August 7, 2021

1. The Wire

The Wire was an HBO series that ran from 2002 to 2008. Wikipedia says, “it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest television shows of all time,” though it wasn’t a popular hit. The first season deals with the drug trade in Baltimore, and with police attempts to disrupt it. Later seasons deal with other aspects of Baltimore — “the port system, the city government and bureaucracy, education and schools, and the print news medium.” So The Wire presents a comprehensive, realistic picture of an American city. I find it truthful, even enlightening, but rather sordid and depressing.

One actor in The Wire, Andre Royo, played a drug addict (Bubbles) so convincingly that, when they were filming in a Baltimore park, a real addict came up to him, gave him some heroin, and said, “You need this more than I do.” Royo calls this his “street Oscar.”

The theme of The Wire seems to be careerism — a tendency to lose sight of the ideal, and focus instead on career. An example would be a policeman who doesn’t focus on fighting crime, but instead focuses on his next promotion. A recurring phrase in The Wire is “chain of command,” meaning “do what your boss wants, don’t go around your boss.”

The Wire was created by David Simon, who worked for twelve years as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and spent one year embedded with the Baltimore Police Department. Simon’s book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991) won the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book. The book was turned into a TV series that ran for 122 episodes. Simon also co-wrote (with Ed Burns) The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, which was turned into a 6-hour mini-series.

2. Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is now 91, and he’s writing less than he once did. But he appears on numerous Youtube videos; one might say he’s a Youtube star. His past columns are at

One of the best interviews with Sowell is a one-hour interview by Brian Lamb. Sowell says that he began as a Marxist, then moved to the Right in 1960, while working for the Labor Department.1 He discovered that people in institutions are focused on their careers, not on the ideal that they’re supposed to be serving. In other words, he discovered “careerism,” which I called the theme of The Wire. Sowell says, “Institutions have their own agendas, and their own incentives, and what they were set up to do really is not controlling.”

Sowell says that New York City had a blackout in 1965 and another in 1977. Crime declined somewhat during the 1965 blackout, while the 1977 blackout resulted in widespread looting. What changed between 1965 and 1977? Sowell argues that morality declined, honesty declined, human decency declined, and not only in the U.S., but throughout the Western world. There was a breakdown in values, in community, in family. Society became ‘every man for himself.’ To borrow a term from the Islamic philosopher Ibn Khaldun, there was a breakdown of assibiya, cohesion.

Like violent crime, white-collar crime probably spiked after 1965; there has probably been a breakdown of morality among lawyers, WallStreet bankers, etc.

Sowell says that when he was growing up in Harlem, he never heard a gunshot. You could walk the streets without fear, even at night. Then there was a spike in crime between 1965 and 1977.

Sowell uses the term “race hustler” for people like Al Sharpton, who make a living by talking about “racism.” Sowell says that Sharpton owed millions in taxes to the IRS because he earned millions; “racism” is a lucrative business.

Sowell points out that slavery isn’t unique to America or to blacks, it has been practiced throughout history, and all ethnic groups have been enslaved. When Caesar conquered Gaul, he sold tens of thousands of Gauls into slavery. Most white Americans are descended from slaves.

* * * * *

When Biden & Co. give away money, they’re trying to reward past votes, and attract future votes. One group to whom Biden gave money was minority farmers; this is identity politics in its crassest form.

One might say that votes have become a kind of currency. The act of voting means exchanging one kind of currency for another, like a traveler who exchanges dollars for euros.

Campaigns are starting to resemble auctions, where candidates try to out-bid each other, and voting blocs pledge their votes to the highest bidder. I’m reminded of how the Praetorian Guard auctioned off the position of Roman Emperor.

3. Ukraine

In an earlier issue, I discussed a right-wing thinker named Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian intellectual who has influence with Putin. I wrote, “Dugin thinks that Putin isn’t bold enough, he thinks Putin should have annexed all of Ukraine.”

A recent column by Walter Russell Mead is entitled “Why Putin Still Covets Ukraine.” Mead writes, “[Putin’s] strategic objectives are unmistakable. Mr. Putin’s quest to rebuild Russian power requires the reassertion of Moscow’s hegemony over Belarus and Ukraine.”

Belarus is already in Putin’s control:

In Belarus, where the Kremlin enabled the embattled government to survive months of pro-democracy protests and Western sanctions, Mr. Putin has crushed any hopes President Lukashenko had of escaping Moscow’s embrace.

Ukraine is more difficult for Putin to control, but not impossible. Why hasn’t Putin seized all of Ukraine?

