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Extra info for William James's Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy

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Sometimes he merely added his terminology to the traditional one and sometimes he substituted his own meanings while retaining the old words. Consequently, he did not sufficiently reflect on the transformations required by his radically different analysis. Beginnings 25 His trail-blazing also differs from the skepticism of what he calls Hume's "idealistic empiricism" and the reductive "naturalistic empiricism" of Comte and Spencer (EPH, 346-347). However, he accepts as a defining characteristic of all varieties of empiricism, including his own, the claim that being must be taken for granted and can never be ultimately explained.

Its main strength for James was its insistence that all philosophizing begins with actual experience. That experience is accessible and describable are unshakable pillars of this empiricist position. But if this were all he meant his concrete descriptions would neither be structured analyses nor would they continue to be of so much interest. His own understanding of pure description considerably moves beyond the model of the simple observational report characteristic of both classical empiricism and positivism.

The willing department of our nature, in short, dominates both the conceiving department and the feeling department; or, in plainer English, perception and thinking are only there for behavior's sake" (WB, 92). This is no crude behaviorism, but part of his project of critiquing abstract rationality and reestablishing the links of thinking with concrete experience. Edward H. Madden finds James's recourse to the physiologist's relfex-arc concept unconvincing as a defense of the theist's teleological view of nature because of the "attenuated and metaphorical sense" in which he uses it (WB, xix).

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