SAAP 2016

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Crafted Texts and Historical Contexts: Rethinking the Inclusivity of James's "The Will to Believe"

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This paper argues for a contextualist reading of William James’s philosophical defense of religion. I contend that a close examination reveals that James crafted “The Will to Believe” for a specific type of audience and that a more appropriate reading of his infamous defense is one that is picks up on James’s inclusivity as demonstrated by his recognition and respect of differing philosophical commitments as represented by religiously diverse worldviews. By historically recontextualizing his defense of the religious hypothesis alongside of his treatment of the “unclassified residuum” textual evidence that suggests that the latter is intimately connected to his conception of religion, the religious field, and his defense of the religious hypothesis.


Ermine L. Algaier IV    
Harvard Divinity School
United States


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