SAAP Annual Meeting 2013

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The Vagueness of Theistic Interpretations of William James’ Pluralism

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Nate Jackson
Baylor University
United States

Is William James’ pluralism compatible with both polytheism and monotheism? In A Pluralistic Universe, James argues that the existence of superhuman consciousness is probable, but that the number of divine persons must remain vague. The necessity of this vagueness entails that both polytheism and monotheism are compatible with his metaphysical commitments. After considering the polytheistic interpretation, however, it seems that monotheism is incompatible with pluralism. Monotheism requires that disparate experiences of the divine be reconciled into one entity. And, James’ understanding of the nature of experience in the works comprising Essays in Radical Empiricism cannot accommodate monotheism; this conception of experience is subject to a theistic application of the Miller-Bode objections. These objections show that, theistically interpreted, James’ metaphysics entails polytheism. I argue that James’ view of reality as active in A Pluralistic Universe is necessary to render his metaphysics compatible with monotheism, which affords the vagueness he affirms.


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