Chesterton on William James

Berkeley, Friday, March 20, 2020 11:04 PM

I am here writing this just for my own reference, as one man who I admire, G.K. Chesterton, providing a eulogy, from London, to another man that I admire William James.

Two great thinkers from a century ago. Of course a short telegraph, sent from London in 1910 to the New York Times by an American journalist, is not enough display from their works. But that telegraph is actually a good summary of the Original editorial that Chesterton wrote about William James in The Illustrated London News, for which I believe Chesterton either worked or contributed often. While Chesterton’s book of his columns between 1908 and 1910 arrives, I read that page in the previous from Google Books. So I actually read partially the original essay.

I have read some of the work from both of them, which is what I want to describe here. If they contributed with something to the world is that to being able to make sense of our real inner self, write their inner thoughts, experiences, beliefs, all of this in an attempt of making sense of the outer world. Life is a period of survival, a rush for jobs as happened during the gilded age that they lived as well. While sometimes life before COVID-19 break seemed as if attending to university was a preparation for an industry rather than making sense of the purpose of things. And of course, we must remain active, and I am a critic of the shelter in place, because not everything can be foreseen.

In any case we fight with what we have. Yet, a critical mission in life is to understanding ourselves. Of course one has to understand that is not the duty for every person in the world, as we have different purposes and duties. Some of us might dedicate to write or to farm or to clean or to any purpose or mission we have for serving. William James had the advantage of having enough time to think and write and so illustrate, which he did very well. He had that advantage because he also had a good financial background a generation behind him. Things in life is not about these concepts of privileges and best or worst admission policies. James could have done many other things, including business as his grandfather. Life brought him to several disciplines medicine, phycology. I think he did a trip as zoologist with Louis Agassiz. He endured through life bringing his inner self to the public sphere, in times when people had hard times making sense of the purpose of life. They seem in him a purpose.

Because he was contemporary of G.K. Chesterton, who I am reading now. My curiosity was if there were any interaction between them. That is why I made that search, which could speaks for my current procrastination outside my main physical geography and geographic information systems topics, but I am glad that Chesterton captured well the life of William James. Such a deep thinker, philosopher, psychologist, and theologist marked a turning point in the history of the time that Chesterton lived, as he wrote. I think that those thinkers as still influential to our times, when deep learning has sometimes a machine nature rather than our humanity.

Over those times, at the beginning of the 1900s, when nature conservation experienced a momentum peak, followed by a debacle during the wars and after, and experiencing a renascence in the 1970s, with peaks in perhaps in the 1980s or early 2000s. I truly believe that influential thinker that influenced the marriage of spirituality, deep thinking, critical thinking, pragmatism, liberal ideas, and able defeat plenty of the materialism thinking of the so called German enlightenment was Saint John Henry Newman in the mid 1800s.

[Update March 29, 2020 11:29 PM] I read this morning the actual column that Chesterton published in the Illustrated London Times News on September 17, 1910 titled The Philosophy of William James. While the article started with an indeed eulogy to Professor William James, from which short reading available on internet, I went on and wrote my own interpretation that I wrote above, which is clearly my mistake to write something without reading the whole thing. The whole article point is a critic to Pragmatism. Chesterton illustrated the that an ordinary man thinks that “pragmatism is bosh” because he sees than a thing has meaning for being there or not being there at a time, rather than just being the mere thing by itself.

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