make sense of the sexual and physical “phraseology by which it [women's experience] is shadowed forth” (James 1902, 398). Nonetheless, James's epistemology reaches beyond his time, and his own patriarchal gestures can be challenged by his wider philosophical commitments. The physicality and inarticulate challenge of the body are celebrated by James in his own appreciation of sensation over intellect and his rejection of conceptualization and intellectualism. The reach of James's appreciation of sensation is such that Gerald Myers (1986, 86) assumes his valuation of sensation holds a “mystical” quality, demonstrating how the “mystical” body is set up against knowledge (see James 1983, 651-89). In James, there is scope for bridging embodiment and knowledge within religious experience, something reflected in his 1881 lecture “Reflex Action and Theism” (James 1897; see also Carrette 2013, 51-70).

Despite his commitment to sensation, James's Catholic women still represent the demand for women's bodies and pleasures to be framed through the patriarchal order and not in their own embodied terms. In such a patriarchal view, women's religious experiences cannot speak for themselves. They are controlled and excluded as passive, sexual, and invalid as religious authority. Such bodies escape the knowledge threshold, but what counts as valid knowledge remains determined by men. This is the domination-submission construction of truth. The only fixed criterion in patriarchy is male sanction, not the terms of the sanction. Catholic men validate female saints, particularly when they assume suffering bodies; Protestant men invalidate female Catholic saints, but validate women's social action. Likewise, male scientists and psychoanalysts validate or invalidate female bodies as perverse, pathological, or silenced subjects. A key element in the approval of women's experience is related to how they support other logics and interests. Thus, we see how Protestant women in James are valued as speaking the language of pragmatic action-women framed by Luther's “manly” gesture. In the case of Jonathan Edwards's wife, she appears framed within her husband's Narrative of the Revival in New England (James 1902, 275). Teresa and Margaret Mary are rejected because they speak Catholic patriarchy, not Protestant authority. James's inclusion of women's religious narratives is reflective of Protestant modernity “freeing” women to be part of a different patriarchy. James at least presents these women's experiences in their own voices, even though they are still caught inside the domination-submission mentality of patriarchy. There are, however, significant steps forward in James's analysis; his rejection of women's physical suffering allows the possibility for something “more,” and his location of that “more” with the “sensational” creates the possibility of valorizing women's embodied truth as knowledge.

<1>Conclusion: The Varieties, the More, and Women

This chapter has shown that the emergence of women's religious experience in The Varieties is woven around a complex Catholic-Protestant reading of women's bodies and a pervasive historical undercurrent of patriarchal domination. It has sought to show how women's bodies and their pleasures are written over by hidden judgments operating inside the history of religion, science, and philosophy. While James includes women's religious narratives, the problem is still whether women can speak and be heard outside the dominant logic and in their own terms. In James's universe, individual women's voices were valid if they demonstrated intellectual and pragmatic illumination and brought transformation to the social world, but such an understanding, while progressive in its rejection of suffering and recognition of women's action in the world, still gives little voice to embodied experience, which is seen to be excessive. There are, however, some religious experiences that James includes to illustrate not intellectual but “quasi-sensible realties directly apprehended” in both men and women (James 1902, 78). The perceptual world, for James, mediates something that escapes patriarchal control, an “unseen reality” emerging at the level of sensation and the body.

In the lecture “The Reality of the Unseen,” James explores women, alongside men, who have access to subconscious worlds. In this endeavor, James reflects on a patient of Theodore Flournoy, presumably Hélène (see Flournoy [1899] 1994), and Madame Ackermann's Thoughts of a Recluse. In both of these texts, there is a sense of another world-something recognized by the “heart” for Flournoy's patient, who practiced automatic writing and experienced multiple personalities. Likewise, in an unsettling way, Ackermann expressed something of a state “of being in a dream” (James 1902, 77-78). These states touch something like “a foreign presence” that is “ephemeral and incomprehensible,” each accessing something beyond the women themselves and yet within themselves-a knowledge outside of patriarchal control, but a knowledge nonetheless. In the lecture on saintliness, James also describes how Mrs. Edwards and Madame Guyon both express how they experience love, even when asleep (274). These experiences reflect what James saw as “extra-marginal and outside of the primary consciousness” (234), and they led James to recognize, in the conclusion of The Varieties, that there was always something “more.” The “more” reflects a nondogmatic opening and recognition that our awareness is limited. The concept of “more” holds for James the seeds of his pluralism, and, along with his idea of “over-beliefs,” it affirms “an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely 'understandable' world” (490). These final gestures of a “more” echo the women in James's third lecture, on the “unseen reality,” and in the process break the assumptions of an all-knowing phallic symbolic order, not least by allowing them to remain unfinished and in process. The process consciousness of women's religious experience-a knowledge in transition-is wisdom in, through, and beyond the body, and it is highly valued by James precisely because it cannot be caught in the prevailing logics.

James's philosophy of the “more” in The Varieties is a protofeminist critical position, because it refuses closure. It allows fluid forms, and it allows women's bodies to hold something beyond the controlled order of patriarchy. If the “more” determines our reading of religious bodies, then the “excess” of the feminine jouissance can exist outside of the phallic determination and contribute to the shaping of women's experience, because the “more” refuses limit and definition; it rejects a domination-submission ideology of knowing. The “more” allows life to flourish without suffering, without judgment, and holds a respect for what is not fully known by becoming a “postulator of new facts,” which is a form of new wisdom (James 1902, 492). If women's bodies provide access to a distinct embodied religious insight, then the social position of women allows them access to that which patriarchy fears: a world that does not seek control through domination and submission, a world where there is respect for, not fear of, something beyond our control-a respect for life. James's “more” shares a feminist vision in its capacity to speak beyond patriarchal control. It also confirms that there is “more” in James than just his nineteenth-century patriarchal positioning of women's religious bodies, both in his affirmation of the body and sensation and in his rejection of totalizing logics. There is also “more” than his Protestant masculinity, because James recognizes the “limits” of “over-beliefs”-including his own-and his related commitment to “tolerance” of difference (415, 490). The Varieties can be seen to challenge, in part at least, the patriarchal logic in which it is entangled, but not sufficiently for James to overcome all the limits of his reading of women's religious experience. It becomes our task, as Davis (1995, 175) has also in part suggested, to engage critically James's texts in order to allow his pluralistic and embodied thinking to emerge above his nineteenth-century constraints, because, as James (1902, 45) recognized, “no one organism can yield to its owner the whole body of truth.” It is precisely this “discrepancy” that the sexes embody in their pains and pleasures (360).



<PN>Part IV

<PT>Epistemic and Narrative Contestations


<CT>The Will Not to Believe

<CST>Pragmatism, Oppression, and Standpoint Theory

<CA>José Medina

This chapter responds both to a silence and to a conversation. It addresses the well-entrenched and cultivated silence of most classic American pragmatists about the social injustices of racism and sexism. With some very notable exceptions (such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Jane Addams), most of the classic American pragmatists-James included-remained silent about the experiences of oppression and social exclusion of women and racial minorities. But in focusing on this silence, this chapter also joins an ongoing conversation, a relatively recent dialogue among theorists who have tried to connect classic American pragmatism with feminism (Seigfried and Sullivan, for example) and with race theory (Pappas and Taylor, for example). This conversation has been long overdue, and it tries to break a silence denounced forcefully by American philosophers marginalized within the pragmatist canon (Jane Addams, Anna Julia Cooper, Alain Locke, Ida Wells, among others), as well as by contemporary theorists such as Cornel West and Patricia Hill Collins. This chapter will try to address two key questions that have been put on the agenda by these theorists: What are the resources within (Jamesian) pragmatism that can be used for a proper understanding of, and a proper response to, experiences of oppression? And what are the elements within (Jamesian) pragmatism that have precluded the emergence of an adequate attention and sensitivity to the experiences of the oppressed? Although my focus will be on the oppression of women, I am interested in multifaceted and multilayered forms of oppression that concern not only gender but also (and simultaneously) sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, and so forth. My task will be twofold: I will try to identify the resources within Jamesian pragmatism to understand and correct gender and racial insensitivity; but drawing on the critical epistemologies of ignorance developed by standpoint theorists, I will also try to identify the expansions and supplementations that James's “radical pragmatism” needs in order to be sensitive and responsive to experiences of oppression and, thus, truly radical.

<1>Jamesian Critical Epistemology and the American Evasion of (Hetero)Sexism

James's pragmatism was a radical critical intervention in epistemology. In Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, James denounced epistemological discussions as wrongheaded because they were evading what matters most: the actual experiences of actual people. By departing from actual experience, epistemology became too abstract and irrelevant for people's lives. Epistemological discussions needed-James argued-a new direction because meanings and truths are not ready-made entities that we can simply dissect dispassionately and observe from a distance; they are, rather, the products of our own making, and they have to be brought to the level of lived and embodied experience in which they appear and remain embedded. Meanings and truths are not things that we encounter ready-made and we can simply possess; they are things we make and remake. For James, epistemic questions about meaning and truth are first and foremost questions about agency; human agents are meaning- and truth-makers; human life is bound up with the kind of agency that can be evaluated in terms of significance and correctness. Jamesian pragmatism proposes the critical epistemological project of bringing meaning and truth to the level of actual practice-that is, of embodied experiences and situated actions. And yet, paradoxically, this experientially grounded and action-based epistemology remained highly abstract and failed to produce critical insights that could address social injustices such as racism and (hetero)sexism.

Why did James fail to bring his critical epistemology to the level of the social and political? The answer, I suggest, is that the critical potential of James's pragmatism became impaired by a bourgeois individualism that detracted attention from social injustices and issues of privilege and oppression. Drawing on remarks written by James's sister, Alice, in her diary, M. C. Otto emphasizes that James showed little concern and sympathy for issues of poverty, class differences, and social exclusion. In “On a Certain Blindness in William James,” Otto (1943, 185) tries to identify the reasons why someone so concerned with the limitations of our capacity to relate to others who are different from us could nonetheless remain “strangely blind” in his social sensibility and “underestimate the depressing, degrading effect of having to exist in poverty, day in and day out, in an atmosphere of economic insecurity, subject to being thrown on the scrap heap of unemployment when no longer wanted.” As Otto notes, James did not lack all social sensibility, and he was even sympathetic to some aspects and versions of socialism (for instance, the socialism of H. G. Wells); but the socialism that James knew and liked was “a socialism of the spirit, a socialism not directly concerned with economic processes, institutions, or arrangements” (188). Otto's diagnosis is that the main reason why James simply put to the side the socioeconomic and institutional conditions of people's lives was that, “like Emerson, he was captivated by the ideal of absolutely unentangled and unfettered individuality”: “In James's philosophy man is in, not of, the environment; the social situation, the social institution, of whatever kind or grade, is a 'secondary' phenomenon, because it is merely a 'ministerial,' not a 'fundamental,' phenomenon” (189-90). This diagnostic claim converges with the critique of Jamesian pragmatism developed by critics such as Cornel West. West (1989, 66, 147-48) accuses classic pragmatists such as James of complicity with the white and privileged intellectual establishment of their time, of “pandering to middle-class pieties,” and of blindness to “the plight of the wretched of the earth, namely, the majority of humanity who own no property or wealth, participate in no democratic arrangements, and whose individualities are crushed by hard labor and harsh living conditions.” West says that “not one [of the classic pragmatists] viewed racism as contributing greatly to the impediments for both individuality and democracy” (147). And what West says about racism could also be said about (hetero)sexism. James exhibited a significant insensitivity to the social predicament of women and sexual minorities, and this insensitivity constrained (not only for him but also for many of his followers, until recently) the critical potential of his philosophy.

In the first place, by assuming experiential and agential capabilities shared by all individuals, James failed to acknowledge the limitations suffered by those who have been disadvantaged and stigmatized, for example, on the basis of their gender or sexuality. He failed to acknowledge that there are subjects who do not have the privilege of experiencing certain things and of enjoying certain forms of agency. In the second place, he also failed to acknowledge what is left out of the domain of the readily intelligible experience of mainstream subjects-that is, the experiential excess of those deemed deviant, those whose subjectivity is not recognized as intelligible or capable of meaning- and truth-making. This obscures the availability and richness of distinctive perspectives whose differences are potentially enriching and can lead to critical standpoints that can be illuminating and transformative for all. And, finally, James's insensitivity to exclusion and marginalization is also a form of self-ignorance and insensitivity to privilege-for example, to gender privilege and how it differently positions gendered subjects in their life in common, how it gives subjects certain statuses and positions as they relate to one another. Indeed, if one does not understand how one's experiential and agential abilities are bound up with those that others have and do not have, then one does not fully understand oneself and the meanings and truths one is capable of producing. This is the reflexive and relational epistemological point on which I will focus in later sections. But for now, what is crucial to appreciate is how an unquestioned notion of individuality that does not interrogate the different forms of exclusion and stigmatization on which it rests stands in the way of a critical philosophy with transformative power. A philosophical orientation that does not raise these normative and sociopolitical questions remains abstract and complicit with the status quo. As Harvey Cormier (2007, 68) puts it, “Someone like James was principally concerned with the abstract abilities of individuals, in particular their ability to generate hypotheses freely and innovatively and to 'verify' them in their lives of experience. This meant that, paradoxically, James's concern with the individual and individual freedom localized his thought so much that it lost its grip on the real world of particular human struggles. The old pragmatists tried to break free of the tradition, but eventually they fell back into the old abstraction and indifference.”