What keeps Russian troops out of Kyiv is neither the Ukrainian army nor the faltering prestige of the West. It is Mr. Putin’s grudging realization that Russian public opinion wouldn’t countenance the accompanying sacrifices and the staggering Russian economy couldn’t bear the costs.

Mead says that time is on Putin’s side. Neither the EU nor the U.S. can deter Russia. “The Western world order continues to erode.” Ukraine is unable to develop a strong defense. “Ukraine shows few real signs of overcoming the corruption and stagnation that keep it weak and poor.”

In a recent issue, I discussed China’s desire to seize Taiwan. Ukraine and Taiwan seem to be in similar situations. Both are close to countries that are much larger and more powerful. Both were, at various times, part of these larger countries, hence the larger countries think they have a legitimate claim on them.

Japan recently expressed a willingness to defend Taiwan. If Japan, Australia, India, and perhaps European nations assist in defending Taiwan, it may be possible to deter Chinese aggression. Does the same logic apply to Ukraine? Can a coalition be put together to defend Ukraine, or at least strengthen Ukraine’s own defenses?

4. Kierkegaard on Schopenhauer

A philosopher who encounters another philosopher — in print or in person — might be compared to Robinson Crusoe encountering another person on his island. Kierkegaard encountered Schopenhauer in late 1854, about a year before Kierkegaard died, and about five years before Schopenhauer died. As far as I can tell, the passage below is the first mention of Schopenhauer in Kierkegaard’s Journal:

That [Schopenhauer] is a significant writer, a very significant writer, is indisputable. The whole of his life and its history are a deep wound inflicted on professor-philosophy: this is acknowledged with joy and gratitude.... He flogs away at the tradesmen, the professors, and lucrative professor-philosophy with all the coarseness one could desire. Very good.

But Kierkegaard also criticizes Schopenhauer. He says that Schopenhauer contemplates asceticism but doesn’t practice it; Schopenhauer speaks of subduing the will, but he’s eager for literary fame. In sum, Schopenhauer is a Sophist:

The sophistry is to be found in the distance between what one understands and what one is. The person who is not in the character of what he understands is a Sophist. But this is the case with Schopenhauer.

Kierkegaard notes that Schopenhauer’s obscurity wasn’t voluntary:

Schopenhauer is not a person who has had it in his power to be a success, to win recognition — and who then cast these things aside. No, he has, perhaps against his will, been compelled to do without temporal and earthly recognition.

Kierkegaard probably viewed himself as one who lived his philosophy, who wasn’t a Sophist, who could have had worldly success but cast it aside.

At the center of Kierkegaard’s philosophy is Christian faith. At the center of Schopenhauer’s philosophy is atheism. Doubtless this explains why Kierkegaard speaks of his “total disagreement” with Schopenhauer.2 But Kierkegaard doesn’t explicitly challenge Schopenhauer’s atheism; “that is his own responsibility,” Kierkegaard says.3

Despite Kierkegaard’s “total disagreement” with Schopenhauer, he finds similarities between them. He said he was deeply affected by Schopenhauer, and he said his attitude toward Schopenhauer was “sympathetic antipathy.” Kierkegaard writes,

In one respect I find having begun to read Schopenhauer almost unpleasant. I have such an indescribably scrupulous anxiety about making use of someone else’s turns of phrase and so forth without acknowledgment. But sometimes his expressions are so akin to my own that in my exaggerated anxiety I perhaps end up attributing to him things that are actually my own.

Schopenhauer speaks of escaping suffering by stilling the will. Kierkegaard voluntarily suffers, Kierkegaard believed that “the task for a Christian author is to speak the ‘truth’ in the full knowledge that this will bring persecution and possibly martyrdom upon himself.” Schopenhauer lived a private life, Kierkegaard a public life.

In his Journal, Kierkegaard quotes passages from Schopenhauer’s works. Many of Schopenhauer’s observations deal with business and everyday life. Schopenhauer noted that, if primitive society is governed by the right of the stronger, modern society is governed by the right of the shrewder.4 Schopenhauer notes that ruthlessness is profitable, and a conscience is unprofitable.

I am reminded again [Kierkegaard writes] of a line I read in Schopenhauer to the effect that an Englishman supposedly said that having a conscience was such an expensive way of life that his circumstances did not permit him to do so.

