more congenial

Thoreau’s congeniality reminded me of James’s. This one I recalled correctly.

A linchpin of his commitment to humanism, pluralism, and free will was the conviction that we have the capacity (“power”) to do what needs to be done. We are not without resources to meet the challenges of living. All great periods of progress and achievement attest to it:

“Each and all of them have said to the human being, ‘the inmost nature of the reality is congenial to powers which you possess.'” (“Sentiment of Rationality“)

We can do it if we try, maybe. The world might just match and multiply our exertions, you never know. It’s worth an effort. Nothing ventured etc.

A useful conviction, whether we intend to do great things (like launching a rocket)  or small (like getting out of bed to face another dawn). Some of us sometimes need reminding.

But is it true? It better be. That’s the audacity of hope, whose opposite (for those of a certain temper) is despair. As a twenty-something, James would literally have killed himself if he couldn’t have justified (to himself) his right to believe this.

That’s the center of his pragmatic pluralism: believe what you must, then make appropriate revisions and course corrections when you see where that belief has taken you. It’s not epistemologically correct. But then, the world may not be safe for epistemology. Or congenial to it.

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