The critical potential of James's philosophy became truncated by a problematic individualism that does a lot of ideological work by promoting ignorance about social conditions, by not asking certain questions about relationality and institutional arrangements. An uninterrogated form of individualism facilitates complicity with oppression by diverting attention away from power relations, from relations of privilege and domination, from the dark world of institutional and structural (hetero)sexism and other forms of oppression. It is this lack of interrogation of the social context that makes it possible to think that the struggles to refashion ourselves and the world around us can take place without institutional and structural changes; this is what supports the naïveté of thinking that making the world your home is (only or primarily) an individual struggle. Detached from people's social experiences and political struggles, meaning and truth become, once again (even when understood experientially), artificial philosophical constructs with no transformative power and irrelevant for people's actual lives and strivings. A critical epistemology cannot have the luxury of remaining asocial and apolitical, for meaning- and truth-making are deeply social and political endeavors.

But I do think there is hope for a Jamesian critical epistemology. In the next section, I will identify critical epistemological insights in James's philosophy. But before I go on to do that, I want to make a move that will be important for the argumentative steps in the following sections: following critics such as John McDermott (1986) and Harvey Cormier (2007), I want to shift the emphasis from Jamesian individualism to Jamesian relationalism in order to show that James's pragmatism can be taken in a different and more fruitful direction, a direction that connects directly with political action and social justice concerns, a direction that is genuinely radical and transformative. As Cormier (2007) and I (2010) have argued, Jamesian individualism should be understood in relational terms. For James, individuals can only realize themselves as individuals and make their world their home as members of groups and communities. As Cormier (2007, 71) puts it, “Though the project of being what we are is one that we must begin alone or in small groups, we can elect to join like-minded individuals to do battle-intellectual, political, or even military battle, if need be-with individuals of different minds, or with others who have not become what they are and who are still just social products. We don't have to stay alone, and we won't if we can share our ideas.”

<1>Attentiveness to Lived Experience: “The Will to Believe”

In the Pragmatism lectures (especially lectures 2 and 4), James sketches a provocative pragmatic account that brings truth to the level of experience and action: our truth assessments are to be understood as ways of harmonizing our experiences and actions, of putting them in sync with the world we share. In James's view, truth is a value that regulates our normative engagements with others. Truth is therefore the source of solidarity, for it contributes to the sharing of experience and the coordination of action. When James (1975b, 42) defines truth as “whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief,” he is referring not only to what we believe individually but also to what we believe together. For, as James (102) puts it, “all human thinking gets discursified . . . by means of social intercourse,” and in the “discursification” of our thinking, our beliefs get articulated and evaluated in social negotiations that are regulated by truth. In other words, truth is a value that regulates our epistemic practices for the fixation of belief. Our truth negotiations are oriented toward the configuration of a common vantage point from which we can survey the world together. In these negotiations, we have to take responsibility for the beliefs we hold to be true. On the Jamesian view, holding a belief as true is holding that it is good to live by it; and this allegiance to a particular belief makes one responsible for its practical consequences in one's life and in the lives of others. In this way, James's conception of truth underscores the epistemic and social responsibility of believers and their accountability to others.

But before ideas can be candidates for truth or falsity, they have to make sense; intelligibility is a precondition for truth candidacy. According to James's pragmatism, intelligibility is also to be grounded in experience, in possible experience: what is intelligible has to be identified not simply with what has been, is, or will be experienced, but more broadly with what is imaginable as connected with the realm of possible experience and action. On this view, the domain of what we find intelligible is the domain of what is relatable to the possible experiences and actions of particular subjects under some imagined circumstances, and of course, thus conceived, the domain of intelligibility can never be fully delimited: it remains forever open. This is a criterion of meaningfulness with a strong commitment to openness and inclusivity. James typically talks about something having meaning in an existential sense-that is, as having significance or impact in someone's life under some circumstances-and given the wide variety of lives that people can have and the wide variety of contexts in which those lives can unfold, what is intelligible is always expanding. But what is deemed experienceable and meaningful at any given time-what is deemed livable-has to be grounded in the embodied, lived experience of particular people in particular contexts. Giving priority to lived experience as a criterion of meaning is precisely one of the hallmarks of standpoint theory, as Patricia Hill Collins ([1990] 2000, 257-60), for one, has argued. Collins finds the roots of this appeal to personal experience as a criterion of intelligibility in black feminists such as Sojourner Truth and her celebrated discourse “And Ain't I a Woman?” As Collins argues and Truth's discourse illustrates, this empiricist criterion of intelligibility has a tremendous critical and subversive potential, for it can be used by marginalized and oppressed subjectivities to interrogate received meanings and to make room for new meanings. As Collins goes on to argue, the criterion of lived experience makes us think of inquiring subjects as “connected knowers” (259), giving center stage to those who experience things in their own flesh, but also inviting everyone to feel involved and to think of themselves as connected with subjects whose experiences are the meaning- and truth-bearers of our discourses and investigations. Jamesian pragmatism and the kind of standpoint theory described by Collins converge in calling attention to communities built around relations of epistemic solidarity and epistemic care. And yet, how is it that the latter but not the former has been developed into a critical epistemology that addresses the experiences of the oppressed?

The brief sketch of the Jamesian pragmatic approach to truth and meaning that I have provided already reveals a deep convergence with the critical feminist epistemology of standpoint theorists such as Lorraine Code, Sandra Harding, and Patricia Hill Collins. Rather than thinking of knowers as detached and disengaged observers with nothing at stake who inspect things from a third-person perspective, both James and standpoint theorists depict knowers as experiencing and experimenting subjects who find meanings and truths in the first person (i.e., in themselves) or in the second person (i.e., in their fellow inquirers). I will explore how far the convergence between Jamesian pragmatism and standpoint theory can be taken, and where their paths start to diverge. To preview, I will suggest that, although not lacking resources to do so entirely, James does not distinguish sufficiently between having an experiential and agential perspective and developing a critical standpoint that can recognize the limits and presuppositions of one's perspective. This is where Jamesian epistemology needs supplementation and expansion to become a critical epistemology. But before we sketch this supplementation, let me start with the critical resources that we can find in James and the (expandable) convergence between his pragmatism and standpoint theory.

I want to highlight four points of convergence between Jamesian pragmatism and standpoint theory. In the first place, both James and standpoint theorists demand attentiveness to embodied and situated experience: we have to start and end with the experiences of actual people in actual contexts. On their view, epistemology is not about abstract (disembodied and decontextualized) subjects and their purely hypothetical cognitive activities; it is about actual people and their actual lives. In this situated and pragmatic perspective, epistemological analyses have a practical point: they are action-based and action-oriented; they are aimed at the melioration of people's lives, at the enrichment of people's experiences and practices.

In the second place, both James and standpoint theorists underscore the normative dimension of our cognitive life, arguing for a robust notion of epistemic responsibility. On their views, responsibility is to be understood both as accountability and as responsivity: subjects have to be held accountable for their beliefs and the impact that they have in their own lives and the lives of others; but subjects also have to be responsive to the perspectives of others, being consequent in their actions with the positionality of their perspectives and the relationality that binds them to the perspectives of others.

In the third place, both James and standpoint theorists see a deep connection between our cognitive life and our affective and “volitional” life. As James famously argued in “The Will to Believe” (1896), our “passional nature” is the engine of our cognitive life; people with different “passional natures” or “temperaments” conduct their cognitive activities differently, and the affective dimension of our epistemic activities has to be taken into account for the coordination of our perspectives. But, as James ([1896] 2011, 96) remarks, the “willing nature” that is involved in our cognitive activities should not be understood simply as the capacity for “deliberate volitions”; rather, he writes, “I mean all such factors of belief as fear and hope, prejudice and passion, imitation and partisanship, the circumpressure of our caste and set.” Standpoint theorists have also emphasized the role of affect in our epistemic interactions and negotiations. In this sense, they have called attention to the importance of empathy in cognitive activities, the importance of speaking and listening “with the heart,” as Collins ([1990] 2000, 262-64) puts it.

Finally, in the fourth place, both in James and in standpoint theory we find a core commitment to inclusivity and pluralism. As Shannon Sullivan (2001, 226) has noted, both for pragmatists and for standpoint theorists, the normativity of a critical epistemology has to be grounded in the ideal of radical inclusion: “Radical inclusion should be the ideal toward which feminists, pragmatists, and others work, even if they fall short of it.” And short of it we often fall; the classic pragmatists certainly did. On the one hand, we can find in James a commitment to an always-unfinished project of inclusivity. As James (1977, 145) puts it, “'Ever not quite' has to be said of the best attempts made anywhere in the universe at attaining all-inclusiveness.” But, on the other hand, James's pragmatism lacks a sufficiently critical awareness of exclusion and oppression. This deficiency affects the critical potential of James's pluralism and his commitment to inclusivity. In what way is Jamesian pluralism not radical enough? And how can it be supplemented to accommodate the ideal of radical inclusivity?

Elsewhere I have distinguished three very different attitudes with respect to epistemic differences and the plurality of heterogeneous perspectives that we can find in pluralistic accounts of truth and knowledge. In the first place, in some classic pragmatists such as C. S. Peirce, we can find an approach to epistemic practices that places emphasis on the plurality of experiential perspectives but nonetheless preserves a commitment to unification, so that all available standpoints must ultimately be subsumable under a single perspective. This is what I call a converging pluralism. For converging pluralisms, the diversity and heterogeneity of conflicting perspectives are merely contingent and, in principle, transitory features of our epistemic practices that we should aspire to eliminate or at least minimize. By contrast, in more thoroughgoing pluralistic views such as that of William James, diversity and heterogeneity are unavoidable features of our epistemic lives that can be hidden or repressed only with violence and exclusions, but can never be fully erased. But in Jamesian pluralism, though more radical, the possibilities for epistemic friction and resistance are qualified and constrained for the sake not of consensus and unification but of coordination and cooperation. This is what I call a melioristic pluralism. Although in melioristic pluralism there is no aspiration to combine and unify all perspectives into a single one, there is the normative expectation that all perspectives interact for their mutual epistemic benefit and the increased learning of all. Although I think that this melioristic pluralism goes in the right direction, I also think that it needs to be combined with a different and more radical kind of pluralism-what I have called a guerrilla pluralism -in order to allow for radical critique, for the inclusion of subversive voices and perspectives. In my view, this more subversive pluralism is precisely what is needed to address radical exclusions. Guerrilla pluralism is what we need when equitable and fair melioration for all is not yet possible-that is, when in a fractured society the conditions are not given for beneficial epistemic friction that results in mutual corrections and a collective process of learning in which all social groups can participate.

For a guerrilla pluralism, epistemic frictions are no more tools for learning than they are tools for unlearning, for undoing power/knowledges. On this view, epistemic frictions are not merely instrumental or transitional-that is, tools for, or steps toward, harmony or conflict resolution. Epistemic frictions are sought for their own sake, for the forms of resistance that they constitute. Guerrilla pluralism is not a pluralism that tries to resolve conflicts and overcome struggles, but instead tries to provoke them and to reenergize them. It is a pluralism that aims not at the melioration of the cognitive and ethical lives of all, but rather at the (epistemic and sociopolitical) resistance against exclusionary and privileged perspectives. This is a pluralism that focuses on the gaps, discontinuities, tensions, and clashes among perspectives and discursive practices. This is a pluralism that thematizes the relation between knowledge and power and focuses not only on knowledge but also and more fundamentally on ignorance-a pluralism that pays as much attention to belief, memory, and the imagination as it does to disbelief, oblivion, and counter-imaginations. This is what standpoint theorists (Code and Collins, for example) and other critical epistemologists (Mills, Sullivan, Tuana, and so forth) have offered by developing epistemologies of ignorance that study interrelated regimes of knowledge-ignorance / power. My argumentation in the next section will offer guidelines for developing an epistemology of ignorance out of James's pragmatism by supplementing its attentiveness to embodied experience, its focus on epistemic responsibility, and its concern for “passional natures” or epistemic sensitivities. How can a guerrilla pluralism that gives center stage to radical differences, to the subversive and destabilizing perspectives of oppressed subjectivities, transform the epistemological insights about the experiential, normative, and affective dimensions of our life offered by James's pragmatism?

<1>Insensitivity to Lived Experiences: “The Will Not to Believe”

Despite James's interest in diversity and his acute sensitivity to the diversity of temperaments and ways of life, we do not find in his writings an exhortation to cultivate a critical attentiveness to the experiences of those who have been marginalized and stigmatized, those whose experiences have been rendered unintelligible. What kind of pragmatism would James have developed if he had given center stage to the experiences and concerns of marginalized and stigmatized subjects and groups? Take, for example, the case of transgendered subjectivities. Their experiences and actions, the transgendered lives they lead, deeply interrogate accepted gendered meanings and truths that are taken for granted in received paradigms of masculinity and femininity. But these interrogations do not go very far at all when the very intelligibility of transgendered subjectivities is called into question: if a transgendered life is not a life worth living, if a transgendered identity is not an identity that makes sense for anyone to inhabit, the presence of transgendered subjects as freaks, as living performative contradictions, reasserts the compulsory nature of a rigid gender binarism. As many queer theorists have emphasized, there is often a systematic distortion in listening to transgendered meanings, a failure to relate to and to engage with transgendered experiences, a failure to understand them in their own terms. This is a failure in epistemic responsibility-a failure to become responsive to others and their experiences, but also a failure to become accountable for one's own meanings and truths.

As Naomi Scheman (1997) has argued, in order to displace heterosexist gender binaries, it is not sufficient to simply give center stage to queer voices, as if they alone had the responsibility of resisting heterosexism and liberating all of us from gender and sexual oppression. We need to center the queer, but we need to do so, as Scheman argues, by queering the center-that is, by making mainstream heterosexual subject positions strange, unfamiliar, queer. It is a mistake to think that the forms of exclusion, subordination, and marginalization that we can find in mainstream culture can only be resisted from the outside, and not also from within. The activity of resisting and contesting established presumptions of normalcy is a critical task that befalls everyone, and especially privileged subjectivities. This involves making the familiar and obvious newly strange and queer, bringing to the fore the processes of exclusion and stigmatization that go into what has been deemed normal and paradigmatic. As Scheman argues, the gender conformists and gender privileged need to go through a process of self-estrangement that calls into question their comfort and easy conformity with the gender binary. The exclusionary and stigmatizing aspects of the male-female gender binary is felt more acutely by transsexuals and gender nonconformists whose lives and experiences have been rendered unintelligible, but “it ought to fall to those of us who occupy positions of relative safety and privilege to complicate our own locations, to explore the costs of our comfort, and to help imagine a world in which it would be safe to be non-, ambiguously, or multiply gendered” (Scheman 1977, 133).

