Feminist Interpretations of William James

Edited by Shannon Sullivan, Erin C. Tarver

Hardback - £71.95

Publication date:

17 December 2015

Length of book:

328 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271070902

Widely regarded as the father of American psychology, William James is by any measure a mammoth presence on the stage of pragmatist philosophy. But despite his indisputable influence on philosophical thinkers of all genders, men remain the movers and shakers in the Jamesian universe—while women exist primarily to support their endeavors and serve their needs. How could the philosophy of William James, a man devoted to Victorian ideals, be used to support feminism?

Feminist Interpretations of William James lays out the elements of James’s philosophy that are particularly problematic for feminism, offers a novel feminist approach to James’s ethical philosophy, and takes up epistemic contestations in and with James’s pragmatism. The results are surprising. In short, James’s philosophy can prove useful for feminist efforts to challenge sexism and male privilege, in spite of James himself.

In this latest installment of the Re-Reading the Canon series, contributors appeal to William James’s controversial texts not simply as an exercise in feminist critique but in the service of feminism.

Along with the editors, the contributors are Jeremy Carrette, Lorraine Code, Megan Craig, Susan Dieleman, Jacob L. Goodson, Maurice Hamington, Erin McKenna, José Medina, and Charlene Haddock Seigfried.

“William James has often been praised for highlighting the more ‘feminine’ dimensions of philosophy, while being criticized for ignoring important ‘feminist’ considerations. The present volume focuses on and highlights this conundrum, and it does so in a rich and informative manner. James’s many contributions are acknowledged, but his work is viewed, and elaborated upon, from a broader perspective of feminism.”

—William Gavin, University of Southern Maine