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Doug's Pre-review Comments

for his

William James'

Some Problems of Philosophy

Many William James Sidis-relevant comments appear in this pre-review commentary.


Our pending review of William James Sidis' The Animate and the Inanimate (AIA) mandates this review. Our goal is to "get inside William James' head," and thus to enhance our inferential capabilities interpreting what WJS means in AIA. Also, we just received notice on 15Mar2000 that a copy of WJS' father's book, Philistine and Genius, has been found for us. Now we will be able to review it too, and apply our inferential enhancement technique to Boris' own words about his son.

Please note, reader, that this is our first experience of William James' works other than hearsay of other references and philosophologists. We were delightfully surprised to find his use of 'flux,' in a manner consistent with our own philosophy, metaphysics, ontology, and science.

Those of you familiar with Pirsig's works and their interrelationships with both Sidises may sample and savour many multi-fibrous weavings of their spiritual and philosophical learning and thinking their mental whole cloth affected greatly by William James' own thinking modes.

And those of you who are students of Quantonics, will detect shared fibres among our own derivative and extrapolated Quantonic Thinking Modes (QTMs).

William James emersed and became in 1842, and transitioned and immersed in 1910. He is known for several works, including: Principles of Psychology (1890), The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). We are reviewing his last, and from our perspective, his most important book, Some Problems of Philosophy (1911). It was written during his last one and a half years of life. It is 'incomplete.' It was published posthumously.

Boris Sidis was William James Sidis' father. William James mentored Boris Sidis and became godfather of his namesake William James Sidis. William James had enormous influence on Boris' prolific works. It is very clear that he also influenced WJS' tutelage and formative thinking modes. William James is source of both Sidises' much-used phrase reserve energy.

Pirsig was very interested in James' work, but apparently knew little or nothing of it until after he wrote his famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM, 1st ed. published 1974). In Pirsig's second book, Lila, he says this on page 324 of 410 total pages of Bantam's 1991 hardbound 1st edition,

"A review of his book [ZMM] in the Harvard Educational Review had said that his idea of truth was the same as James. The London Times said he was a follower of Aristotle. Psychology Today said he was a follower of Hegel. If everyone was right he had certainly achieved a remarkable synthesis. But the comparison with James interested him most because it looked like there might be something to it.

"It was also very good philosophological news. James is usually considered a very solid mainstream American philosopher, whereas Phædrus' first book had often been described as a "cult" book. He had a feeling the people who used that term wished it was a cult book and would go away like a cult book, perhaps because it was interfering with some philosophological cultism of their own. But if philosophologists were willing to accept the idea that the Metaphysics of Quality is an offshoot of James' work, then that "cult" charge was shattered. And this was good political news in a field where politics is a big factor."
(our bold)

Clearly, 'Harvard Education Review' came closest. 'The London Times' reviewer apparently did not read ZMM, or is inept. 'Psychology Today' exposes its lack of expertise (of which we have similarly noted on an abundance of other topics) and is only one reason why we no longer subscribe. Aristotle founded empirical dialectic truth in his syllogisms and Hegel was a classical dialectician. ZMM rails against classical dialectics (i.e. biformal argument based on: substantial dichotomous cuts made by Subject-Object Metaphysics' knife).

Those of us who are learning Quantonics and consider ourselves practicing MoQites will be able to see how closely Pirsig and James align. Actually, we intend to add James to our list of Famous MoQites.

"But Doug," you ask, "before we wade through your entire review, can you show us briefly, how they are alike?"


Briefly, in a large frame of view, Pirsig's MoQ partitions reality into:

  1. Dynamic Quality, (DQ)
  2. Direct Experience via Quality Events (QEs), and
  3. Static Quality (SQ).

These correspond roughly to James' own:

  1. Flux (we intuit this corresponds to James' reserve energy),
  2. Percepts, and
  3. Concepts.

They align fairly well another way: each claiming their own categories somewhat distinct, non-included-middle, and unwhole. So, both still have latent habits of SOMthink (as do most of us in Western culture), especially objective separation. Though Pirsig uses phrases about 'in-ness' and apparent cowithinitness (In personal correspondence with us, he applies Eugen Herrigel's, "We are in It, and It is in us." See Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, Pantheon (Vintage), 1953.), and James talks about interpenetration and compenetration. These latter juxtapositions of James and Pirsig are where we scope glimmers of quantum intuitions and nascent quantum epiphanies by both philosophers. For us, this is extraordinarily exciting!