It is precisely this critical moment of self-estrangement that the Jamesian epistemology lacks, although some seeds are there for its development. In fact, James takes us to the very threshold of such a critical process of self-scrutiny in “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings.” There James offers critical insights into affective limitations of human sensibility- specifically, “the blindness with which we are all afflicted in regard to feelings of creatures and people different from ourselves” ([1899] 1912, 3). James deserves credit for trying to identify this blind spot in our ability to understand the affective life of others. But he did not go far enough in his exploration of human insensitivity, for he restricted our affective “blindness” to what is simply alien to us-that is, to what lies entirely outside our affective life, to experiences we do not have and cannot appreciate. But what if this affective “blindness” or insensitivity were to extend even into our most intimate and familiar experiences? What if there were elements in the experiences of those we share our life with, and even in our own experiences, that we have become blind to? What, moreover, if this affective blindness were constitutive of our experiential enjoyment, so that the very possibility of such enjoyment required our ignoring how our experiences are entangled with the experiential frustrations of others (and even frustrations of our own selves, in some cases)?

In his essay, James does not consider how one's “blindness” to the affective lives of others impairs not only our ability to understand them but also our ability to understand ourselves; but, indeed, such “blindness” reverts back to the affective life of the experiential subject herself and functions also as a form of self-blindness. James's limited focus on what is simply alien to us can be appreciated in the examples he discusses. Consider his example of an intimate interspecies relation on the opening page of the essay: “Take our dogs and ourselves, connected as we are by a tie more intimate than most ties in the world; and yet, outside of that tie of friendly fondness, how insensible, each of us, to all that makes life significant for the other!-we to the rapture of bones under hedges, or smells of trees and lamp-posts, they to the delights of literature and art” ([1899] 1912, 4-5). James applies the same logic to his exploration of insensitivity within human relations as well: the “blindness” occurs “outside of that tie” we share with other human beings and with respect to those experiences of others that are alien to us. As illustrated by James with multiple examples-the rural man versus the city man, the uneducated man versus the man of letters, and so forth-his view construes our “blindness” with respect to the feelings and emotions of others as concerning only those experiences that we do not share and whose significance we cannot appreciate. But this only scratches the surface of “the blindness with which we are all afflicted.” There are two aspects of this blindness that James does not recognize-key aspects that have been highlighted by standpoint theory and recent epistemologies of ignorance. In the first place, our “blindness” or insensitivity is not something purely negative and devoid of content, a gap or emptiness that affects only what is outside our experiential lives. Rather, such insensitivity is also positive and full of content: it operates by projecting our own truths and meanings on others, by distorting the significance of their experiences. We are dealing with a much more insidious and recalcitrant kind of insensitivity when this insensitivity does not consist simply in seeing nothing but emptiness and lack of meaning, but rather involves seeing distortions that hide people's lives, erasing their voices and suppressing their concerns, interests, and aspirations. And in the second place, unlike recent analyses in epistemologies of ignorance (Charles Mills's analysis of white ignorance, for example), James's view does not account for the reflexive and relational aspects of “our blindness”-how such “blindness” reverts to oneself and shapes one's sensibility, so that it is an insensitivity not only with respect to others, but also with respect to key aspects of oneself and one's own perspective and position. Let me say a bit more about these two key points that separate James's account of “blindness” and the richer and deeper account that can be found in recent epistemologies of ignorance.

According to James, the affective limitations in our relations with others concern experiential possibilities that we have not explored and cannot appreciate. But there is a much more intimate side to “the blindness with which we are all afflicted”: this blindness also functions inside the affective ties we develop with others, inside human relations, and with respect to shared experiences. This “blindness” concerns not only experiences one does not have and cannot appreciate, but also experiences one does have but appreciates differently, often in a way that conflicts with the experiential appreciations of others. James is certainly right in urging us to critically inspect our “blindness” with respect to experiences that are alien to us, but we must also interrogate our “blindness” with respect to aspects of the familiar experiences of our neighbors, of our friends, of our partners, and even of ourselves! This is what has been termed the alienated familiar.

In recent epistemologies of ignorance in feminist theory and race theory, we can find two different notions of what is experientially alien: the simply alien and the alienated familiar. As Charles Mills (1998, 28) explains and illustrates this distinction in “Alternative Epistemologies,” the simply alien comprises “experiences that are outside the hegemonic framework in the sense of involving an external geography.” It is an exhibition of “the simply alien,” for example, when “a muckraking Frederick Engels brings details of British slum conditions to the shocked attention of a middle-class audience” (28). Another illustration can be found in Nancy Tuana's (2004 and 2006) account of how women's genitals and sexualities were rendered “simply alien” to a male-dominated medical science and body culture until very recently. But even more interesting for the critical purpose of recognizing the limitations of our perspective is the alienated familiar, which comprises “experiences that are outside because they redraw the map of what was thought to be already explored territory” (Mills 1998, 28). As Mills remarks, the alienated familiar is well illustrated by the feminist “claim that most 'seductions' have a coercive element that makes them more like rapes” (28). Confronting experiences that make you radically rethink your own is not easy. It can be quite shocking to hear, when you thought you knew well what something was (courting or seducing, for example), that it can be experienced by the other subjectivities involved quite differently (as sexual violence, for example). Indeed, confronting the alienated familiar is more disruptive than being exposed to the simply alien, and more resistances are mobilized to block that confrontation or to stage it so that the alienated familiar appears as a pathological or unintelligible experience that can simply be dismissed. As I will illustrate below with the example of the clueless seducer/harasser, a sexist insensitivity often takes a very active and contentful form, functioning not as an inability to interpret or make sense (as a mere interpretative gap or semantic lacuna), but rather as the tendency to (mis)interpret the experiences of others all too quickly-that is, as the tendency to arrogantly assume that one knows what things mean for the other and what the true significance of their experiences is.

As the insensitivity rooted in the alienated familiar shows perspicuously, our inability to relate properly to the experiences, meanings, and truths of others is intimately related to how we relate to our own experiences, meanings, and truths. Undoing our insensitivity and the affective disconnect between our perspective and those of others involves more than simply reconsidering facts about these others; it involves a deep interrogation of how our life experiences relate (or fail to relate) to theirs, and a critical inspection of our own perspective-as it relates (or fails to relate) to that of others-and its habits and defense mechanisms. And this brings us to the reflexive and relational point about insensitivity: what James terms our human “blindness” concerns not only the shortcomings of our other-regarding attitudes and habits, but also those of our self-regarding attitudes and habits. James's analysis of “blindness” takes us only part of the way there with the epistemic policy of “live and let live” suggested by his pronouncements about epistemic humility and about tolerance and respect for diverging perspectives, even when they seem unintelligible to us. James's ([1899] 1912, 11) claims about our obligation to make room for the perspective of each subject of experience, no matter how different from ours, sound, on the surface, quite similar to the claims of standpoint theory: “Each observer gains a partial superiority of insight from the peculiar position in which he stands.” Standpoint theory has also underscored the partiality of perspectives and the potential epistemic advantage of different perspectives in different experiential domains. But, unlike the critical insights of standpoint theory, James's insights about the partiality of experiential perspectives are not tied to critical insights about the positionality and relationality of those perspectives: there is no requirement that guarantees critical awareness of one's perspective vis-à-vis those of others, and there is no demand that subjects undergo a process of self-estrangement in which, to borrow Scheman's words, they queer the very center of their sensibility. As Scheman (1977, 133) puts it, we should all be required “to complicate our own locations” and “to explore the costs of our comfort.” This critical process of self-estrangement, this way of queering the core of who we are, is what we need to come to terms with in order to overcome our “blindness,” and it is what James's epistemology needs in order to be truly radical and transformative.

James's claims in the conclusion of “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” seem to amount to an epistemic policy of “live and let live” that does not pay sufficient critical attention to the entanglement of perspectives, to their mutual positionality and relationality. Insensitivity is not overcome by letting different perspectives flourish around or alongside your own, if there is no commitment to the cultivation of critical engagements with those perspectives and to a sustained process of mutual transformation. We need more than a thoroughgoing pluralism; we need a guerrilla pluralism. With an epistemic policy of “live and let live,” perspectives are left critically untouched, and unfair relations among them (relations of subordination and marginalization, for example) are not meliorated. As standpoint theory has taught us, what is important is not just to come to terms with the limitations of one's experiential perspective, but rather to develop a critical standpoint. Acquiring a critical standpoint (as opposed to simply having a perspective) requires developing a critical awareness of one's positionality and relationality. It is not enough just to say “these are my experiences and others have their own”; we need to be able to relate those experiences to those of others in critical ways. This is what a guerrilla pluralism demands: a process of mutual contestation among competing meanings and truths, which opens up possibilities for the deep transformation and rearticulation of perspectives and sensibilities. The critical insights of Jamesian epistemology can be deepened with a more radical and transformative pluralism in which different experiential perspectives are not simply “tolerated” or accommodated alongside each other, but are rather summoned to interrogate and transform each other. When it comes to different experiential perspectives, what a truly critical epistemology should enable us to achieve is not simply to “tolerate, respect, and indulge” (James [1899] 1912, 45-46), but to seek and maintain critical engagements with those experiential differences and to pursue self-transformative processes-a deep self-interrogation through which subjects can develop a transformed sense of positionality and relationality in the world. In what follows, I will explore how to develop a path for the self-interrogation of one's epistemic perspective within a Jamesian pragmatist framework, suggesting how this framework should be extended and supplemented in order to have a critical and transformative potential. How can we make room within Jamesian pragmatism for a process of self-estrangement or of queering the core of one's self?

In “The Will to Believe,” James ([1896] 2011, 96) emphasizes the characteristic opacity of our epistemic lives: “We find ourselves believing, we hardly know how or why.” We don't know the inner workings of our “passional nature”; we ignore the affective elements that control our epistemic lives-our fears and hopes, our prejudices and passions, and so forth (96). This recognition of self-opacity could be the starting point for a critical process of self-estrangement that reveals and critically assesses the deepest presuppositions of our epistemic life. However, James only points in the direction of a limited reconstructive process, one that focuses only on the positive elements of our epistemic lives-on how trust and faith operate in our doxastic life, in our will to believe. Indeed, trust and faith are preconditions for important aspects of our epistemic activities. But what is left out of James's account is the key role that distrust and skepticism also play in our epistemic practices; they too are constitutive of key aspects of our epistemic lives. The affective side of our epistemic lives does not stop in the will to believe; there is also the will not to believe. Alongside a will to believe, we also find a resistance to acknowledge certain experiences, a refusal to engage with certain perspectives-in short, a will not to believe certain things. And these different elements in our epistemic lives, the positive and the negative, have to be studied not simply in juxtaposition, but as they interrelate and permeate people's epistemic attitudes. Trust and faith are key elements of our epistemic life in common, but so are the epistemic resistances that constrain our capacity for being truly attentive to diverse lived experiences and for responding to them. In the two subsections that follow, I will explore two possible extensions of the Jamesian approach, so as to make room for the kind of critical self-estrangement that can uncover all the hidden elements in our epistemic “passional natures”-the positive and the negative-thus supplementing the Jamesian insights about our doxastic life with an epistemology of ignorance that shifts the focus of attention from belief to disbelief, epistemic neglect, and epistemic resistance. In order to make room for self-estrangement as the critical basis for an epistemology of ignorance within the Jamesian framework, I propose two supplementations: extending the Jamesian notion of epistemic responsibility and also extending the Jamesian approach to truth.

<2>Making Room for Self-Estrangement, Part 1: Extending Epistemic Responsibility to Ignorance

In “The Will to Believe,” James ([1896] 2011, 104) claims that what defines “a social organism of any sort” is the duty to trust the other members of the community. If left unqualified and unsupplemented, this thesis about trust runs a high risk of supporting conservatism and suppressing our critical powers of resistance and contestation. Trust is indeed important for our social transactions, but it is overrated. We should also talk about the duty to distrust in our dealings with one another; and, indeed, the critical potential of distrust can be appreciated even more when turned inward-that is, when it becomes a matter of distrusting not only others but also ourselves. How can we exercise distrust-and the will not to believe-critically? And what are the interrelations between trusting/distrusting oneself and trusting/distrusting others?

James ([1896] 2011, 104) emphasizes that trust makes cooperation possible, and it is our “faith in one another” that creates social facts such as economic gains and losses and sustains social organizations such as “a government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team.” However, although trust can explain the genesis of social facts and social systems, it is very often the case that an increase in the flourishing of the members of social organizations (let alone of the nonmembers) and their liberation from oppression require not more trust, but distrust-being suspicious about the alleged facts and established systems, interrogating them as arbitrary artifacts that need to be reconstructed critically, if not rebuilt from scratch. James, however, assumes that what is needed is always more mutual trust and faith in social cooperation. This is indeed sometimes true, as James's example of the train robbery and what deters passengers from rebelling against the robbers illustrates: “A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted by a few highwaymen, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before any one else backs him up” (104). This example illustrates how sometimes a deficit in our trust in others can suppress resistance and contestation and thus inhibit liberatory actions. This is what happens when the oppression in question is kept in place by the complicity of a silent majority-out of fear, for example-with a privileged minority or ruling elite in power that imposes its views on the rest. But when the victims of oppression and marginalization are minorities, what the members of the majority need is not more trust in themselves, but less trust. Very often, the self-trust of the majority is itself the problem because those in the majority-whether powerful or not-inhabit a hegemonic and mainstream perspective that marginalizes and oppresses all others. In these cases, it is the unchecked self-trust of the majority that suppresses resistance and contestation and inhibits liberatory actions. But even in these cases, those in the majority can (and indeed should) also be recruited to act against the forms of oppression and marginalization that their tacit beliefs and actions help inflict on others. The source of solidarity, resistance, and contestation against oppression in these cases lies in distrust, in losing a taken-for-granted faith in one's own perspective, in exercising the will not to believe against the grain in critically and transformative ways.

