Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, April 9, 2015

William James on "reality"

Wherever a process of life communicates an eagerness to him who lives it, there the life becomes genuinely significant. Sometimes the eagerness is more knit up with the motor activities, sometimes with the perceptions, sometimes with the imagination, sometimes with reflective thought. But, wherever it is found, there is the zest, the tingle, the excitement of reality; and there is 'importance' in the only real and positive sense in which importance ever anywhere can be. William James, On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings

So, what's "real"? Children seem to know, spontaneously and implicitly. But by the time we hit college, many of us have forgotten.
"Living realities" are those things to which we are drawn with what James calls a "stinging" perception of personal need. What fails to sting in the appropriate fashion is, for us, uninteresting and unimportant (and relatively deficient in the reality we are prepared to accord it). Our sense of reality thus hinges on our capacity to be excited and engaged... William James's "Springs of Delight"
(I can sell you a bargain-priced copy of this old book, if you'd like one.)

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