Similarly and what provokes our persistence we scent, track, and trail WJS' own precursory quantum incense.

Usually, when one confers James' own philosophy, one notices a recurring appellation: pragmatism. In Some Problems of Philosophy, though, we hear little of that. He only states his pragmatic rule, shows applied examples, and then later uses his rule in a critique of substance. Beyond that, we hear little of Pragmatism.

In short, though, to fill in a potential reader pitfall, it distills to pragma (action) tism (belief in):

Further, William James extrapolates pragmatism to non-inductive, pluralistic (many truths), evolutionary (especially, "novel") and thus intrinsically moral, action outcomes. We say "intrinsically moral," to express action actualization of local moral choice at each quantum of action. (Quantum moral choice interrelationships may have little apparent affect, or they may grow, diminish, and commingle complex plural islands of reality on any scale(s) of reality very quickly. See Pirsig's Moral Codes.) Since we did this review during March of 2000, we found approximately forty letters and postcards from James to others, both famous and not, on The Atlantic magazine's website. (See top page of this review for links to those letters.) In a letter from James to Shadworth Hodgson, he makes a clear, unambiguous statement affirming his own perceptions of reality as intrinsically moral:

"Indeterminism [quantum uncertainty] is the only way to BREAK the world into good parts and into bad, and to stand by the former as against the latter." In a letter from James to Hodgson, December 15, 1885. (Our brackets added 20Aug2001 - Doug.)

Begin reviewer comment:

Classical determinism:


Quantum indeterminism:

  • absolute mutability with variable persistence, (quantum science; absolute flux, absolute change, Dynamic Quality, etc.)
  • absolute dependence, (quantum science; compenetration (James), interpenetration (Capra), coinsidence, co-here-nce, included-middle, etc.)
  • comtrafactual definiteness, (quantum science; indefiniteness, etc.)
  • uncertainty, (quantum science; Heisenberg, etc.)
  • many contexts and many truths (pluralism), etc. (New red alterations, for clarity, 3Nov2001 - Doug.)

In Quantonics we know that most classical ISM's views (esp. Subject-Object Metaphysics, and relativism) of reality share these similarities: monism (or some derivative), wholeness as a homogeneous pre-existing analytic continuum, excluded-middle syllogistic logic, determinism (no free will), and good vs. bad as absolute moral dialectic assessments

as anthropocentric (innately i.e., by design moral) judgment.

By comparison, we know that Pirsig's MoQ agrees significantly with quantum science's, James', Poincaré's, Bergson's, Renouvier's, Hodgson's, et al.'s, views of reality which share these similarities:

  • pluralism, amd
    in addition to Cultural Relativism's parallel-pluralism
    • sequential-,
    • islandic-,
    • ensemble-,
    • b¤th l¤cal-,
    • n¤nl¤cal-, amd
    • quantum-
  • -pluralism, amd
  • quantum c¤hesi¤n
    • as heter¤gene¤us n¤vel st¤chastic incremental quanta,
    • included-middle quantum l¤gic,
    • indeterminism (free will), amd
  • g¤¤d vis-à-vis bad as temp¤rary tentative incremental m¤ral assessment

as reality's (intrinsically i.e., naturally m¤ral) judgment.

:End reviewer comment

Reader, consider a deep pragmatic philosophical impetus from this: classical passivity is action. classical 'or' of: " act or not to act.." is possible. Another way to say this is, "...waiting (also) is n¤t." (Vis-à-vis Heinlein's, "...waiting is..." We see a classical 'or' here too: " wait or not to wait..." Quantum conclusion: waiting b¤th is amd is n¤t.) Likewise for other classical 'ORs,' e.g., " be or not to be...," " try or not to try...," etc. (Quantum philosophy tells us actual ORs are like this, i.e., c¤mplementary uncertainty interrelationships (quantons) vis-à-vis classical dichotomies (dichons). It tells us SOM's knife, which created ORs to begin with, is dull.)