Typically, epistemic exclusions and marginalizations can only be disrupted by losing trust in accepted meanings and truths and displacing this trust to those excluded and stigmatized viewpoints that were never given any trust. However, this critical interrogation of trust and the valorization of distrust are absent in James's epistemology. In an interesting discussion of how our doxastic commitments work in interpersonal relations, James insists that success comes from our will to believe what we want and to disbelieve the views of others that stand in the way of our aspirations. James's example to illustrate this point is very disturbing, but also very revealing: “How many women's hearts are vanquished by the mere sanguine insistence of some man that they must love him! He will not consent to the hypothesis that they cannot. The desire for a certain kind of truth here brings about that special truth's existence; and so it is in innumerable cases of other sorts” ([1896] 2011, 104). The will to believe of the obstinate truth-making seducer in this passage should not be praised, but shaken up. This tenacious will to believe has to be critically interrogated, to begin with, by unmasking the unacknowledged will not to believe on which it relies: the will not to believe that the women obsessively chased might not be interested, the insensitivity to their alternative meanings and experiential perspectives. This seducer who refuses to take no for an answer to his advances is the stereotypical sexual harasser who is unable to see his actions as inflicting any harm because he refuses to recognize and properly interpret the consequences of his actions as expressions of suffering; he is unequipped to acknowledge and come to terms with his will not to believe that the women he obsessively pursues might not be interested, that they have a will of their own that can conflict with his, that when they say “No!” they really mean “No!” This insensitivity is very revealing of the shortcomings of the Jamesian approach: the insensitivity is formed and maintained as a result of excessive self-trust, and what is needed is not to energize the already-overinflated will to believe, but rather to redirect the will not to believe, so that it does not function outward to eliminate or neutralize conflicting perspectives, but inward to interrogate one's own perspective and to exercise critical self-distrust.

Although, as we have seen, James's pragmatism involves a commitment to remain attentive to the lived experiences of those around us, he does not go far enough in his critical interrogation of the limitations of our capacities to do so, of our resistances to relate and properly engage with perspectives excluded by our own, with standpoints that can uproot our certainties and transform them. In the seducer/harasser, we find a “passional nature,” an affectivity, that gets in the way of knowledge, in the way of objective assessments and fair coordinations, by blocking women's perspectives. This is a form of insensitivity to the experiences of others, an incapacity to allow those experiences to have a voice of their own; it is a compulsion to speak for them and thus to subordinate them to one's own perspective, to one's own interests, meanings, and truths. This insensitivity is a failure in epistemic responsibility. This irresponsibility comes across most clearly in interactions with others who are epistemically mistreated as a result (ignored, not properly listened to, misinterpreted, not believed, and so on). But the irresponsibility in question also involves the subject's incapacity to relate to his own perspective responsibly-that is, an incapacity to acknowledge and take responsibility for the limitations of his own perspective. A notion of epistemic responsibility that fully acknowledges those limitations is precisely what James's pragmatism needs in order to be truly radical.

As we saw above, James does recognize that there are always possible experiences that remain alien to us, that there are always things we find difficult (if not impossible) to relate to. James urges us to acknowledge these limitations of our sensitivity so that we can avoid epistemic arrogance. But in order to develop epistemic responsibility for our own perspective and achieve genuine epistemic humility, we have to come to terms not only with what is simply alien to us, but also with the alienated familiar, interrogating the limitations of our sensibility. It is not sufficient to say “these are my experiences and others have their own,” because privilege and complicity with oppression take refuge in our experiential comfort, in what seems familiar and obvious to us. There are many ways in which epistemic agents can try to evade responsibility for their perspectives, and a critical epistemology cannot let them get away with it. An epistemology cannot be called critical if it simply focuses on the familiar and hides the alien under the rug. As argued above, exposing and critically inspecting the limits of our sensibility involves uncovering not only the simply alien but also the alienated familiar; it requires a process of self-estrangement in which we look at ourselves with fresh eyes, through the eyes of others, and we become capable of critically interrogating the positionality and relationality of our perspectives. Standpoint theory is an empiricist approach that has already developed a critical epistemology of ignorance around the self-questioning of perspectives, and it is for this reason that it can be used to enrich James's pragmatism and expand its notions of epistemic responsibility and humility.

James has to be commended for calling attention to epistemic responsibility. But the Jamesian idea of epistemic responsibility has to be extended to include not only explicitly avowed beliefs but also hard-to-avow presuppositions of one's cognitive life as well as disbelief and even the absence of belief or doxastic lacunas. For James, pledging allegiance to a belief makes one responsible for its practical consequences in one's life and in the lives of others. But we also have to take responsibility for the things we refuse to believe, for the things we suspend belief about, and even for the things that fall into a doxastic lacuna so that the question of belief or disbelief does not even arise. In other words, epistemic responsibility not only attaches to our cognitive attitudes but also extends to the very limits of our sensibility, and we have to take responsibility for those limits. This is what a critical epistemology of ignorance, such as the one developed by standpoint theorists, can offer. Such critical epistemology can account for what Otto (1943, 186) called James's own “blindness” or at least “astigmatism.” James refused to believe that “the ideal of absolutely unentangled and unfettered individuality” was not available to everyone in America (189), and he viewed socioeconomic and institutional obstacles as merely accidental features of social life that did not define American democracy or the “unentangled and unfettered” forms of identity that could flourish within it. It is because of this will not to believe that James could remain “strangely blind . . . , oblivious to the character-forming significance of the economic conditions under which men [and women!] live and work” (185). As Otto put it in “On a Certain Blindness in William James,” “James treated certain important social facts as he might have brushed against strangers in a crowd” (188), without the contact having any impact whatsoever on his perspective. Only a difficult (and likely painful) process of self-estrangement that involves deep epistemic friction with underprivileged perspectives could have unmasked the self-protecting mechanisms of James's privileged perspective and its will not to believe, which insisted on dismissing the existential significance of material structures, socioeconomic conditions, and institutional arrangements, thus severely limiting James's sensibility and his capacity to recognize complicity with social injustices.

While both James and standpoint theory have recognized that epistemic agents are not transparent to themselves, only standpoint theorists have argued for the need of self-estrangement for epistemic responsibility. In James, the recognition of self-opacity did not lead to a critical epistemology of ignorance because he thought that we could overcome such opacity by uncovering the conditions and consequences of believing, with a positive reconstruction of our epistemic life. I have argued that we also need a negative reconstruction that uncovers the conditions and consequences of disbelieving and indulging in doxastic lacunas-that is, the conditions and consequences of insensitivity to lived experiences. Such reconstruction is something that the epistemic agent cannot do by herself, but only through difficult exposures to and engagements with the perspectives of others-and not just any other or any perspective, but those others who are significantly different from oneself and those perspectives that can challenge one's deepest assumptions and cognitive-affective attachments, one's will to believe and to disbelieve. For this critical task, we need to seek not simply more and more perspectives, but rather critically inhabited standpoints that can shed light on the limitations of available perspectives. This goal of epistemic melioration through the interaction of different standpoints challenging one another is captured by Sandra Harding's account of objectivity as “background-revealing.” As Sullivan (2001, 213) explains it, this account starts from the recognition that epistemic agents “are not self-transparent and thus they need the perspectives of others to root out the biases that exist in their worldviews.” Thus conceived, what objectivity demands is “to critically examine one's own position from the viewpoint of another”; it is for this purpose that “feminist standpoint theory 'makes strange what had appeared familiar,' that is, makes the very familiarity of a man's perspective seem strange to him” (213). As Sullivan (229) argues, this feminist standpoint theory approach can be deepened and generalized through the transactional view of epistemic interaction that we find in pragmatism, which underscores “the need for the transaction of many different perspectives to counter the limitations of each of them.” In order to recruit James's epistemology for a pragmatist-feminist standpoint theory of this sort, we need another expansion: we need to supplement his theory of truth so as to make it “background-revealing” and usable for the critical purpose of self-estrangement-that is, for making strange what has previously appeared as familiar.

<2>Making Room for Self-Estrangement, Part 2: Extending Jamesian Genealogy to Untruths and Counter-truths

James warns us against the danger of accepting inherited truths independently of the life experiences from which they were drawn. On James's view, truths that are simply taken for granted become inert or dead truths, truths that have been removed from the stream of life. Truths have to be related to the subjects in whose life they make a difference, to their experiences and valuations. Truths have to be recreated to remain alive. Our epistemic activities need to rely on a stock of truths that have been previously established in transactions with the world. But the older truths on which we rely cannot be simply taken for granted; they have to be subject to a critical epistemic examination that traces them back to their experiential sources. It is in this sense that the Jamesian approach to truth is essentially genealogical. Jamesian genealogies trace the vital trajectories of truths within our practices. But a critical genealogy is not only a way of refreshing or reviving our past in the light of our present; it is the more radical attempt to make our present and our past alien to us, to look at historical trajectories with fresh eyes, with different eyes, so that they appear as strange artifacts. And this process of self-estrangement involves the unearthing of the radical differences that lie within our practices and within ourselves, but have been silenced, marginalized, stigmatized, excluded, or forgotten. For example, the critical self-estrangement of the likes of the obstinate seducer/harasser whom James describes could be provoked by a critical genealogy of sexual meanings and truths, a genealogy that forces the subject to confront suppressed meanings and truths about the coercive element of sexual relations. The critical payoff of genealogy would be to call into question that men can simply ignore women's voices when they say “no,” or that such a “no” can be reinterpreted as a “yes” or a “maybe” without doing violence to women's sexual agency and experiences. The possibilities for violence and oppression hidden within mainstream sexual meanings and truths can only be uncovered by queering those standard meanings at the center of the sexual imaginary, forcing subjects to look at their familiar experiences from a radically different perspective, one that brings to the fore suppressed or repressed elements and forces a redescription of the experience in question-for example, not as women enjoying being “vanquished” by an irresistible seduction, but rather as women being coerced into a sexual relation by being silenced and ignored in their refusal.

As Nancy Tuana (2004, 194), for one, has agued so forcefully, the distortions and insensitivities of the dominant (hetero)sexist imaginary are maintained through systematic epistemic “practices that suppress or erase bodies of knowledge concerning women's sexual pleasures.” Such epistemic domination needs to be countered with critical genealogies that excavate and energize sites of resistance. As epistemically described by Tuana (2006, 1) in her analysis of (hetero)sexist distortions and insensitivities, sites of resistance are sites “for understanding how to identify, critique, and transform ignorance,” sites where resistance is exerted through the counter-meanings and counter-truths that can be articulated from the critical standpoints and alternative experiences of oppressed subjects.

Critical genealogies can produce the self-estrangement of mainstream perspectives and the queering of those meanings that have become standard and hegemonic. This is what is offered by a radical pluralistic view of our epistemic lives-by the guerrilla pluralism described in section 2. And this is what is needed for the ongoing expansion of one's sensibility-the broadening of what we find imaginable and relatable. The critical role of the imagination involves the exploration of its own limits, and this exploration cannot take place if our imaginative and cognitive lives remain detached; it can only happen if we start taking responsibility for the material and structural conditions in which we believe and disbelieve, understand and fail to understand, and if we experience the resistance of standpoints that imagine and understand things differently, challenging our own perspective. According to a thoroughly pluralistic view of epistemic agency, there is an irreducible plurality of centers of experience and agency that function as centers of resistance and contestability. Differently situated discursive subjectivities have differential capacities to contest and resist the truths/untruths and the knowledges/ignorances that surround their discursive lives. Only this resistance and contestability (what I have described elsewhere as beneficial epistemic friction) can broaden what we find imaginable and relatable and thus expand our sensibility. A critical epistemology must focus on the epistemic friction among multiple sources of agency and multiple regimes of knowledge-ignorance / power, making it possible to form plural and heterogeneous forms of solidarity and opening up new possibilities for social contestation. This critical epistemology-the transactional pragmatist-feminist standpoint theory that Sullivan described-has to be grounded in a guerrilla pluralism (not in a melioristic pluralism) if it is going to be at the service of the principles of freedom and respect of Jamesian pragmatism. The “intellectual republic” that James envisioned is a community of epistemic and political solidarity that has to be put at the service of fighting oppression and promoting liberation, of protecting everyone's freedom to think-the freedom to experience life in one's own terms while respecting everyone else's terms. As James ([1896] 2011, 107) puts it, “No one of us ought to issue vetoes to the other, nor should we bandy words of abuse. We ought, on the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another's mental freedom: then only shall we bring about the intellectual republic; then only shall we have the spirit of inner tolerance without which all our outer tolerance is soulless, and which is empiricism's glory; then only shall we live and let live, in speculative as well as in practical things.”




