“flickers & twinkles”

One of the highlights of my Chocorua trip in August was meeting and speaking with William James (& Emerson & Thoreau) biographer Robert Richardson (The Heart of William James). He was on the radio yesterday, talking about James and pragmatism, and the idea that while our words usually are not quite up to expressing our most impressive thoughts and feelings, the philosopher’s ambition to “settle the universe’s hash” is yet not an entire waste of time and effort. As James told a rapt Berkeley audience in 1898,

Why, that is the truth!—that is what I have been believing, that is what I have really been living on all this time, but I never could find the words for it before. All that eludes, all that flickers and twinkles, all that invites and vanishes even whilst inviting, is here made a solidity and a possession. Here is the end of unsatisfactoriness, here the beginning of unimpeded clearness, joy, and power.” Yes, my friends, I have such a discourse within me! But, do not judge me harshly, I cannot produce it on the present occasion… “Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results

No, not on the present occasion. But stay tuned.

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NOTE: a crisp British perspective on American pragmatism was aired last year on the BBC’s “In Our Time.”

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