Kierkegaard never tires of lambasting The Press. His favorite passages in Schopenhauer are those in which Schopenhauer lambasts The Press. He quotes Schopenhauer’s remark, “Those Who Rent out Opinions, the Journalists.” Then he adds,

This expression by Schopenhauer is really valuable.... He demonstrates that although, with respect to outward things, most people would refrain from wearing a hat, coat, and so forth, that someone else had cast off, this is not at all the case in matters of the mind. In this case, just about everyone goes about with cast-off clothes. The great mass of people naturally has no opinion but — here it comes! — this deficiency is remedied by the journalists who make their living by renting out opinions. Naturally, as he correctly adds, what they get in this connection is of the same quality as the clothing usually rented out by those who rent out masquerade costumes.

Incidentally, this is quite natural. Gradually, as more and more people are wrenched free of the condition of innocence in which they were by no means obliged to have an opinion and are being forced into the “condition of responsibility” (it is every man’s responsibility, the journalist says) to have an opinion, what can the unfortunate people do! An opinion becomes a necessary item for every member of the enormous public, so the journalist offers his assistance by — renting out opinions. He works in twofold fashion: first, with all his might he drills in the notion that it is necessary for everyone to have an opinion — and then, then he recommends his assortment.

5. The Will to Believe

One of William James’ best-known essays is “The Will to Believe.” It was originally a lecture delivered in 1896, when James was at the peak of his career; it was delivered twice, once to the Yale Philosophical Club, and once to the Brown Philosophical Club. (In a recent issue, I discussed James’ essay “Is Life Worth Living?”, which was originally a lecture delivered to the Harvard YMCA.)

James begins by saying that “The Will to Believe” is “an essay in justification of faith, a defense of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters, in spite of the fact that our merely logical intellect may not have been coerced.” Like Kant before him, James is trying to clear a space for religious belief, he’s trying to give people the right to believe. When James himself was in the depths of despond, religious belief was his “life preserver.” So James is trying to justify his own belief, without proving the propositions that he believes in.

For James, as for Kierkegaard, God is a “postulate,” not something proven. Philosophers like Kant, Kierkegaard, and James want to believe in the existence of God without proving it; they’ve abandoned the attempt to prove the existence of God. For these philosophers, belief is a leap, an act of will, something that the intellect accepts only grudgingly. Far better, in my view, is a philosophy that can “turn a double play” — completely satisfy the intellect, and also offer some solace to an individual in the depths of despond. Far better to make a clean break with monotheism (as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Mill did), and build a new worldview that we can really believe in.

Some of James’ contemporaries argued that we shouldn’t believe in anything that’s unproven. William Clifford, for example, said “Belief is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements for the solace and private pleasure of the believer.” Chauncey Wright, a leading figure in the Harvard community, also felt that we should reserve judgment about the existence of God. According to Wikipedia, “Wright was an agnostic, arguing that we should suspend judgment on the existence of God because there is no firm evidence either way. William James’ famous will-to-believe argument was partly aimed at Wright’s brand of agnosticism.”

If we wait for certainty, James argues, we’ll wait forever, and while we’re waiting, we’ll lose the blessings of belief. Man rarely reaches certainty, and even when he’s certain about something, time proves him wrong. Euclid’s geometry, Aristotle’s logic, Newton’s physics — all have been overthrown by later thinkers.

James calls himself “a complete empiricist.” He says that an empiricist believes that truth can be attained, but we can never know for sure when we’ve attained it. On the other hand, an absolutist believes that truth can be attained, and we can know when we’ve attained it. An empiricist thinks that sensation and experience lead to truth. James:

We must go on experiencing and thinking over our experience, for only thus can our opinions grow more true; but to hold any one of them... as if it never could be reinterpretable or corrigible, I believe to be a tremendously mistaken attitude, and I think that the whole history of philosophy will bear me out.

I take a different view; James would call me an “absolutist.” I believe that big ideas come from intuition. We feel certain about such intuitions, and this feeling of certainty is trustworthy, this feeling of certainty stems from the fact that the intuition is true.5 James isn’t an original thinker, he doesn’t have one big idea, one revolutionary insight, and this may explain why he doesn’t realize that big ideas come from intuition, not experience or sensation.