<CT>Incredulity and Advocacy

<CST>Thinking After William James

<CA>Lorraine Code

Feminist social epistemology and William James's pragmatist analyses of conditions for knowing and for “making our ideas clear” intersect, albeit more by chance than by design, in ways that suggest how thinking after James can be a valuable resource for feminist epistemologists and ethicists now. To note just a few salient commonalities, neither mode of inquiry starts from an artificially constructed tabula rasa or from sanitized examples extracted from human lives and situations; both work to understand knowledge projects located in medias res-in the midst of things-where “things” are to be conceived thickly, as and where they are; and, in each, a guiding purpose is to know and understand diverse experiences and practices as they are situated in, made by, and make the world-not to study stripped-down, incontestable “givens.” (Jessica Feldman [1998, 305] refers to James's “warnings against ignoring 'everyday' experience.” ) Moreover, as I will suggest, in each mode of inquiry, epistemological and ethical-political issues are-often if not always-interconnected and reciprocally constitutive. Thus, central to my discussion will be a recognition of how, for each line of thought, albeit variously, structures of custom and taken-for-grantedness hold habits of mind in place, and how lives are made manageable within, and perhaps because of, those structures. Yet such habits, which are by definition constructed rather than given, often require rethinking and remaking if they are to contribute to knowing responsibly and acting well: it is in this possibility that their revisionary potential resides. Hence, unlike post-positivist practices of starting from empirical “simples” to find certainty at its purest, in order then to build knowledge from the bottom up, William James (as do many feminists) proposes a task that is both harder and easier. It is harder because putative knowers do not leave the muddle of the everyday behind but must sort their way through it; yet it is easier because the project is less contrived, more attuned to lives as they are lived down on the ground, than standard late twentieth-century post-positivist empiricist epistemologies have been. Its (anticipatory) affinities with Donna Haraway's (1991) conception of “situated knowledges” will be apparent.

In reading James through a feminist lens, I will propose that a promising epistemic and ethical project can emerge from following his lead in becoming critically and creatively aware of the lived force of habit that underpins and normalizes certain established patterns of thought and action. A project of this kind will endeavor to understand the contingencies and effects of sedimented everyday habits of thought and action by engaging with the specificities of their implications, entanglements, and real-world effects. Such “denaturing” is often vividly animated and/or exemplified in concert with the reading of novels, literary works. Indeed, fiction at its best can become a locus of epistemic challenge-a source of knowledge and/or understanding, and a stimulus for contestation, both internal and external. A receptive reading, I propose, can bring with it a heuristic potential to inform and nourish an appropriate level of recognition and sympathy, or-in the example I will adduce-of incredulity and skepticism vis-à-vis practices that come to be seen as outrageous, unacceptable in the circumstances depicted, enlisting an approach akin to diverse modalities of immanent critique. Such a process is well suited to generate what José Medina (2013, 50) names “beneficial epistemic frictions” for their capacity to unsettle fixed beliefs-to animate radical incredulity and open space for rethinking (see also Medina, this volume). A project of this sort need not point to negative conclusions, although in the reading I will offer, the negative, harmful dimensions of a specific range of social practices integral to white-black racism are the focus of attention.

Here I take as my point of entry James's observation that nature “suddenly puts us in an active connection with objects of which she had till then left us cold. 'I realize for the first time,' we then say, 'what that means!' This happens often with moral propositions. We have often heard them; but now they shoot into our lives; they move us; we feel their living force” (James 1950, 2:321; quoted in Janack 2012, 118). It is in light of his praise for such a capacity to be moved to incredulity by the hitherto taken for granted, the uncontested, that I am reading James's approach to knowing as a resource for understanding how an instituted, and seemingly impervious, social imaginary and the practices and institutions it endorses could come to be destabilized and reconstructed-how the seeds of incredulity could be sown. In a like vein, Phyllis Rooney (1993, 23) aptly proposes that, for James, “practical consequences include more than sensible effects: they also include our aesthetic, intellectual, and affective connections with the world, particularly insofar as they are of significance together in the 'purposive ordering' of our experience.” These thoughts, as I read them, bear directly on the effects of sudden realizations of “what that means,” in a more than merely verbal sense.

<1>Truth from Fiction?

Of a philosopher's quest for “the guiding principle for ethical philosophy,” William James (1968, 214) observes, “His books upon ethics . . . so far as they touch the moral life, must . . . ally themselves with a literature which is confessedly tentative and suggestive rather than dogmatic . . . with novels and dramas of the deeper sort, with sermons, with books on statecraft and philanthropy and social and economical reform.” Here, I will explore the potential of such an alliance between this aspect of James's thought and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. This is a novel, to adapt James's words, that addresses “social reform” of the deeper sort and hence contests a certain smugness integral to the “actually given equilibrium of human ideals” (206) in a sustained project of exposing and disrupting violently unjust racial oppression in general, so to speak, and slavery in particular. I will suggest further that this alliance's epistemological potential is equivalently noteworthy-that many of these thoughts can be read as pertinent, mutatis mutandi, to diversely situated sexist, patriarchal, and other pervasive social injustices. While I do not concur with James (205, 210) that in order to achieve “systematically unified moral truth” philosophers “must postulate a divine thinker,” I am proposing that feminist, antiracist, and other “oppositional” philosophers can go much of the way with him without needing to take that step. James's position is “of this world,” engaging with the specificities of human lives, examining how they are shaped by socially inculcated habits whose susceptibility to imaginative, innovative challenge he applauds. “Experience, as we know, has ways of boiling over, and making us correct our present formulas,” James (1995, 86) affirms. Analogies between the deconstructive-reconstructive purposes and projects of present-day feminist theory and practice in general and Stowe's condemnation of slavery will be apparent here. In my view, recognition of the outrageousness of certain widespread, yet uncontested, social practices is often initiated through reading “novels of a deeper sort.” Here I will work toward making good this claim by reading Stowe alongside James.

Even though James (1968, 208) insists that “everywhere the ethical philosopher must wait on facts,” he also maintains that “faith in a fact can help create the fact” (56). Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin through these thoughts, and against the backdrop of Ross Posnock's (1997, 322-42) eloquent reflections on James's “sensitivity to the excluded and his resistance to the disciplinary imperative of identity” (333), conveys an experiential sense of how acting “as if” can function as a powerful heuristic practice. It at once demonstrates why things are not as they should be and proposes how an intransigent state of affairs could be contested, even without violating James's cautionary comment about “wait[ing] on facts.” The facts that inform Stowe's novel-to the extent that their factuality can be presumed-show that, in the urgency of certain blatantly intolerable circumstances, there may be no choice but to break the “old moral rules” in order to “bring in a total condition of things more ideal than would have followed had the rules been kept” (James 1968, 208). Reading Stowe also opens the way toward reimagining some of the analogies I have named between second-wave feminist exposures of patriarchal oppression and nineteenth-century racism, as well as some of the connections between women's oppression and slavery, tightly interwoven though these forms of oppression are.

Admittedly, claiming to discern a tacitly feminist potential in this aspect of James's thought is selective, and perhaps unjustly so. For, as Erin Tarver (2007, 280) aptly notes, James exhibits the habits of thought of a man of privileged social status. Nor is his disdain for “polyandry and polygamy and slavery” (James 1968, 205) sufficient in itself to warrant casting him either as an opponent of these injustices and oppressions, or as an advocate for antiracist or feminist movements. Moreover, Charlene Haddock Seigfried (this volume, 000) maintains, tellingly, that James consistently viewed women “from a masculinist, or ideologically patriarchal angle of vision,” and she refers to his “pervasive sexism.” Yet she notes, albeit cautiously, that this sexism seems to coexist “with individually cordial relations with women” and also “with philosophical perspectives that systematically affirm difference” (000). A crucial question, then, is how to reconcile the apparent intransigence of James's patriarchal view of women with his emphasis on the value of science's capacity for breaking “the accepted order” (000). Adding to the ambiguous plausibility of my claims is Cornel West's (1989, 58) contention: “James promotes notions of martial spirit and masculine virility in order to reinvigorate and regenerate individuals for moral purpose.” Nonetheless, I suggest, it is the putative open-endedness of James's pluralism that affords a way of designating a place for thoughts and ideas, both scientific and social, that are not rigidly consistent or intransigently fixed throughout his philosophical life and work. Hence I am proposing, still tentatively, that James's “situated” inquiries, and his readiness to commend breaking with the habits enacted in the old moral rules, justify finding an ameliorative social-justice-promoting resource in his work. More cautiously, then, although racism is my focus so far, analogies with feminist epistemology suggest how the imaginative effects of Stowe's story work to confirm the disruptive power of emancipatory tales, thereby illustrating some of James's more visibly pluralist claims “at work.” Thus, I am contending that the conceptual apparatus Stowe's novel puts into play opens an analogous conceptual space for connecting women's/feminist emancipatory issues with slavery/antiblack racism, and with the promise James evinces for acting “as if.”

I am reading Uncle Tom's Cabin as an elaborated act of epistemic resistance (to borrow a concept from José Medina) and hence of advocacy capable of bringing people to know the quotidian “facts” of slavery well enough to embark on developing an immanent critique that could facilitate opposing it knowledgeably and actively. Stowe's is no disinterested project, even though numerous orthodox empirical claims are integral to its substance. Yet despite, or perhaps even because of, its status as a work of fiction, it is sufficiently plausible and powerful to animate a position in social epistemology committed, indeed, to fostering the emergence of a resistant, critically aware citizenry. The challenge Stowe faces is that of demonstrating how the transmission of such disruptive exhortations can successfully be accomplished in a climate of pervasive incredulity-of entrenched convictions and sedimented epistemic habits of mind for which, according to the going wisdom, her claims cannot, in a strong sense, be true. This conundrum recalls Shannon Sullivan's (2006, 21) reminder that James worked with “a 'thick' understanding of habit as deeply constitutive of who a person is and therefore as difficult and slow (though not impossible) to change”-that, for James, habit is “a mechanism that keeps the various social classes in their place, protecting the status quo” (37). Seigfried's cautionary comments are again pertinent: such are the habits of mind, action, and social structuring that Stowe's tale has to counteract. Yet I want to propose that some aspects of hermeneutics and phenomenology are also potential allies here, in their practices of engaging with the ordinary dailiness of human situations and purposes. Processes of bringing habit to awareness, showing the effects of its “everydayness,” have a tacit phenomenological aspect. In this regard, they are akin to Simone de Beauvoir's elaborated exposure in The Second Sex of the lived everydayness of patriarchy, of the lived effects of ageism in Old Age, of the lived effects of antiblack racism in America Day by Day, and thence to Stowe's exposure of quotidian aspects and effects of the lived everydayness of slavery in the America she knew. Each of these works, in its way, generates an elaborated, unsettling experiential knowing and rethinking akin to the kind that I am suggesting can be discerned from reading Stowe. The distance between phenomenological analyses and some works of literature is not as great as quotidian assumptions about the separation of fact from fiction suggest: James's reference to “novels of a deeper sort” affirms his putative concurrence.

Epistemologically, then, the power of Stowe's tale is in the contribution it makes to gainsaying any straightforward empiricist reading of racism as consisting in a set of propositions that can simply be refuted by counterexample, in the notorious way Bertrand Russell's putatively paradigmatic claim/example that “all swans are white” was refuted when, unexpectedly, he had to take into account the black swans of the southern hemisphere (in Australia). Racial prejudice permeates thought and action differently: its permeating effects cannot simply be refuted with a set of empirical, propositional counterexamples, although there is nonetheless an analogy here.

These thoughts notwithstanding, it has to be noted that the epistemic, implicitly antiracist substance of Stowe's analysis meets with stern criticism from Angela Davis (1981, esp. 27-31), who charges Stowe with having produced “an utter distortion of slave life.” For Davis, Stowe's central female figure “is a travesty of the Black woman, a naïve transposition of the mother-figure, praised by the cultural propaganda of the period, from white society to the slave community” (27). Over and above the reactionary/progressive contradictions Davis finds in Stowe's depiction of female inferiority in the novel is her speculation that the appeal of Uncle Tom's Cabin resides in the way the author depicts the “contradictory nature of women's status in the nineteenth century” (31). Whether this proposal vindicates reading the novel as emancipatory, after all, must remain an open question, but at the very least the fact of the novel itself, and of the controversies it has generated, creates space for the kinds of engagement and analysis that prompt me to affirm the epistemic value of such “factually” derived fictional narration for its heuristic potential, even if it serves only to provoke ongoing debate and contestation. In short, I am suggesting that such incredulity is not all bad: it can generate/prompt rethinking and reconsidering; it can open the way toward potentially action-animating responses.

Consider the following. In a review of David Eltis's and David Richardson's (2010) Atlas of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Robin Einhorn (2011, 36) asks, “What do you know when you know the home ports of the ships that carried the 2.8 million captives who left from Luanda and the American destinations of the 2.4 million who survived the trip?” The sense of “knowing” operative here is quite distinct from the sense that informs traditional “S knows that p” empiricist epistemic practice: animating Einhorn's question is evidently an expectation that knowing in the sense that the novel tacitly invokes could indeed bring a reader to “realize for the first time . . . what that means” (recalling James); it could infuse and initiate an (inevitably gradual) reconfiguration of habituated thought and action. Presumably, when you know the home ports and the destinations, you know significant facts, and this is no small achievement. But you know virtually nothing of how it was to live the everydayness of those facts-nothing of their nearer or more distant effects for the people who comprised those millions, of their relentless dailiness. Nor is it surprising that many Americans responded to Uncle Tom's Cabin with incredulity, given that they lived and prospered within a stubbornly intransigent social imaginary infused with a cluster of habits sustained by undifferentiated conceptions of blacks, “niggers,” as naturally childlike and subhuman, and by equivalently intransigent convictions about white Christian entitlement to own, discipline, and “look after” them-to save their souls. How could Stowe hope to convince those “southern critics who attacked Uncle Tom's Cabin as an uninformed irresponsible dramatization of the conditions of American slaves” (Stowe 1998, 462)? The empirical grounding of her story is well documented in The Key to “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” which confirms how responsibly “her novel is grounded in fact” (462). Stowe was well prepared to answer the critics who attacked it as an uninformed dramatization of American slavery (even though, as Davis reminds us, it is as interpretive as it is a presentation of “facts”). Indeed, the novel is, if inconsistently and contentiously, praised for having contributed to animating the abolition movement, and respected for prompting people to reimagine the preconceptions about race, slavery, entitlement, and subjectivity that infused an instituted, habitually enacted, and reenacted social imaginary. Hence, had he been familiar with Stowe's book, it might well have ranked, for James, among those novels of the “deeper sort” that interrogate and unsettle the entrenched habits underpinning so much human “knowledge.”

