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Chapter 2 - Context

William James, Into the cosmic weather

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2014

Joan Richardson
Affiliation:
City University of New York
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Summary

When we think about the future of the world, we always have in mind its being at the place where it would be if it continued to move as we see it moving now. We do not realize that it moves not in a straight line, but in a curve, and that its direction is always changing.

ludwig wittgenstein, Culture and Value

This New Yet Unapproachable America

Even before the moment of first arrival in the New World, John Winthrop offered his fellow passengers on the Arbella in delivering his lay sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630), a vision of their projected community as a body. His words fashioned a proleptic covenant with the God whose Providence could ensure him and his accidental congregation safe landing on the threatening shore. We could, without much stretching, see this gambit as the first move in the American language game that would come to be called “pragmatism”: that is, the projection of a belief convincing enough to serve as a platform for action. For Winthrop and his hungry listeners, the body offered as “model” – the image anchoring the belief – was that of Christ. Within this conception, all the many members were to imagine themselves performing throughout their lives and into the generations following them – if God’s promise were to be kept on their “errand into the wilderness” – the multifarious functions necessary to the ongoing life of the one great spiritual body. Doing so would fulfill their continuing part in the covenant secured with their successful landing. Thus, the idea later to be inscribed as the motto of the pointedly secular republic, E pluribus unum, had already been articulated in the theological motive that gave birth to this variety of “American” experience. It should be noted that in this body the collectivity of ministers would serve as the “head.”

Type
Chapter
Information
Pragmatism and American Experience
An Introduction
, pp. 31 - 65
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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  • Context
  • Joan Richardson, City University of New York
  • Book: Pragmatism and American Experience
  • Online publication: 05 June 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139023900.003
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  • Context
  • Joan Richardson, City University of New York
  • Book: Pragmatism and American Experience
  • Online publication: 05 June 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139023900.003
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Context
  • Joan Richardson, City University of New York
  • Book: Pragmatism and American Experience
  • Online publication: 05 June 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139023900.003
Available formats
×