It’s doubtful whether the U.S. has ever produced an original philosopher. Emerson, Thoreau, James — great philosophers all, but they don’t have a big idea, a big original idea. Ortega said, “The genuine philosopher... does not have more than one [theory].”6

* * * * *

Later in his career, James moved toward “radical empiricism.” He felt that life presented us with a continual stream of new sensations/experiences, life couldn’t be captured with logic or with abstract concepts. He praised Bergson for emphasizing raw experience. In A Pluralistic Universe, James wrote,

We are so subject to the philosophic tradition which treats logos or discursive thought generally as the sole avenue to truth, that to fall back on raw unverbalized life as more of a revealer, and to think of concepts as the merely practical things which Bergson calls them, comes very hard. It is putting off our proud maturity of mind and becoming again as foolish little children in the eyes of reason.

There’s a great deal of Zen in James’ attitude, Zen tries to focus on “raw unverbalized life.” That both James and Bergson were moving in this direction is noteworthy, it’s another sign that Western philosophy was evolving in a Zennish direction.

According to James, consciousness is a fiction, a nonentity. What’s real is a stream of thoughts and perceptions. The mind is motion, life is motion. “James transfers our attention from substance to process.”6B

In his essay “A World of Pure Experience,” James wrote, “Life is in the transitions... Our spurts and sallies forward [are] the real firing-line of the battle.” (Buddhists also emphasize transitions; Tibetan Buddhists refer to a transition as a “bardo.”6C) Nothing is permanent, nothing can be grasped and held. Richardson says, “It is as though our old language, with its structure of subject, verb, and object, were to be thrown out for a language of all verbs.”

James said that the old worldviews

seem to me to violate the character with which life concretely comes and the expression which it bears, of being, or at least of involving a muddle and a struggle, with an “ever not quite” to all our formulas, and novelty and possibility forever leaking in.

James rejects Plato’s view that a world of eternal ideas lies behind the world of experience. James said, “In the order of existence, behind the facts, for us there is nothing.” Richardson says that James is “anti-abstraction” and opposed to Plato. Richardson says that Plato “denigrates perceptual knowledge as mere sense impressions, and contrasts them with ideas, which are true and eternal. James’s life work had been to reverse this polarity, to answer Plato.”6D

* * * * *

To return to James’ “The Will to Believe”:
We must choose whether to believe in God or not, we can’t wait for certainty, we can’t wait for solid evidence. Evidence isn’t objective, James says, evidence is “in the eye of the beholder,” like beauty. James:

The much lauded objective evidence is never triumphantly there.... One’s conviction that the evidence one goes by is of the real objective brand, is only one more subjective opinion added to the lot. For what a contradictory array of opinions have objective evidence and absolute certitude been claimed!

The belief in certitude leads to tyranny: “The most striking practical application to life of the doctrine of objective certitude has been the conscientious labors of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.”7

Empiricism leads to tolerance:

No one of us ought to issue vetoes to the other, nor should we bandy words of abuse. We ought, on the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another’s mental freedom: then only shall we bring about the intellectual republic; then only shall we have that spirit of inner tolerance without which all our outer tolerance is soulless, and which is empiricism’s glory; then only shall we live and let live, in speculative as well as in practical things.

James insists that the intellect isn’t a neutral examiner of evidence, the intellect is always shaped by our will. Why not admit that and accept that? Why not admit that “pure reason” is an illusion? James writes,

Free-will and simple wishing do seem, in the matter of our credences, to be only fifth wheels to the coach. Yet if any one should thereupon assume that intellectual insight is what remains after wish and will and sentimental preference have taken wing, or that pure reason is what then settles our opinions, he would fly quite as directly in the teeth of the facts.8

Many of our beliefs, such as our belief that the earth revolves around the sun, are taken on faith, not evidence and reasons. James:

We find ourselves believing, we hardly know how or why.... Here in this room, we all of us believe in molecules and the conservation of energy, in democracy and necessary progress, in Protestant Christianity and the duty of fighting for “the doctrine of the immortal Monroe,” all for no reasons worthy of the name....

Not insight, but the prestige of the opinions, is what makes the spark shoot from them and light up our sleeping magazines of faith.... Our faith is faith in some one else’s faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case.

We believe what is useful to us, what helps us to live. James:

As a rule we disbelieve all facts and theories for which we have no use. Clifford’s cosmic emotions find no use for Christian feelings. Huxley belabors the bishops because there is no use for sacerdotalism in his scheme of life....

Why do so few “scientists” even look at the evidence for telepathy, so called? Because they think, as a leading biologist, now dead, once said to me, that even if such a thing were true, scientists ought to band together to keep it suppressed and concealed. It would undo the uniformity of Nature and all sorts of other things without which scientists cannot carry on their pursuits. But if this very man had been shown something which as a scientist he might do with telepathy, he might not only have examined the evidence, but even have found it good enough.