Simply, reality acts, reality is, and reality does (As Yoda tells Luke, "There is n¤ try, just .")! Nature's real flux will act for you, even if you are 'passive.' Reality's imperceivable (i.e., in its c¤mpleteness), ubiquitous, interpenetrating primal flux issi action's source. James even calls acti¤n events, "quanta." Amd, even better, y¤u can find res¤nance in his c¤mpatibility with Pirsig's ev¤luti¤nary empiricism.

22Sep2001 comments begin (with an extensive 8Jan2004 update):

In James' Varieties of Religious Experience (1902 - eight years antecedent Some Problems of Philosophy) he tells of his first encounter with pragmatism. He learned it from Charles Sanders Peirce and describes it like this:

James' text from
Varieties of Religious Experience

Doug's comments on James' text

"Thought in movement has for its only conceivable motive the attainment of belief, or thought at rest. Only when our thought about a subject has found its rest in belief can our action on the subject firmly and safely begin. Beliefs, in short, are rules for action; and the whole function of thinking is but one step in the production of active habits. If there were any part of a thought that made no difference in the thought's practical consequences, then that part would be no proper element of the thought's significance. To develop a thought's meaning we need therefore only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce; that conduct is for us its sole significance; and the tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions is that there is no one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, we need then only consider what sensations, immediate or remote, we are conceivably to expect from it, and what conduct we must prepare in case the object should be true. Our conception of these practical consequences is for us the whole of our conception of the object, so far as that conception has positive significance at all.

"This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragmatism. Such a principle will help us on this occasion to decide, among the various attributes set down in the scholastic inventory of God's perfections, whether some be not far less significant than others."

James is referring Peirce in this portion of VoRe.

'Pragmatism' over several centuries, has been re-engineered to mean 'practical.' In its original Greek semantic pragma means literally action. Classical thing-kers have done everything they can to make reality objective. Objective reality has no room for pragma, except as unitemporal physical motion.

This is Peirce's classical version of pragmatism, or practicalism. By classical, we intend that Peirce manifestly adheres classical conceptual stasis, as exemplified by his, "thought at rest," "beliefs," "rules," "perfect clearness," and "object should be true."

Why does Peirce seek "thought at rest," "beliefs," "rules," and "perfect clearness?" Classicists seek an ideal, (to them) utopian, predictable, cause and effect, 1-1 correspondent, radically formal and mechanistic reality. They can only do that if they stop reality. But reality is unstoppable!

Dirac says this, "...we must revise our ideas of causality. Causality applies only to a system which is left undisturbed." See P. A. M. Dirac's The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, p. 4.

By observation, reality disturbs he-rself! So reality is acausal, incapable of rest, incapable of supporting any "thought at rest," "beliefs," "rules," and "perfect clearness." Doug - 5May2003.

By contrast, quantum pragmatism insists on absolute flux (e.g., Pirsig's Dynamic Quality, vacuum flux, et al.). Assuming quantum pragmatism we sublate any possibility of "thought at rest," static "beliefs," immutable "rules," attainment of "perfect clearness," and ideal "objective" verity.

Quantum flux and its close kin quantum uncertainty permit, at best, variable persistence of thought, rules, beliefs, clearness, and verity — indeed all of reality. Perfect and immutable clarity of any kind is unattainable in quantum reality!

James' first sentence which we quote above, had potential until it trapped animate thought in SOM's rational cathedral of stasis. Trapping animate thought in inanimacy is classicism pure and ugly. It prescribes those bricks of granite intellect The Academy's propagandists have been stuffing in our children's minds for over 2000 years.

Our comments above apply to principles too. Pragmatism's own name elicits quantum uncertainty. Pragmatism, in quantumese, evokes notions of unstoppable and relentless Planck rate flux.

