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William James and the Transatlantic ConversationPragmatism, Pluralism, and Philosophy of Religion$
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Martin Halliwell and Joel D. S. Rasmussen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687510

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687510.001.0001

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Religion, Sociology, and Psychology: William James and the Re-enchantment of the World

Religion, Sociology, and Psychology: William James and the Re-enchantment of the World

(p.49) 3 Religion, Sociology, and Psychology: William James and the Re-enchantment of the World
William James and the Transatlantic Conversation

Richard H. King

Oxford University Press

This chapter compares two great works of Protestant modernity—James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience and Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism—that bring together American and German thought at the turn of the twentieth century. James the philosopher treated religion in psychological and experiential terms, while Weber the historian and sociologist took the theology of Calvinism with deadly seriousness. Nietzsche’s resolute “death of God” pronouncement also contrasts starkly with James’s vacillation over the ontological status of religious experience in Varieties. This speaks volumes about the failure of James not so much to confront the “abyss” as to accept that that is all there is—a tradition which this chapter argues comes to cultural fruition in what Philip Rieff called “the triumph of the therapeutic” a half century later, in the 1960s.

Keywords:   Protestantism, modernity, Max Weber, religious experience, re-enchantment, sociology, psychology, therapy, Philip Rieff

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