Earlier I mentioned Chauncey Wright, and said that he was an agnostic, he thought we should reserve judgment about the existence of God until there was strong evidence on one side or the other. Though James disagreed with this view, he had a high opinion of Wright, calling him,

“the great mind of a village — if Cambridge will pardon the expression.” James went on to say that “either in London or Berlin [Wright] would, with equal ease, have taken the place of master which he held with us.... His best work has been done in conversation.”

Richardson calls Wright, “the intellectual-boxing master of Charles Peirce, Wendell Holmes, and William James.”9 Wright respected hard science, and was contemptuous of the spiritual and mystical; he believed in physical causes, he rejected necessity and destiny. In short, he was what I call a Blockhead Rationalist, but he was the Best of the Blockheads.

Richardson writes,

Wright was an anti-theological positivist, a philosopher who was at the center of a series of discussion clubs in Cambridge for twenty years, from 1856 until his death in 1875. First with the Septem [Seven], then with the Metaphysical Club, Wright gathered around himself a number of extraordinary persons who took over and revolutionized Harvard, defended and advanced the work of Darwin, and founded and spread the as yet unnamed philosophy of pragmatism.10

Richardson says that Wright was “a great teacher and talker, though only twice did he give a formal course (some lectures in psychology in 1870 and a course in mathematical physics in 1874), and he published very little.” James spoke of Wright’s “power of analytic intellect pure and simple.”

One subject on which Wright focused his analytic powers was evolution. Richardson:

In 1871, just as the Metaphysical Club was taking shape, Wright published a defense of Darwin... in the North American Review. Wright’s article so impressed Darwin that he had it reprinted as a pamphlet and circulated in England. The following year, Wright traveled to Europe and visited Darwin.

At Darwin’s urging, Wright wrote another essay on evolution, “The Evolution of Self-Consciousness.” This essay was “a critical re-examination of the phenomena of self-consciousness... with reference to their possible evolution from powers obviously common to all animal intelligences.”11

A spiritual worldview can be based on religion or the occult. Both religion and the occult emphasize the connectedness of the world; they see the world as an organic whole. A positivist like Wright sees separate objects, not a unified world. James said that Wright “denies this to be a universe and makes it out a ‘nulliverse.’” James spoke of Wright’s “nihilism.”

Wright died in 1875, at age 45. Was his nihilism a factor in his early death? Jung says that he knew several people who died because they couldn’t find their way to a positive worldview.12 Richardson says that Wright was “Chronically depressed — one friend called his depressions ‘uncontrollable’ — he drank heavily when he was feeling down.” Richardson doesn’t ask, Was there something behind Wright’s depression/drinking? Could his depression/drinking be linked to his worldview?

Evolution was a hot topic in the 1860s and 1870s. Wright was interested in evolution, and so too was Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce realized that Darwin’s idea of random mutation was partly true, but not the whole truth.

In an earlier issue, I said that the most complicated organs, such as the human eye and the human brain, couldn’t be the result of random mutation, and I said that philosophers generally agree with this view. Peirce is a philosopher who agrees with this view, Peirce thinks that some sort of urge must play a role in evolution; random mutation (coupled with natural selection) can’t explain evolution. Peirce “never accepted the idea that natural selection is sufficient to account for the evolution of mind.” Richardson says that Peirce “distinguished among three basic kinds of evolution... evolution by fortuitous variation, by mechanical necessity, and by creative love.”13

After James died in 1910, Peirce contrasted himself with James:

“Who could be of a nature so different from his as I?” While Peirce was one of the world’s great logicians, James was a man for whom logic was “an inconvenience.” “He so concrete, so living,” Peirce went on, “I a mere table of contents, so abstract, a very snarl of twine. Yet in all my life I found scarce any soul that seemed to comprehend, naturally, not my concepts, but the mainspring of my life better than he did.”

Peirce was deeply grateful to James for helping him when he was broke. And James was grateful to Peirce. “I owe him everything!” James once exclaimed, and he spoke of Peirce’s “philosophic comradeship.”

Outside of academia, does anyone read James today? Surely there are 1,000 Thoreau volumes sold for every James volume sold. James tries to clear a space for religious belief, but he seems to have a lifeless definition of religion. According to James, religion “says that the best things are the more eternal things, the overlapping things, the things in the universe that throw the last stone, so to speak, and say the final word.” I don’t think this definition of religion will strike a chord with anyone. I think most people realize that nothing is eternal; people are attracted to Zen, which says that the moment counts.

