in transition

Home. A good place to come back to.

I’m really half still in New England, though, and the transition is a little hard. Chocorua, where James said he felt most genuinely real and free, was so beautifully welcoming.

The old homestead on Route 16, across the road from lake and mountain, is for sale too, for not quite a million. A bargain for someone who can appreciate all those doors opening out.

And what fun, re-creating the iconic stonewall face-off with Josiah Royce.

So many fine conversations, in charming and unconventional venues like a church and a library.  My favorite: the screened “1776 porch” looking onto a lovely garden and bird sanctuary. The anonymous proprietors had not bothered to relocate the cat bowl. Why should they? He lives there, we were the squatters. One of the sessions there was about putting the “F”(un) back in Philosophy.” Another, led by a musicologist from Notre Dame, was about the prominent (but previously unnoted) part played in Somerset Maugham’s Razor’s Edge by James’s “Energies of Men.”

Cambridge, in August as ever, is a heady and inspiring place. The new James exhibition in Houghton Library (“Life is in the Transitions”), curated by biographer Linda Simon and there for public perusal through December, is compelling… as was the whole “Footsteps” Symposium weekend, in fact. Paul Croce, the WJ Society, and the local organizers did a wonderful job putting it all together.

There are so many moments I want to lock into memory. One in particular: John McDermott practically lunging across me to tag Hilary Putnam in solidarity as a contemporaneous peer, while captivating the room with yet another passionate testimonial to the enduring power of Jamesian spontaneity and freedom. (Harvard historian James Kloppenberg had invited the elder sages among us to share their experience as teachers and exemplars of Jamesian virtue.)

The guided walking tour of Cambridge was a perfect touch. James had no more use than I for arid academic symposia in which scholars do nothing but sit in stuffy windowless rooms wallowing in words and textual abstractions. He’d have loved the view from the 15th floor of WJ Hall.

Also enjoyed meeting and hearing Robert Richardson.

Looking forward now to the next James centenary, in 2042. What will life have made of itself, by then?


Postscript. Very nice follow-up email from Prof. Croce-

Dear Symposium Participants,

I still feel the energy and excitement of the symposium, and I thank you all for helping to make it a wonderful event.  And special thanks to Lynn Bridgers who did an enormous amount of work setting up the program, to Kent Schneider who orchestrated events (and music!) in Chocorua, and to Leslie Morris who arranged our attendance at the exhibition and our use of the Houghton for the reception.

For many of us, a new semester started after the Symposium—my own first class was the next day!—and this has delayed my communication.  It has been weeks since we last met, and before more time flies, let me share some news with you….

*William James Studies is interested in reviewing papers from the Symposium for publication. Please contact the editors Mark Moller ( or Linda Simon (, and see the submission guidelines (; please send in revised versions of your paper by November 15, 2010.

*For papers of a historical and cultural orientation, the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era is interested in reviewing Symposium papers for publication; contact editor Alan Lessoff,, and see their web page:

*We were the inaugural audience for the Houghton Library’s year-long exhibition, “Life is in the Transitions: William James, 1842-1910;” to see the exhibition online, go to

*Michael Brant of Conference Recording Services (;; (510) 527-3600) did a superb job recording our event, and the audio and video recordings are available at

*Davidson Films (; Fran Davidson [], 1-888-437-4200) was taking some footage of the Symposium and of some participants for their film on William James for the series “Giants of Psychology,” and it should be ready by January.

*Please consider joining the William James Society for its next gathering at the American Philosophical Association Eastern meeting, Boston, December 27-30; the program includes my paper on “The Pre-Disciplinary James;” and a panel on “James Across the Disciplines” with papers by Ramón del Castillo (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia-Madrid), “The Comic Mind of William James;” Loren Goldman (Rutgers University), “The Ideological James: Radical Appropriations of a Liberal Philosopher;” and Emma Sutton (University College London), “James and the Politics of Psychopathology;” with a comment by Francesca Bordogna (Northwestern University).

*Please consider submitting a paper for a William James Society session at the APA Central meeting in Minneapolis, March 30-April 2, 2011; contact Cecelia Watson (; early-career scholars particularly welcome.

*thanks to many of you for your follow-up messages and words of enthusiasm, and especially for these audio and visual links to the Symposium events:

-from Phil Oliver:;

-from Vinny Hevern:

[Post-postscript, DECEMBER 2010: Flickr photos]

-from Bob Doyle:

We would like to include these, some photos, and more on the William James Society web page,–contributions of content and suggestions about postings most welcome.  If you are new to the society, I hope you can stay involved with our work and our activities.  The election to the executive committee is coming soon; nominations welcome and please exercise your franchise in a few months when it is time to vote.

The Symposium was an exciting event.  I hope we can meet again before too long—perhaps at another Society event.



Paul J. Croce

218 Sampson, Stetson campus; 386-822-7533;

Professor of American Studies at Stetson,

Director of the Stetson Student Research in Science and Religion (2SR) Program,

Director of Stetson American Studies International (SASI),

President of the William James Society,

Co-organizer of the Symposium, In the Footsteps of William James, August 13-16, 2010,


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2 Responses to “in transition”

  1. stephen king Says:

    although i had your class two semesters ago i had a question concerning the hypothetical viewpoint of william james and yourself. I was wondering how james would feel about vegetarianism and veganism. It’s an interesting issue that i have come accross recently and one we did not discuss while i was in class. While i have read the many philosophes and philosophers were vegetarian im curious to why and why not. Thanks for your time.

  2. osopher Says:

    Hi, Stephen. I don’t think James gave much attention to the ethical implications of meat-eating. I’ve described him as an unapologetic species-ist, though, and I think he’d evaluate veganism (etc.) in terms of its practical utililty for the attainment of human ends. If this is an issue in which you are strongly interested, and if you’re still enrolled in the Spring, you might consider signing up for environmental ethics. That’s one of the questions we’ll tackle.

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