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Trygve ThrontveitWilliam James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic

Palgrave, 2014

by Shirly May Banks on March 27, 2015

Trygve Throntveit

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William James (1842-1910) is one of the United States’ most far-reaching thinkers. His impact on philosophy, psychology, and religious studies is well documented, yet few scholars have considered James’ impact on the area of ethics and political thought. Trygve Throntveit’s new book William James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic (Palgrave, 2014) is a persuasive and innovative look at the Jamesian social and political legacy, especially as played out in the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Dr. Throntveit leverages the archives of the James family, including novelist Henry James, Jr. and William and Henry’s father, Swedenborgian theologian Henry James, Sr., to show how Henry Sr.’s ambitious but unfocused educational program affected William James’ vocation and intellectual commitments. In committing to a pragmatic ethic that could accommodate varieties of religious experience, James envisioned how a democratic society should regard the individual. Throntveit reads James in light of James’ personal development in relationship to other public intellectuals with whom he corresponded and was personally acquainted. The author keeps a steady eye on how William James developed as a person and as a scholar through his relationships. Throntveit’s innovation lies in tracing the ways in which others applied, and sometimes modified, Jamesian ideas during the Progressive Era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Social critic WEB DuBois, philosopher of public life John Dewey, urban theorist and reformer Jane Addams, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies, Theodore Roosevelt, and others directly responded to William James’ pragmatism via their policymaking clout. In turn, these public intellectuals had the attention of Woodrow Wilson. The ideals of democracy—the ethical republic—were set in motion for the trials ahead in the Great War and beyond. William James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic contributes to William James studies, American history, history of ideas, and philosophy.


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When one thinks of the connection of religion and imperialism in Japan, one automatically thinks first of Shint? and second of Buddhism. Christianity does not usually figure into that story. However, Emily Anderson, in her new book Christianity and Imperialism in Modern Japan: Empire for God (Bloomsbury, 2014), shows how and why it must be […]

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Dhara AnjariaCurzon’s India: Networks of Colonial Governance, 1899-1905

March 25, 2015

I won’t speak for you, but I find it utterly remarkable that the British were able to “rule” India. Britain, of course, is a small island off a small continent some significant distance from most of its colonies. India, in contrast, is essentially a continent unto itself and the home of an ancient, sophisticated civilization. How […]

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Elizabeth Maddock DillonNew World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849

March 23, 2015

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A. Mark SmithFrom Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics

March 21, 2015

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Michelle NickersonMothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right

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Katherine LebowUnfinished Utopia: Nowa Huta, Stalinism and Polish Society, 1949-1956

March 15, 2015

In the late 1940s, tens of thousands of people – mostly young male peasants – streamed to southeastern Poland to help build Nowa Huta, the largest and most ambitious of Stalinist “socialist cities” in the new People’s Democracies. The town, built to house workers at the Lenin Steelworks (also under construction), was designed to implement […]

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March 15, 2015

Eugene N. Anderson’s new book offers an expansive history of food, environment, and their relationships in China. From prehistory through the Ming and beyond, Food and Environment in Early and Medieval China (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pays careful attention to a wide range of contexts of concern with nature and its resources. Readers of […]

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Nick WildingGalileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge

March 15, 2015

Nick Wilding’s new book is brilliant, thoughtful, and an absolute pleasure to read. Galileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and The Politics of Knowledge (University of Chicago Press, 2014) takes an unusual approach to understanding Galileo and his context by focusing its narrative on his closest friend, student, and patron, the Venetian Gianfrancesco Sagredo. Though most readers […]

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