James says that by “obstinately believing that there are gods (although not to do so would be so easy both for our logic and our life) we are doing the universe the deepest service we can.” Again, I don’t think this will strike a chord with anyone. It isn’t gods who make the world wonderful, it’s the world itself. Gods are a superfluous distraction.

© L. James Hammond 2021
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1. Banfield moved to the Right around 1955, if I remember correctly, after he worked for the Agriculture Department, and saw how much inefficiency there was in government programs. back
2. Website, which cites Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, Hongs’ trans., Vol. 4, pp. 25-35 back
3. Website; see also this website

One scholar, Patrick Stokes, says that “Kierkegaard must have been aware of Schopenhauer at least as early as 1837,” but “he is curiously silent on the topic of Schopenhauer until 1854.” Sometimes a topic doesn’t make a deep impression on us until we’ve heard about it several times. It wasn’t until I’d heard about the Oxford Theory several times that I developed a strong interest in it.

Stokes refers the reader to a Kierkegaard biography by Joakim Garff, and to various writings by Howard and Edna Hong. back

4. “The right of the stronger in civil society is superseded by the right of the cleverer.” This observation, quoted by Kierkegaard, can be found in Schopenhauer’s The Basis of Morality, Part III, #2, “Skeptical View.” back
5. Schopenhauer said, “Deep truths may be perceived, but can never be excogitated.” This kind of perception is what I’m calling intuition. Emerson wrote, “Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due.” back
6. On Love, II, 1 back
6B. See Richardson biography Ch. 76. Some of my quotes on radical empiricism are from Richardson Ch. 87 back
6C. See The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche, Ch. 7 back
6D. See Richardson’s biography, Ch. 89 back
7. Does an “absolutist” like myself need to admit that his position leads to tyranny? I would argue that a philosophical theory doesn’t translate directly into policy. For example, my theory of renaissance and decadence doesn’t translate into policy, just as Einstein’s theory of curved space doesn’t translate into policy. A philosophy affects our view of the world as a whole, affects our feelings about the world, and affects our actions in a general way. But philosophies aren’t expressed in institutions like the Inquisition. back
8. If you want to argue in favor of James, you could bring in Jung’s view that God is an archetype, a part of the collective unconscious. Therefore, by believing we create the reality, by believing we draw forth the archetype and make it conscious. back
9. See Richardson’s biography of James, Ch. 19, “The Metaphysical Club and Chauncey Wright” back
10. Richardson mentions several books about the Metaphysical Club. He says, “The best account of the club and its importance to American thought is Louis Menand’s splendid The Metaphysical Club.” Richardson says that Philip Wiener’s Evolution and the Founders of Pragmatism is “still indispensable.” Richardson also praises a book by Edward Madden called Chauncey Wright and the Foundations of Pragmatism. back
11. Richardson, quoting Wright’s essay back
12. Jung says that his father died because he lost his faith:
Shortly before his death, “his irritability and discontent had increased.... From a number of hints he let fall I was convinced that he suffered from religious doubts.... Once I heard him praying. He struggled desperately to keep his faith.... His depressive moods increased in frequency and intensity, and so did his hypochondria. For a number of years he had complained of all sorts of abdominal symptoms, though his doctor had been unable to find anything definite wrong with him.” Jung’s father was never able to find peace with himself, with the world, with God, and his spiritual unrest contributed, in Jung’s view, to his health problems, and to his death.

Jung knew Richard Wilhelm, who wrote about the Chinese worldview. Jung says that Wilhelm wasn’t able to unite East and West in a living worldview, and this philosophical failure caused health problems. When Jung spoke with Wilhelm, Wilhelm was happy to discuss West and East in an objective, detached way “but whenever I attempted to touch the actual problem of his inner conflict, I immediately sensed a drawing back, an inward shutting himself off — because such matters went straight to the bone.... Wilhelm did not speak plainly.” back

13. See Richardson’s biography of James, Ch. 20, “Charles Peirce.” I agree with Peirce that evolution is extremely complicated, and we shouldn’t attribute it to one cause. We should attribute it to several causes. Peirce does a good job of listing these causes: fortuitous variation, mechanical necessity, creative love. I wonder, however, if the word “love” is appropriate. A giraffe’s urge for a longer neck seems to be a survival necessity, not a love of length.

Darwin was impressed by Harvard intellectuals like Wright, Peirce, and Asa Gray. Darwin said, “There were enough brilliant minds at the American Cambridge in the 1860s to furnish all the universities of England.” back