•  801
    Science, Religion, and “The Will to Believe"
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (1): 72-117. 2015.
    Do the same epistemic standards govern scientific and religious belief? Or should science and religion operate in completely independent epistemic spheres? Commentators have recently been divided on William James’s answer to this question. One side depicts “The Will to Believe” as offering a separate-spheres defense of religious belief in the manner of Galileo. The other contends that “The Will to Believe” seeks to loosen the usual epistemic standards so that religious and scientific beliefs can…Read more
  •  798
    ABSTRACT. May scientists rely on substantive, a priori presuppositions? Quinean naturalists say "no," but Michael Friedman and others claim that such a view cannot be squared with the actual history of science. To make his case, Friedman offers Newton's universal law of gravitation and Einstein's theory of relativity as examples of admired theories that both employ presuppositions (usually of a mathematical nature), presuppositions that do not face empirical evidence directly. In fact, Friedman …Read more
  •  714
    On Hume on space: Green's attack, James' empirical response
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (3). 2009.
    ABSTRACT. Associationist psychologists of the late 19th-century premised their research on a fundamentally Humean picture of the mind. So the very idea of mental science was called into question when T. H. Green, a founder of British idealism, wrote an influential attack on Hume’s Treatise. I first analyze Green’s interpretation and criticism of Hume, situating his reading with respect to more recent Hume scholarship. I focus on Green’s argument that Hume cannot consistently admit real ideas of …Read more
  •  398
    What is W. V. O. Quine’s relationship to classical pragmatism? Although he resists the comparison to William James in particular, commentators have seen an affinity between his “web of belief” model of theory confirmation and James’s claim that our beliefs form a “stock” that faces new experience as a corporate body. I argue that the similarity is only superficial. James thinks our web of beliefs should be responsive not just to perceptual but also to emotional experiences in some cases; Quine d…Read more
  •  372
    The standard, foundationalist reading of Our Knowledge of the External World requires Russell to have a view of perceptual acquaintance that he demonstrably does not have. Russell’s actual purpose in “constructing” physical bodies out of sense-data is instead to show that psychology and physics are consistent. But how seriously engaged was Russell with actual psychology? I show that OKEW makes some non-trivial assumptions about the character of visual space, and I argue that he drew those assump…Read more
  •  152
    William James's Objection to Epiphenomenalism
    Philosophy of Science 86 (5). 2019.
    James developed an evolutionary objection to epiphenomenalism that is still discussed today. Epiphenomenalists have offered responses that do not grasp its full depth. I thus offer a new reading and assessment of James’s objection. Our life-essential, phenomenal pleasures and pains have three features that suggest that they were shaped by selection, according to James: they are natively patterned, those patterns are systematically linked with antecedent brain states, and the patterns are “univer…Read more
  •  126
    Was James Psychologistic?
    Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 4 (5). 2016.
    As Thomas Uebel has recently argued, some early logical positivists saw American pragmatism as a kindred form of scientific philosophy. They associated pragmatism with William James, whom they rightly saw as allied with Ernst Mach. But what apparently blocked sympathetic positivists from pursuing commonalities with American pragmatism was the concern that James advocated some form of psychologism, a view they thought could not do justice to the a priori. This paper argues that positivists were w…Read more
  •  64
    Hatfield on American Critical Realism
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (1): 154-166. 2015.
    The turn of the last century saw an explosion of philosophical realisms, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Gary Hatfield helpfully asks whether we can impose order on this chaotic scene by portraying these diverse actors as responding to a common philosophical problem—the so-called problem of the external world, as articulated by William Hamilton. I argue that we should not place the American realism that grows out of James’s neutral monism in this problem space. James first a…Read more
  •  38
    The curious case of the decapitated frog: on experiment and philosophy
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (5): 890-917. 2018.
    ABSTRACTPhysiologists have long known that some vertebrates can survive for months without a brain. This phenomenon attracted limited attention until the nineteenth century when a series of experiments on living, decapitated frogs ignited a controversy about consciousness. Pflüger demonstrated that such creatures do not just exhibit reflexes; they also perform purposive behaviours. Suppose one thinks, along with Pflüger's ally Lewes, that purposive behaviour is a mark of consciousness. Then one …Read more
  •  36
    The Philosophy of William James: An Introduction (review)
    Newsletter of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy 33 (101): 35-37. 2005.
  •  24
    William James’s religious writing displays a therapeutic concern for two key social problems: an epidemic of suicide among educated Victorians who worried that a scientific worldview left no room for God; and material poverty and bleak employment prospects for others. James sought a conception of God that would therapeutically comfort his melancholic peers while also girding them to fight for better social conditions—a fight he associated with political anarchism. What is perhaps most unique abo…Read more
  •  11
    The Death of Consciousness? James's Case against Psychological Unobservables
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (2): 293-323. 2020.
    Ame, vie, souffle, qui saurait bien les distinguer exactement?1like heartburn, a pronounced discomfort with the very idea of consciousness followed the early days of experimental psychology. Received wisdom has it that psychologists came to mistrust consciousness for largely behaviorist reasons—they are supposed to have worried about the alleged impossibility of performing quantifiable, repeatable measurements on an essentially private phenomenon.2 But this is a historical distortion, one that o…Read more