But again, would readers/hearers know more, less, better, or differently from reading Uncle Tom's Cabin than they might from reading the Atlas of the Atlantic Slave Trade? In a sense the question, again, is less about knowledge than about fact as contrasted with fiction, where fact-information-can allegedly claim “autonomous” certainty, while fiction may capture the imagination but can rarely be expected to convey knowledge. The contrast is between dispassionate reason and passionate investment, between the credibility accorded a view from nowhere and specifically situated and engaged epistemic inquiry. It attests to the intransigence of a “thin” conception of imagination that fails to recognize its power to sustain, interrupt, or dislodge fixed habits of thought and action, and to a habit of mind perhaps fearful of imagination's disruptive effects-of its proximity to fantasy, to fabrication. Indeed, such a fear sits uneasily with James's thoughts about novels “of the deeper sort.” How to claim a place for such putative knowing in the ecology of race relations in nineteenth-century America, and in social epistemology now? Factuality is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. A viable response to Einhorn's “What do you know?” will not discount the “facts,” the numbers, but will critically assess how far such knowing can go toward exerting the imaginative-affective force required to unsettle fixed habits of thought and action, to disrupt a putatively “natural” social order. Such a response requires achieving a balance between affirming the significance of “hard facts” and evincing a strategic skepticism about the extent to which facts alone enable people to know “well enough” to act intelligently, responsibly. It has to show how acting “as if” can animate a resistant epistemological approach that is sufficiently powerful to undermine an instituted social imaginary that is manifestly incongruent with itself, but is indeed firmly instituted, established. (Pertinent here is a comment from Cornel West, which I find plausible. Of James's pragmatic theory of truth, West [1989, 67] observes, “The major impact of this theory is to shift talk about truth to talk about knowledge, and talk about knowledge to talk about the achievements of human powers and practices.”)

Contrary to post-positivist convictions that epistemologists should leave the vagaries of the everyday behind to derive necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge in general, James's pragmatism, I have noted, locates itself down on the ground, where the circumstances of that ground are constitutive of the knowing enacted there, and vice versa. Thus, I concur, for example, with Marianne Janack (2004, 173) in her proposal that James's approach is aptly characterized as a pragmatic naturalized philosophy, in that it begins “with contextualized experiences or problems that are freighted with meaning and values,” some of which might be common everyday experiences, while others are more marginal. Hence Janack suggests, “A pragmatic naturalism must take seriously the whole kaleidoscope of human inquiry and action, from the experience of emotions to the quest for broader meaning in life” (173). I am proposing that “novels of a deeper sort,” such as Uncle Tom's Cabin, can be read as performing just such a function.

James's position is open to recognizing that “we” are not self-making, but are made by and answerable to the circumstances, situations, relationships, knowings, and unknowings in which we live. Part of that making involves learning-from infancy and throughout a life-whom and what “we” can trust, especially in light of testimony's variable credibility. It translates into thinking about epistemic responsibility (Code 1987), both testimonially and hermeneutically. How does Stowe's book contribute to these thoughts? I am reading it as an extended act of testimonial advocacy that reenacts some of the multiple specificities of lives and subjectivities caught in the everyday minutiae of slavery-advocacy toward which James might be ambivalently positioned because of who he was and how he lived. Yet it opens possibilities for white Americans then-and, by extension, for “the rest of us” then and now-to imagine, in a strongly “lived” sense of that word, how it could be for a thinking, feeling human being to live as and thus to “be” a slave-to imagine responsibly and in the interests of working toward achieving a measure of epistemic justice. So, for example, David Reynolds (2011, 97) writes, “Uncle Tom's Cabin presented a new way of dealing with slavery: it summoned readers into the consciousness of human beings involved in slavery, especially the enslaved blacks themselves. For its era, the novel was a remarkable testament to a white woman's capacity to enter into the subjectivity of black people-not just to recognize their humanity, which was rare enough, but to sense the total range of their emotions.” This reference to the “total range of their emotions” may be somewhat extravagant, but the thrust of the larger comment catches my point.

The knowing aspect is crucial, for although Stowe had to have “the facts” right, nonetheless, as I have suggested, the facts alone do not suffice, and this is Reynolds's point. It recalls James's (1978, 4) observation that “philosophic study means the habit of always seeing an alternative, of not taking the usual for granted, of making conventionalities fluid again, of imagining foreign states of mind.” Such imagining, it seems, would be an integral component of a will to believe. Its power resides in its commitment to taking seriously the possibility of radical difference-to recognizing that points of commonality across lives, circumstances, and ways of living in and with them are likely fewer than liberal theory and social-political policies designed according to its ready-made template take, unimaginatively, for granted (Code 2006a, 206-7). Its phenomenological aspect is enacted in imaginative efforts to understand something of how it is to be so differently positioned from the imaginer that very little can or should be assumed before the fact. Responsible imagining requires work: research, consultation, negotiation, interpretation. It is rarely a solitary endeavor, for it needs the voices of an interpretive community, in ongoing processes of affirmation and/or contestation. It demands a certain epistemic humility, prompted by a wariness of premature closure, and a recognition that “we” cannot always know the truths of our own lives. Imagination here, then, is about attempting to think/imagine one's way into the situations of differently situated Others-the diversely privileged, the marginalized, the otherwise damaged-not just for the sake of it, but to counter the epistemic damage enacted by often-coercive presumptions of sameness. It is an ameliorative project in its quest to avoid Procrustean processes of slotting people into conceptual boxes and “kinds” that are crude and harmful, as putative epistemic devices; it is liberatory in endeavoring to understand the implications for a human subject (or subjects) occupying social-political-economic positions radically different from the knower's. Honoring these commitments requires a kind of hermeneutic circumspection in imagining how it is to be in that place and circumstance, with those conditions, however strange or improbable. Yet, starting from expectations of differences not immediately knowable, in the ways classical empiricists claim to know unmediated facts, would-be knowers can move toward making it possible to see more than the “pair of glasses on our nose,” whose effects are to make everyone, everything, every place look simply like variations on the same.

In Epistemic Responsibility (Code 1987), unwittingly anticipating feminist theories of “situated knowledges” and contesting epistemologists' adherence to a conception of knowledge as dislocated-as transcending specificities and situations-I contend that the “nature” of a knower/knowers and of her, his, or their location(s) within an epistemic community silently enable or constrain knowledge production and circulation. Observing that an exception to such “dislocated” knowledge is to be found in American pragmatism, I note, “James, Dewey, Peirce, and Lewis all put forward textured accounts of the way knowledge emerges in lives, in . . . specific concerns and purposes, and in interaction with the environment and with other knowledge seekers.” Thinking about how moral considerations could inflect or temper epistemic ones, I recall James: “We must know the truth and we must avoid error,-these are our first and greatest commandments as would-be knowers” (1987, 27n11). This claim may appear to sit uneasily with his contention that “our non-intellectual nature” can be a factor in our choice of belief, but I applaud this second thought for the space that it opens for bringing ethics and epistemology, fact and affect, together (James 1968, 48, 42). According to James, in this connection, would-be knowers/believers must sometimes indeed commit to a belief even if they cannot (yet) determine its truth: they must act “as if.” Hence I am revisiting these at-first-blush outrageous thoughts for their pertinence to countering the habit-enforcing effects of unjust practices that are so thoroughly integrated into the fabric of a social order as to seem immune to challenge. My purpose is to show how thinking and acting “as if” can engage with the complexities, and the resistances, that surface in extended projects of endeavoring to dislodge racist and, by extension, sexist beliefs and actions, in the interests of promoting social justice. On such a view, acting “as if” becomes a committed, prolonged exercise of imagination open to entertaining the proposal that settled habits and ways of being and doing might not be in order as they are; it involves embarking on elaborated projects of reconceiving hitherto unthought possibilities, of reexamining what has hitherto left one/us “cold,” to consider its action-guiding potential from a position of openness to innovation and revision, from which putative knowers/believers intervene at the level of specific imaginings, and of a larger, instituted social imaginary. Such a project will, of necessity, be a commonal -hence not only an individual-endeavor.

Nonetheless, applauding James's high praise for the will to believe, together with its connections to acting/thinking “as if,” requires certain cautionary considerations to be taken into account. William Gavin (2013, i), for example, notes that for his espousal of “the will to believe” James became most “infamous”-and clearly not in an unequivocally commendatory sense. Such alleged “infamy” presumably attaches to an entrenched resistance to fanciful beliefs such as the suggestion that “saying can make it so,” whatever “it” may be. Yet such idle fantasy is at the farthest remove from what James is proposing. Clearly, no one needs reminding that willing to believe (successfully or persuasively) cannot achieve its ends ex nihilo: an inquirer cannot just decide “Now I will believe that racial and sexual oppression, racial segregation-and slavery-are seriously wrong,” and proceed without further ado to suppose that such assertions will inform her-or anyone's-subsequent thought and action, whether singly or collectively. Willing to believe involves a commitment to projects of inquiry that expose an inquirer to what she or he may not (yet?) want to believe, although she/he has somehow come to perceive a need or an obligation to investigate, to consider; she/he “feels their living force.” Such an experience does not, and likely cannot, come out of a void. The epistemic motivation may not be to proceed purposefully to convince oneself of an already-formulated proposition, but it would evince a discomfort with entrenched beliefs, a preparedness to look more closely at the phenomena at issue, to see whether a certain outrageous, if innovative, idea could be plausible, or to confirm that critics/opponents of the order of things have quite the wrong idea. The epistemic/doxastic motivation could, in short, be as negative as it might be positive. Feminists and critical race theorists are fully cognizant of the forces that can be mustered to generate and reinforce a will to believe of the opposite sort-to think and act as if women and/or nonwhites are indeed inferior beings who need to know their place in the world, and keep to it. For this reason alone, exercising a will to believe has to be a multiply textured project, as attuned to the ethical-political as to the epistemic-doxastic effects of its realization. In short, the moral implications of such a process will not inevitably be positive: it would be quite possible to exercise a will to believe something diabolical, nefarious, viciously prejudiced. One could, as many did and still do, will to believe in the face of putatively uncontestable evidence to the contrary that blacks are indeed a lesser race (than whites), that women are indeed lesser beings (than men), and that all of these people should-justifiably-be kept subservient and in their place. Hence praise for the explanatory-ameliorative power of willing to believe needs to be articulated within a larger frame of commitment to achieving social justice-understanding what and how it would be, and working toward its realization. Dialogical back-and-forth deliberative and activist practices such as are evidenced in the growth (however halting and gradual) of feminist, pro-environmental, antiracist, and other “new” social movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries afford significant examples of the processes potentially involved.

<1>Democratic Acquaintanceship

Harriet Beecher Stowe takes her readers into Uncle Tom's Cabin in such a way that they/we can begin to know/feel, imaginatively, something-however minimal-of how it was to be a slave in the sensory-affective tonality of its humiliation, suffering, and triumphs. She does so, I suggest, in an elaborated process of engaging in a practice akin to what Stephen Esquith (2010, 28) aptly characterizes as “democratic acquaintanceship”: a productive, rich concept whose origins he attributes to the thinking of Jane Addams and John Dewey, and whose substance points to affinities with the effects I am claiming for Uncle Tom's Cabin in a Jamesian-derived conceptual frame. A remarkable capacity of such “reenactments” as Stowe creates (which I locate alongside “novels of a deeper sort”) is “to create a public space in which the responsibilities of bystanders who are neither perpetrators nor victims can be democratically discussed and met,” Esquith suggests (28). It can also, I am proposing, be enlisted to elaborate the epistemic-explanatory power of William James's will to believe out of a contiguous, if not precisely congruent, conceptual space. Such a capacity introduces an explanatory-ameliorative apparatus whose potential makes of it an apt resource for thinking away from the given, toward the possible. Nor is it implausible to suggest that James could have found such a process quite compatible with his respect for “a will to believe.” How better might such a will be realized? Elaborated, the idea of democratic acquaintanceship distantly adumbrates Maria Lugones's (1987) claims for the value of “world traveling” in projects designed to understand the strange, the unfamiliar, the outrageous. Hence it will not be difficult for feminist readers to imagine something of its potential. It creates space for thinking with and about knowledge that is richer than, and indeed qualitatively different in its engagement with the multiplicity of human experiences from, the old (Russelian) knowledge-by-acquaintance and knowledge-by-description analysis, with the paucity of its descriptive-narrative resources, where acquaintance really is no acquaintance at all. By contrast, democratic acquaintanceship is a richly provocative conceptual resource and, parenthetically, one in whose elaboration Esquith (2010, 27-28) also draws on the explanatory/experiential power of novels and poetry, which he too reads as “cultural reenactments.” He commends their capacity “to create a public space in which the responsibilities of bystanders who are neither perpetrators nor victims can be democratically discussed and met” (28), allowing “us to see how our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering.” In such reenactments-following Dewey and Addams-Esquith discerns the basis of democratic acquaintanceship, for reparations, he maintains, “cannot be apportioned without some understanding of the past” (72). Analogously, I am contending here, Uncle Tom's Cabin animates an understanding of what Esquith calls “the cultural roots of violence,” as it was manifested in slavery and continues to be manifested, if differently, in latter-day racism, after abolition (171).

For Esquith (2010, 97), democratic acquaintanceship can be achieved in large part through what he calls “democratic political education,” noting that it “takes time and careful effort . . . [and] requires imagination.” It also, in his view, evinces commonalities with some versions of feminist ethics, especially in its emphasis on care and hence on responsibilities rather than rights (208). This thought, as I read it, tacitly connects both with epistemic responsibilities to know (in a “thick” sense), rather than turn from, the effects of entrenched unjust social practices, and with ethical responsibilities to act in ways that are designed to counteract such practices. The suppressed premise is that knowing well can prompt acting well-a contentious but not implausible thought, and one that is central for the achievement of social justice in just these areas of discourse and practice.