To our great delight, James lost Peirce's radically mechanistic brand of pragmatism in his last work, that which we are reviewing here, Some Problems of Philosophy. And we adopted quantum pragmatism as our own. See pragmadigm.

Doug - 22Sep2001.

We just finished reading Will Durant's assessment of William James in Durant's The Story of Philosophy.

Durant interprets James and Peirce in much more Quantum Lightings than we have based on our limited readings and immediately available resources. See Durant on James. 8Jan2004 - Doug.

22Sep2001 comments end.

Pirsig told us SOM reality is a contrived (The Big Exclusive OR) platypus an either/or, dichotomous platypus. SOM says reality exclusively either is or is not. SOM says make your choice, then, using biformal logical contradiction, fight over who is exclusively either right or wrong. Now we see William James, Henri Louis Bergson, Robert M. Pirsig, David Bohm, amd quantum science all telling us that reality inclusively is b¤th/amd (using a Jamesian intueme: inters¤lute) reality is. Every ch¤ice bec¤mes a m¤ral act wh¤se ¤utc¤me is statistically uncertain (quantumly, we have ensemble determinism; unclassically, we have n¤ analytic determinism). In general, it is classically impossible to be exclusively either right or wrong, EOOO! William James, in Some Problems of Philosophy agrees! Truth is quantal, compenetrating plurality. He tells us this without ambiguity! Genius, pure genius an appropriate Godfather of William James Sidis!


Reader, you may now be able to see why we are spending so much precious time on these 'sidebar' reviews of Bergson (4 texts), James (1 text), Boris Sidis (1 text), et al. If James imparted even marginally some of these concepts to William Sidis, then we can expect to see much quantum intuition in WJS' AIA. That is, however insufficient, what we seek. Our first scan of AIA offered a glimmer, but we were unsure to what extent our own predilections biased our interpretations. Note that William Sidis was 12, barely post adolescent yet already matriculated Harvard, when James transitioned (1910). However, William's intellect was well-formed by then. He was capable of understanding what James was saying. We think he was capable of understanding rudimentary quantum philosophical concepts. We need to know whether William Sidis read James' work we are reviewing here. Perhaps our impending review of Boris' Philistine and Genius (1911) may provide clues. Any mention there of either Boris' or Bill's reading Some Problems of Philosophy (1910) will offer us a huge tell.

End aside.

William James' formative philosophy was essential monism. However, during 1870s he came upon Charles Renouvier's works, in particular Renouvier's, Essais de Critique Générale, which in its original was four volumes and subsequently grew to six volumes! (See our 2000 March News for more on Renouvier.) His enlightening exposure to Renouvier influenced greatly his conversion from monism to pluralism. We sense, reading and reviewing James' Some Problems of Philosophy that his conversion was almost an epiphany akin our own quantum epiphany. Here are his personal words:

Renouvier, "...was one of the greatest philosophic characters, and but for the decisive impression made on me in the seventies [1870s] by his masterly advocacy of pluralism, I might never have got free from the monastic superstition under which I had grown up. The present volume, in short, might never have been written. This is why, feeling endlessly thankful as I do, I dedicate this textbook to the great Renouvier's memory."

See James' dedication of his Some Problems of Philosophy to Renouvier below.

James possesses great knowledge of all Western classical culture/philosophy's ISMs, but he, as Pirsig, distills them to a smaller subset. James picks two great categories for comparison: monism and pluralism. He chooses latter as his own personal philosophic domain. His last book, which we review here, distinguishes them and shows pluralism's vast strengths compared to monism's ample weaknesses. In addition to distinguishing two massive philosophical categories, he also distinguishes two large thinking modes: conceptual and perceptual. Conceptual modes are exclusive, static, classical modes. Perceptual modes are intuitive, compenetrating, quantum modes minus an epiphanous near-quantum intuition of yet classical, "exclusive" Bohrian complementarity. James tells us that each is a necessary 'leg' of thinking. Just as we need two legs to walk, we also need both conceptual and perceptual modes to think.

(We view his requirement for both, as separate 'legs,' as an intermediate (i.e., prequantum epiphany) crutch. See similar issue discussed in our July, 1999 QQA on quantum measurement.)

