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Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisitedby Charles Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
A hundred years after William James delivered the celebrated lectures that became The Varieties of Religious Experience, one of the foremost thinkers in the English-speaking world returns to the questions posed in James's masterpiece to clarify the circumstances and conditions of religion in our day. An elegant mix of the philosophy and sociology of religion, Charles Taylor's powerful book maintains a clear perspective on James's work in its historical and cultural contexts, while casting a new and revealing light upon the present.
Lucid, readable, and dense with ideas that promise to transform current debates about religion and secularism, Varieties of Religion Today is much more than a revisiting of James's classic. Rather, it places James's analysis of religious experience and the dilemmas of doubt and belief in an unfamiliar but illuminating context, namely the social horizon in which questions of religion come to be presented to individuals in the first place.
Taylor begins with questions about the way in which James conceives his subject, and shows how these questions arise out of different ways of understanding religion that confronted one another in James's time and continue to do so today. Evaluating James's treatment of the ethics of belief, he goes on to develop an innovative and provocative reading of the public and cultural conditions in which questions of belief or unbelief are perceived to be individual questions. What emerges is a remarkable and penetrating view of the relation between religion and social order and, ultimately, of what "religion" means.
"Varieties of Religion Today is a provocative, witty and worthy conversation with James's timeless work." Publishers Weekly
"The recent blizzard of pragmatism has produced many discussions about William James, but there is one side of James that has been almost programmatically neglected. It is a side of James that James himself cherished, and it provides the great reason for so much of what he wrote, for so much of his philosophical pluralism, and for his campaign against idealism. I am referring to James the obsessively religious man, who was committed to devising a philosophy that would provide a foundation for spiritual experience, and to opening up room for faith in an increasingly secular world. Now at last we have a book about this James, and it has been produced by a religiously obsessed man himself." Erin Leib, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
In a mix of philosophy and sociology of religion, Charles Taylor's text maintains a clear perspective on William James's work in its historical and cultural contexts, while casting a light upon contemporary times.
About the Author
Charles Taylor is Professor of Philosophy at McGill University.
Table of Contents
1. James: Varieties
2. The "Twice-Born"
3. Religion Today
4. So Was James Right?
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