How, then, might the idea of a will to believe as enabling democratic acquaintanceship be enlisted collectively (for some collectivity), and not just individually? How could it happen that some ideas take on a life-a heuristic force-of their own, to animate social movements and fuel social change? Western feminism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has done just this, as has antiracism-differently if not always separately-in some parts of the white, affluent Western world. The idea of democratic acquaintanceship as animating a social movement or phenomenon-borrowing this idea to amplify James's will to believe, however individualistically contained his initial conception may be-can be enlisted to show something of what such a will to believe can achieve at a historical moment when, as in Stowe's time, a reading public-an increasingly democratized reading public -comes (if slowly) to manifest something like “the prepared mind,” on which socially innovative projects commonly depend in endeavoring to claim a hearing and stake out the ground that will nourish them. The claim is, in effect, that flashes of revolutionary insight rarely happen ex nihilo: they are the products of preparation, of an achieved collective receptivity, for some collectivity sufficiently animated, energized, and vocal to contribute (if gradually) to changing minds. Recall Anne Seller's (1988, 180) reminder: “As an isolated individual, I often do not know what my experiences are,” where she contends that feminist knowledge “requires us to act together in conversation.” I am suggesting here that Uncle Tom's Cabin appears to have sparked and animated conversations in which minds, indeed, were changed. Yet such “change” cannot plausibly be read as instantaneous, as in flicking an on-off switch, especially for James. Indeed, in some of his writing, habit seems to be far more intransigent, more stubborn, than my thus-far optimistic attributions of plasticity to the will to believe suggest. Consider especially James's (1950, 2:121) reference to habit's “most precious conservative influence”-to its capacity to save “the children of fortune from the uprisings of the poor,” to protect us “from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone . . . [to keep] different social strata from mixing.” It is not at all easy to reconcile such claims with the apparent malleability he attributes to thinking “as if,” in the works I have cited. Perhaps from the friction sparked by this contrast, credibility can be gleaned for the case I have been arguing, but it may well have to remain an open argument.

For feminist readers, the publication of Stowe's book as an act of political testimony was remarkable in her time, for the political sphere then, as Reynolds (2011, 161) observes, was “a forbidden sphere for women,” with the potential consequence that the work could have been discounted or dismissed as a “mere” novel fabricated by a woman. It was remarkable, too, for its access to the testimony of slaves at a time when Stowe (1998, 451) had to ask, “Does not the slave system, by denying the slave all right of legal testimony, make every individual owner an irresponsible despot?” These are among the many places where she faced incredulity. Perhaps her addition of the appendix was prompted, in part, by these worries; fact, there, would override or at least contest any views about fabrication. It did not, however, quell the controversy that raged around the very fact and the content of the book itself, giving rise both to effusive praise for its prejudice-disarming effects and to strong resistance, especially in the South, for its blatant challenge of a conception of slavery as a natural, biblically sanctioned institution. Novels “of a deeper sort” do not automatically or instantaneously unlock the fortress of prejudice and injustice, despite their notable achievement in working toward realizing democratic acquaintanceship. (Reynolds [2011, 89] refers to the “democratic sympathy for black people” that Stowe achieves in this “moving and comprehensive indictment of slavery.”) But the very resistance these novels generate seems to have contributed to an impact that, again, at least according to Reynolds, “changed American society in ways Stowe could not have foreseen” (167).

My claim that advocacy often makes knowledge possible is difficult to defend, for no epistemologist needs reminding that advocacy commonly invites condemnation. It is conceived as promoting projects in which the claimant has a personal stake-hence as permitting individual interest to override allegiance to “the truth.” Yet the issue is less about the certainty of one-off punctiform knowledge claims than about situated knowledges, intelligibility, imaginability-bringing a situation, practice, or state of affairs to public awareness, if only to devise ways of countering it or to fuel debate about established “truths” and “rightness.” Given the volatile political situation and the ambivalent status of fiction as a source of knowledge (both then and now), it is no wonder that Uncle Tom's Cabin met with a mixed reception in the American South in the 1850s, and even after Reconstruction. Yet in the novel, several reformist concerns come together with the potential to disrupt sedimented habits and animate radical change. It promoted temperance, in view of the extent to which reformers perceived analogies between slavery and alcohol; it condemned capitalism as socially degrading, since it required slaves to realize its purposes. The novel deplored the sexual slavery that was too often integral to slavery as such, it championed a kinder Christianity, and it engaged a cluster of interrelated, mutually reinforcing social questions pertinent to feminist projects both then and now. Yet it did not cross into “sensation-mongering,” nor did Stowe unequivocally praise slave rebellions: she used the novel “to advocate black rebelliousness subtly and within the accepted norms of her time” (Reynolds 2011, 58, 76-77). In appealing to “the better angels of our nature,” Stowe (1998, 116) showed how, in her view, white Americans and slaves were bonded by a common humanity. This was a truth she had to demonstrate in order to unsettle the conviction that slavery was “natural”-that slaves were not fully human, but were childlike, and thus they required paternalistic Christian tutelage. A combination of intellect and affect animates Uncle Tom's Cabin and is credited, at least in some small part, with fueling the upheavals that followed its publication. Yet the book spoke as loudly to its detractors as to its champions. There was no smooth passage from the racist stance that sustained slavery to a benign Christian (or other) charity that worked toward prompting its abolition. Nonetheless, before Stowe, ideas of black “equality” were insufficiently articulated to be productively debated. After Stowe, for example, with George Fitzhugh's new “sociology,” in which he maintained that “the Southern plantation . . . was the ideal socialist group, for it supplied workers with masters who fed, sheltered, and instructed them . . . [so that] the inferior class, blacks, had found its natural, desirable position” (Reynolds 2011, 158-59), there emerged a “house divided,” with overwhelming and enduring consequences. But without upheavals such as these, it is unclear how efforts to abolish slavery could have been initiated, even though its abolition-as is abundantly clear-did not, as many had hoped, bring an end to racism.

What, then, do you know from the slavery narratives in Uncle Tom's Cabin, and how does such knowing speak to feminist-informed pragmatist projects both then and now? The answers will be less factual than the answer to Einhorn's question about the Atlas of the Atlantic Slave Trade. But Stowe's story creates an urgent sense of friction that gives its readers more to argue about, to engage with, to begin to know or even to debate, in a fuller sense, than knowing “just the facts.” Although the thought may pertain more directly to thinking about Dewey than about James, Stowe's story does not, I think (paraphrasing Shannon Sullivan's [2006, 43] apt comments), “leave out the ugly hostility of human habits,” nor does it “strike too genial a tone to grapple with the vicious realities of white privilege.” But a strong brief for storytelling's contribution to the kind of knowing as acquaintance at issue here might maintain that such knowing eludes the structures and practices of discursive, academic argument. Perhaps ironically (here I borrow from Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring is also cited in a review of Reynolds's book for its epistemological impact), after reading Stowe, a knower is positioned to know more and practice a more appropriate level of humility than pretensions to know impersonal accumulations of fact can generate-to know across differences, given the multiple instantiations of slaves, slave owners, and slavery itself that Stowe introduces.

Returning, then, to William Gavin's emphasis on the centrality of the will to believe for Jamesian pragmatist knowing, one might take such willing as a complex phenomenon whose negative implications could prompt those firmly set in their views to enlist all possible evidence and powers to sustain them in believing that their intransigent ways must be right-evidence and/or politics to the contrary notwithstanding. Hence, if some counterpart of the will to believe is to participate in developing a feminist reading of James and/or an antiracist, antislavery reading, then a larger moral framework is also urgently required-one that upholds issues that might not seem to be as central to an achievement of social justice. It would require a conceptual repertoire sufficiently sensitive to oppose racism/sexism on moral-political grounds not themselves created by or part of the will to believe. This tangled, difficult point merits a prominent place in projects of thinking after William James. Often a putative knower/believer has to learn to perceive the injustices in the taken for granted, to acquaint herself/himself with them in their textured specificity-not just to perceive them but to work toward understanding how to contest them. I am suggesting that reading Harriet Beecher Stowe from a point of view animated by James's brief for thinking and acting “as if” creates a worthy point of entry into such issues.




<CA>Charlene Haddock Seigfried

In reading the diverse contributions in this book, I am impressed by how well they draw out the resources of James's philosophy for feminist concerns. It is instructive to see how they variously understand and respond to the hierarchical, gendered assumptions that shaped his life and his philosophical reflections. The feminist reweaving of James's philosophy by drawing on his strengths and reinterpreting them for our times is equally striking. Together they exemplify the developments that have been made since the very idea of a pragmatist feminism was first raised (Seigfried 1991a, 1991b).

In these chapters, not only is it recognized that James seems quite unaware of his white, class, and male privileges, but new explorations are made into the ways that these unrecognized biases infect and affect his philosophy. Looking at both his everyday encounters and his professional life, Erin McKenna shows how James's seemingly cordial interactions with women-no matter how talented or accomplished-did not cause him to rethink his patriarchal perspective. That his bias is deep, pervasive, and consistent is not surprising. That is how biases operate.

What should be troubling for us is how these deep biases were so impervious to the contrary evidence all around James, a philosopher whose pragmatic method required that beliefs could be falsified by experience. Moreover, as a person as well as a philosopher, he was particularly attuned to the anomalies and exceptions that defy expectation and cause us to rethink our conventional beliefs. What, then, was the obstacle blocking his recognition of women's full humanity? Unwittingly, he answers this question for us. It can be found in a position pervasive throughout his writings. His non-essentialism posits that we do not mysteriously intuit the inner nature or qualities of things, but the features of experience we take to be real “wholly [depend] on our purpose, interest, or point of view at the time” (W. James 1983, 10; see also Seigfried 1990b, 114).

Already in The Principles of Psychology, James (1981, 940) affirms that “the theory that will be the most generally believed” will be the one that includes not only the testimony of our senses, but will also “appeal most urgently to our aesthetic, emotional, and active needs.” In Pragmatism, James (1975, 97) does give the strong criterion that “true ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify,” but he also says that this is what truth means because of “the practical difference it makes to us” (see also Seigfried 1990b, 303). And the function of the practical, the third department of rationality (the other two are the impressions of sense and the role of theory), is to transform impressions into conceptions “in the interests of our volitional nature and for no other purpose whatsoever” (W. James 1979, 75, 79; see also Seigfried 1990b, 382).

James's deep psychological need to prove his masculinity required that women affirm his status by willingly assuming their role as supporters and helpmates, rather than as independent centers of creativity and power. This is the bias in his own personality, the flaw in the gilded crystal bowl, that distorts his view of women (H. James 1985). The reality of strong women as they perceive themselves and as we perceive them cannot force James to recognize them as anything other than his interests, needs, and point of view require or encourage (see Seigfried 2008).

What are the conditions for recognizing a particular perspective as a harmful bias? Others have answered this question much better than James. It is not irrelevant that James did not use the word “bias,” but preferred the more neutral terms “perspective,” “point of view,” or “fringe” as ways to identify that which is not consciously recognized but frames all that we do perceive or focus on. James gives us an extremely rich and insightful explanation of the ways in which conventions, ideologies, intuitions, needs, desires, and beliefs of all kinds shape our understanding of the world and how we act. Facts do not speak for themselves, so how do those who suffer from the distortive views of others counteract them? At the very least, the pervasive assumption that the world is as we perceive it-as we have been conditioned or persuaded to perceive it, or as we desire or need to perceive it-has to be broken through. The contributors to this volume have taken on this task by developing explanations of how perspectives, privilege, and power operate even in seemingly neutral social, political, psychological, and economic constructions of reality.

McKenna provides many examples of the strong women James encountered and admired throughout his life, adding further evidence that facts do not force themselves on us if they are perceived through distorted lenses. She shows how women can remain invisible, despite their public and private accomplishments, when viewed from a position of class, race, and gender privilege fostered and sustained by family relationships. Evidence points to the fact that James Sr. and Henry James, as well as William, diverted women's energy to themselves and thrived off it, while remaining indifferent to their needs-a state of affairs considerably more disabling than invisibility. McKenna argues that subordinate groups must reject their assigned role of helping more privileged groups achieve their full potential while suppressing their own. Insofar as this unequal and nonreciprocal arrangement explicitly or implicitly finds support in a philosophy, it must be made visible and rejected, if that philosophy is to be made truly useful and freeing.

Jacob L. Goodson takes up the more benign interpretation of James's reviews of Horace Bushnell's and John Stuart Mill's books on women that I sought to dispel. In my earlier research, I was at first excited to discover evidence that James had actually read Mill's groundbreaking work on the causes and remedies for women's oppression and curious to see how he would incorporate its insights. It was therefore a disappointment to discover that, given his rejection of its central thesis, it was not possible to claim that the gender prejudices found throughout James's writings could be attributed to ignorance of feminist texts. Goodson mistakes what is at stake in my calling James's criticism of Mill, “as quibbling over whether women have a fixed nature or not,” superficial. What is superficial is not that James supposedly trivialized Mill's logical inconsistencies, as Goodson thinks, but that James did not read Mill carefully enough to realize what Mill was actually arguing. As I explained, Mill calls women's subordinate condition unnatural, not in contrast to a presumed natural or essential nature, but, rather, the biased belief of the time, incorporated into the legal system, that women were naturally inferior was itself “unnatural” because it mistook learned and enforced behavior as a given or natural state. There is no logical contradiction in Mill's account.

