Volume 30, Number 3, Summer (Special Issue): The Modern Legacy of William James’s A Pluralistic Universe

Special Issue: The Modern Legacy of William James’s A Pluralistic Universe. Brent D. Slife and Dennis C. Wendt (Editors)

Editors’ Introduction: The Modern Legacy of William James’s A Pluralistic Universe.
Brent D. Slife, Brigham Young University and Dennis C. Wendt, University of Michigan

Perhaps no name is more clearly associated with the formulation of American psychology than that of William James. Yet, one of James’s (1909) last published works, A Pluralistic Universe, is little known and rarely cited in the discipline. On the 100th anniversary of the publication of this book, the authors of this special issue of The Journal of Mind and Behavior explore the past, present, and future legacy of the provocative ideas contained in this volume for psychology, including the history of psychology, scientific fragmentation and ethics, the philosophy of science, psychological methods and theories, the psychology of religion, the multicultural movement, and the path of psychology in general.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dennis Wendt, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, 2256 East Hall, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109. Email: dcwendt@umich.edu

A Pluralistic Universe: An Overview and Implications for Psychology
William Douglas Woody, University of Northern Colorado and Wayne Viney, Colorado State University

This article describes some historical precursors that led to William James’s participation in the Hibbert Lectures and his subsequent publication of A Pluralistic Universe. William James viewed the monism–pluralism issue as the greatest issue the human mind can frame, and he returned to this issue again and again in his psychological and philosophical works. The Hibbert Lectures afforded an opportunity to explore the problem of monism and pluralism in a broadly religious or spiritual context. We describe James’s logical and experiential attacks on monistic thinkers, his seemingly paradoxical introduction of Gustav Fechner’s panpsychism to English-speaking philosophers, and his spirited defense of pluralism. We conclude by discussing the relevance of James’s pluralism for current questions of unification in psychology.

Requests for reprints should be sent to William Douglas Woody, Ph.D., School of Psychological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado 80639. Email: william.woody@unco.edu

Visions and Values: Ethical Reflections in a Jamesian Key
David E. Leary, University of Richmond

The purpose of this article is to provide a quick survey of William James’s views on the plurality of visions that humans have regarding reality, as a background for more extensive discussions of his views on the plurality of values that orient human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as his views on the enactment of those values through active resistance to the ways things are and the risk-taking involved in striving to improve the human condition. Consonant with pluralism itself, I intend this discussion to open up rather than close off further considerations of James’s views on ethics.

Requests for reprints should be sent to David E. Leary, Ph.D., Ryland Hall 320, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia 23173.
Email: dleary@richmond.edu

Pluralism: An Antidote for Fanaticism, the Delusion of Our Age
George S. Howard and Cody D. Christopherson, University of Notre Dame

William James’s pluralism, when combined with his pragmatism and radical empiricism, is a complete and coherent philosophy of life. James provides an antidote to the excesses of both the extreme realist/objectivist and the extreme constructivist/relativist camps. In this paper, we demonstrate how this is so in a discussion of epistemology and ontology including several extended examples. These examples demonstrate the inescapability of context and background assumptions and the advantages of a pluralist worldview.

Requests for reprints should be sent to George Howard, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556.
Email: howard.2@nd.edu

Science, Psychology, and Religion: An Invitation to Jamesian Pluralism
Edwin E. Gantt and Brent S. Melling, Brigham Young University

Perspectives on the relationship between psychology and religion have run the gamut from integration to mutual suspicion to open hostility. Despite increasing calls for greater sensitivity to the issues surrounding the psychological study of religion, significant conceptual and methodological problems remain. We propose that the pluralistic philosophy of William James provides not only an example of how a radically empirical psychology might be formulated, but also how such an approach allows for a serious psychological investigation of religion and religious experience. We argue that James offers an important corrective to the reductive approaches all-too-common in the study of religion and religious experience by allowing for the possibility that theistic understandings may be taken more seriously in psychological research and theorizing.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Edwin E. Gantt, Ph.D., 1086 SWKT, Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602. Email: ed_gantt@byu.edu

William James and Methodological Pluralism: Bridging the Qualitative and Quantitative Divide
Bradford J. Wiggins, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

In recent years pluralism has emerged as a popular approach for overcoming the method wars in psychological research, with advocates of mixed-methods approaches arguing for the integration of qualitative and quantitative methods. They contend that a plurality of methods will allow researchers to draw upon the strengths of one method to overcome the weaknesses of another. In this article I argue that mixed-methods approaches fall short of a true methodological pluralism in the tradition of William James because they rely on a single worldview rather than a plurality of worldviews. I describe how James’s pluralism, as outlined in his book A Pluralistic Universe (1909/1987), differs from mixed-methods approaches and I describe some basic features of a true Jamesian methodological pluralism.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Bradford J. Wiggins, 900 Volunteer Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996. Email: bradywiggins@gmail.com

Recent Calls for Jamesian Pluralism in the Natural and Social Sciences: Will Psychology Heed the Call?
Dennis C. Wendt, University of Michigan and Brent D. Slife, Brigham Young University

William James’s A Pluralistic Universe (1909/1987) was not very influential in his day; 100 years later, however, calls for a Jamesian-style pluralism are increasingly common in the natural and social sciences. We first summarize James’s critique of monism and his defense of pluralism. Next, we discuss similar critiques of monism and calls for “strong” pluralism across the natural and social sciences, even in traditional bastions of monism like physics, biology, and economics. We then argue that psychology is also in need of this pluralism, but the discipline is mired in uncritical, monistic assumptions, most notably operationism. We describe the problems this particular assumption presents, and also suggest some solutions we believe James would proffer, in the context of this monistic requirement.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dennis Wendt, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, 2256 East Hall, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109. Email: dcwendt@umich.edu

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