Goodson shares James Livingston's fear that if Mill's claim that “all differences between men and women are unnatural or artificial” is true, then femaleness is reduced to maleness. But this would only happen, as Simone de Beauvoir as well as Mill pointed out, if discussions of maleness and femaleness ignore the horizon of understanding of humanness that frames them. When our definition of humanness is essentialist because it denies the reciprocity through which it is authentically and freely constituted and reconstituted, male traits and human traits can be equated, leaving femaleness as the rejected “other.” While sexual differences are factually distinctive and plural beyond the dyad of male and female, what we believe about them and how we act in regard to them are filtered through our cultural assumptions about gender. If, as James argues, a full fact consists of “a conscious field plus its object as felt or thought of plus an attitude towards the object plus the sense of self to whom the attitude belongs,” then saying that gender is a social construct does not somehow make its various incarnations untrue. All facts are “full”-they are “of the kind to which all realities whatsoever must belong”-but it takes an effort of analysis to recognize this fringe that co-constitutes facts we take for granted (W. James 1985, 393; see also Seigfried 1990b, 14-18). More importantly, it is precisely because of this transactive character of impression, perception, valuation, and action that it possible for the positive attitudes and values developed through women's experiences to be taken up by others as preferable to, or in conjunction with, those developed over the centuries from male philosophers' experiences and interpretive frameworks.

Goodson takes at face value James's defense of both foreignness (“unlikeness”) and intimacy (“likeness”) against Mill's supposedly leveling tendencies. In doing so, he unwittingly helps demonstrate what has been so often pointed out by others in this book-namely, that James developed many valuable positions but failed to apply them evenhandedly to women. Mill does not reduce female to male, as Goodson and James think he does, but insists that however women differ from men, they do not differ in regard to their humanity. He argues that the traits that his Victorian society attributed to women systematically deprived them of their full humanity. It is James-not Mill-who is sentimental, because he wants to preserve as women's intimate nature those traits that fulfill men's deepest desires and needs. Goodson wants to preserve, intact, James's sense of the value of intimacy in regard to women, but if, as he says, “intimacy between subject and object should never be understood in terms of the subject possessing the object, where the quest for certainty overdetermines and smothers the object,” then James fails this test, as the myriad examples of how he construed and interacted with women demonstrate.

Erin C. Tarver challenges James scholars to incorporate into their own interpretations the insights and criticisms that feminists have expressed regarding his philosophy. It is not enough to acknowledge how our own perspectives limit the worlds we experience and how we interpret them more systematically, but it is past time to specifically reconstruct James's text in line with the different perspectives available to us. Tarver emphasizes how necessary this reinterpretation is by examining how “James's assumption of masculine subjectivity or agency results in an untenable account of the self in some of his moral and popular philosophical writings.” A more robust, defensible account of the self requires these revisions. Employing feminist readings will not just mean better pragmatist feminist philosophy, but will also make Jamesian philosophy more consistently pragmatic. Tarver points out that James's examples of the great man exclude women and are “inconsistent with the thickly social and relational self of James's psychological and epistemological work.”

Susan Dieleman is leery of the “subversive feminine,” as well as of “the glorification of motherhood” in developing a feminist ethics of care. In various ways, feminine traits have long been a focus of feminist deconstructions of gender. A question worth exploring in more depth is what relationship an aspiration to embrace femininity (however this is defined in a particular culture) that is not exploited to constrain and denigrate women, but is rather a desirable and valuable lifestyle, has to do with feminist insights and goals. James is problematically both attracted to feminine traits and antifeminist, but how much can the conventionally feminine be a gateway to feminism without assuming the negative aspects that it has acquired due to its genesis in patriarchal cultures?

Dieleman states what I take to be a necessary condition to such appropriation-namely, an anti-essentialist approach. She says that, for James, virtues are neither essentially masculine nor essentially feminine. This is surely logically correct, given James's anti-essentialism, which is groundbreaking and deeper than is usually recognized, as I argue in William James's Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy (1990b, esp. 99-116; see also Seigfried 1990a). It predates even his Pragmatism. It is when he fails to extend this anti-essentialist approach to women that he becomes inconsistent and unjust and makes false claims. As Dieleman says, “The recognition of the contingent and contextual nature of the virtues that constitute care ethics that we can find in James provides a valuable approach that the contemporary care ethicist might be interested to take.” I agree with both Dieleman's stronger and weaker theses. Taking “great care” with James's explicit references to women is not only compatible with reading him as a non-essentialist; it is required. Given the importance of James for my own thinking, rejecting his views outright has never even been contemplated. As the title of my second book on James says, I think that James radically reconstructed philosophy and the Western tradition of rationalism, and that we further this reconstruction every time we take his positions beyond where he did.

Maurice Hamington doubts my claim that James's “ethics of care anticipates a similar version first elaborated by Carol Gilligan” and others. But anticipation is not elaboration. I think it can be shown that James does have “notions of reciprocity, particularism, and epistemic implications” that predated and were forerunners to those “elaborated by contemporary care theorists.” Of course, James's care ethics is not rooted in women's experience, and this is a difference that makes a difference. But tying an ethics of care exclusively to women's experiences limits its reach, as Hamington admits in explaining the accusation of gender essentialism raised by later theorists.

James's advocacy of a plurality of voices rather than a gender binary is helpful in this regard, as Megan Craig advocates in drawing on James's “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings.” This criticism of gender essentialism is not only “being applied in increasingly gender-neutral ways,” but it was already raised from a Jamesian perspective in early formulations of an ethics of care (Seigfried 1989). It is hard to see how James's claim that the greatest obstacle to the ethical life is blindness or the deliberate refusal to pay attention to the lives, perceptions, and values of persons different from ourselves would not provide the groundwork for feminist standpoint theory and the arguments supporting why women and other marginalized groups should be taken seriously.

Craig focuses on James's Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals, his only book explicitly addressed to young women. Like his other lectures and books, it was aimed at his own white middle class of educated cultural elites who were expected to be exemplars and leaders. He stresses the role of habits in holding us back from pursuing higher ideals and the need for slow but sure modification of habits to convert them into our allies instead of our enemies. Against anxiety, overwork, and moral insensitivity to others, he promotes flexibility, relaxation, and openness to lives different from our own.

James's astute diagnosis of “Americanitis” as the restless, overworked, and often-depressive lives of those harassed by the demands of the industrial revolution is even more apt in our postindustrial world of 24/7 media availability. Craig shows how James's diagnosis brings out many features of how this melancholia and depression disproportionately affect women that would not be addressed again until Julia Kristeva's work. But she also addresses the “potentially dangerous and conservative undercurrent to his 1895 pleas” and the “deep feminist tensions” that she perceives throughout “The Gospel of Relaxation.”

The moral dimensions of trying to see the world from points of view different from our own, which James urges in “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” are aptly characterized by Craig as requiring “entanglements in the thicket of new experiences, particularly those experiences that challenge or undercut one's sure footing and safely guarded beliefs.” She references Cora Diamond, but this insight is so central to Jane Addams's philosophy that it would be helpful to draw on it as well. By including Addams along with Annie Payson Call, Craig would further contribute to recovering a vibrant, but too often neglected, dimension of pragmatist feminism.

Jeremy Carrette is interested in showing how James's representation of women's bodies “offers problems and potentiality for a feminist rethinking of The Varieties and women's mystical experience.” He gives a nuanced account of how to use James's philosophical breakthroughs to challenge both Catholic and Protestant misreadings of women's mystical experiences and knowledge. At the same time, he demonstrates how James's own patriarchal assumptions prevented him from developing a robust feminist interpretation.

James is heir to a distinctly gendered reading of female mysticism in the Christian tradition-namely, the belief that when women speak through and of their bodies, they experience and emote, while men rationally interpret, authorize, and condemn. He follows “a patriarchal epistemology[,] the logic of gendered domination-submission,” but only partially because of the centrality of the body to his psychology and philosophy. The organicism that applies to scientific no less than religious minds is a healthy antidote to the tradition, but this affirmation is weakened by the gendered valuing that distorts it. Carrette speaks of a “patriarchal pragmatism” that is characterized by limiting the practical outcomes that count as confirmation and points out that James refers to Luther's distinct Protestant masculinity to confirm his interpretation.

Carrette picks out several of James's positions, such as the “extra-marginal,” “the more,” pluralism, and overbeliefs, that are valuable for feminist appropriation. He says, for example, that his distinction between two forms of knowledge-a knowledge about and a knowledge by acquaintance-can provide the “link between knowledge and body that Lacan's later abstractions betray.” Recognizing that “James's epistemology reaches beyond his time and [that] his own patriarchal gestures can be challenged by his wider philosophical commitments” supports the worth of taking the time to issue such a challenge. Reading James as a feminist opens up the radical possibilities of his philosophy in a way that traditional interpretations have failed to do.

Shannon Sullivan's chapter clearly and persuasively demonstrates the advantages of recognizing that James's philosophy still has the resources to undermine false assumptions in contemporary theories, even as she supplements and recasts his perspectives through critical, feminist analyses. She does so by using James's theory of emotion to challenge cognitivist dismissals of the body and accounts of emotion, as well as its denigration of the epistemological value of emotion, while also using feminist philosophy to enrich the interpersonal, transactional dimensions of emotion that are underdeveloped by James.

By supplying an even more robust account of emotions than cognitivists do, Sullivan avoids the subtle reinscription of the very mind-body dualism that they claim to overcome. She gives one of the best accounts of James's intuitively false theory that bodily changes cause emotions that I have read, and in doing so shows just how robust his theory of emotion is in challenging the seemingly ubiquitous philosophical hierarchies of mind over body. Finally, by showing how emotions have a transpersonal impact and also how affective knowledge can be gleaned from them, Sullivan significantly adds to James's account.

Lorraine Code notes salient connections between feminist social epistemology and James's pragmatist theory of knowledge and gives a strong account for why understanding how they differ from current philosophical practices is so valuable. By reading James through a feminist lens, his claims become both more plausible and more insightful. It's heartening to see that the alternative universe of premises, methods, and insights of pragmatists such as James is getting the more widespread attention from feminists that it deserves. Code's analysis is exemplary: she aims “to show how thinking and acting 'as if' can engage with the complexities, and the resistances, that surface in extended projects of endeavoring to dislodge racist and, by extension, sexist beliefs and actions, in the interests of promoting social justice.”

As José Medina says, “this conversation has been long overdue.” He picks up on some of the earliest feminist appropriations and criticisms of James. In particular, he praises the contextuality and intentional/instrumental character of James's epistemology as well as his emphasis on relationality, while criticizing his failure to apply these insights to “social injustices such as racism and (hetero)sexism.” But it is Medina's further analysis that marks a continuing tradition of pragmatist feminism, as he goes on to critically use James to remedy these failures in order to carry out his own program regarding issues of oppression. Although James did not go far enough in regard to the blindness he identifies in our relation to “different” others, this does not prevent Medina from taking from James what he needs to correct and extend its implications. In this, he develops a central contention of this book: “A notion of epistemic responsibility that fully acknowledges those limitations is precisely what James's pragmatism needs in order to be truly radical.”

In conclusion, I am grateful for the recognition of my sustained attempt to develop a pragmatist feminism in 1996, but I don't think that it has, as yet, been recognized how much feminist insights inform my earlier book William James's Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy (1990b). As I was struggling to express my own viewpoint within a pragmatist tradition-one to which I was attracted just because it had so many resonances with the social/political movements of the sixties and seventies-I was developing the radical dimensions of James's philosophy that had, up until then, been submerged in the conventional tradition of a “realist” interpretation of James and the other pragmatists. The dominant reading at the time reflected a theoretical approach that imprisoned James in the typical academic philosopher's universe of the thrust and parry, of one theory or propositional system of references taking on and defeating others. His claims to be starting philosophy anew, from the ground up, were not taken seriously.

We are familiar with feminist reappropriations of language and themes in continental or analytic feminist traditions. This book carries on such transformations in regard to pragmatist philosophy. Such an early feminist challenge to pragmatism as usual was part of what made my interpretation of James a “radical reconstruction.” Among many examples are my emphasis on James's definition of philosophy as “making conventionalities fluid again” and the insight that “we ingeniously discover and remember what we are already prepared to see” (Seigfried 1990b, 213, 216). Additionally, the subheads in my chapter on truth all have feminist resonances: “The Practical Character of Our Beliefs” (297), “The Concrete Point of View” (299), and “Truth as Value for Life” (306). The anti-essentialism that flows from James's theory of selective interest, but which was largely ignored before the publication of William James's Radical Reconstruction, has already been mentioned.

I developed James's radical critique of a rationality divorced from emotion, values, and action. Moreover, I pointed out that “James developed a hermeneutics of cooperation” (Seigfried 1990b, 181), and I only found out later that this was also true of Jane Addams. The following claims will be familiar to feminists: “The dilemma of solipsism, for instance, results from falsifying the connectedness that is prior to any reflective positing of a separation between self and world. This being active in the world finds rational expression in our care and concern towards the whole universe” (381). The four dimensions of rationality already mentioned in my earlier “reflections” are referred to twice (118 and 380). In fact, many of my feminist articles have their origins in William James's Radical Reconstruction.

The “deep convergence with the critical feminist epistemology of standpoint theorists such as Lorraine Code, Sandra Harding, and Patricia Hill Collins” that Medina draws our attention to, for example, can be found in the radical expansion and development of James's theory of selective interest and its repercussions in many chapters. A typical example is that “perspectivism is another aspect of his philosophy that is powerfully conveyed through metaphor” (Seigfried 1990b, 217). And James's “sympathetic concrete observation” (139) is now recognized as a central issue in Addams's writings.

Negative criticism and the positive, transformative reappropriation of philosophic positions are characteristic of most philosophic analysis. This volume shows that we have moved on from mostly emphasizing what James missed as a way to avoid engaging him further. It also shows what can be gained from such engagement, both for developing a more vibrant and socially aware Jamesian pragmatism and for furthering the diverse array of emancipatory projects that characterize our own time.

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