His analogy is quite striking when we think of it vis-à-vis his monism/pluralism dichotomy. It discloses a fundamental weakness we find common among most philosophers: a seemingly unseverable tie to Aristotle's syllogisms. James describes his two thinking modes as legs of thought, and one senses he intends only their exclusive, separate use. I.e., one may either use conceptual mode or perceptual mode, but not both conceptual and perceptual modes together (Quantonics demands that you do use them together, despite many of our critics' emphases, "...that is absurd, unreasonable, impossible."). His monism/pluralism dichotomy in conjunction with his either/or dichotomy of thinking modes belie a potentially incomplete 'conversion' to pluralism. Either that, or his thinking mode dichotomy gives tell of pluralism's own retention of some Aristotelian syllogistic thinking methods (i.e., Classical Thinking Methods, or CTMs).

Practically speaking, we know empirically, we can stand on one leg or another, we can stand on both together, and we can alternate twixt both standing, walking, or running. It amazes us how Aristotle, some of his antecedents (Parmenides, Plato, et al.), and most of his classical disciples infer and conceptualize exclusive either/or, but for some reason deny inclusive both/and. Even when they use "both/and" their merged 'sets' (and set 'elements') share no included middle of parts, which are intrinsics (i.e., shared middles of parts are intrinsics) of quantum reality. In retrospect, Aristotle's syllogisms are, in general, patently ludicrous! James does not call it such, but MoQites know excluded middle's source is SOM's (Aristotelian, syllogistic) knife which cuts its presumed homogeneous 'reality' into arbitrary, but synthetic parts of a contrived and conserved 'whole.' A 'whole' whose essence is a simple synthetic integral of its exclusively separable 'parts.'

Yet, elsewhere in his Some Problems of Philosophy, James' apparent intuitions of quantum both/and inclusion (included middle) as reality's most fundamental aspect intrinsic flux glimmer brightly. One may conclude that, just as we still struggle today, James struggled with classical linguistics' ineptness in expressing c¤mplementary antitheses to ancient subject-object dichons. You see our struggle here in our use of 'c¤mplementary antitheses.' Now, from a classicist's view, one might ask, "What the hell does that mean?" However, as students of Quantonics, one garners an entirely different reaction. We know all antitheses may potentially quantum-coinside as quantons. We know c¤mplementary antitheses share quantum uncertainty interrelationships between/among their quantonic flux attractors. James did not 'know' this. But we can tell, from reading and reviewing his Some Problems of Philosophy, he intuited it. Pirsig sensed this too, we think. Did WJS?

Thanks for reading,


David Bohm quote on quantum holism:

"We are led, instead, to a new point of view, based on [an] idea that [] quanta connecting object and environment constitute irreducible links that belong, at all times, as much to one part as to [an] other."

See Chapter 8, Sec. 24, Quantum Theory, by David Bohm, Dover, 1979 (originally published by Prentice Hall, 1951). (Doug's brackets to remove thelogos.)


To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2013 Rev. 7Dec2009  PDR Created: 22Mar2000  PDR
(7Apr2000 rev - Add anchor to 'or' aside above.)
(30Apr2000 rev - Add a link to new coined term: Intersolute.)
(27May2000 rev - Insert James quote from a letter to Shadworth Hodgson and our added comments.)
(27Jun2000 rev - Correct possessive in last paragraph. Classicists -> classicist's.)
(17Jul2000 rev - Change 'He' to 'James' in ambiguous reference above where he calls action 'quanta.')
(17Jul2000 rev - Add link to our July, 1999 QQA on quantum measurement. Correct minor grammatical error.)
(17Jul2000 rev - Add anchor to paragraph referring James' comment on needing two legs: concept and percept.)
(17Jul2000 rev - Clarify semantic of quantum 'shared middles.')
(29Jul2000 rev - Typos.)
(30Aug2000 rev - Add link to 'Absoluteness as Quantum Uncertainty Interrelationshipings.')
(30Aug2000 rev - Add Bohm quote on quantum holism.)
(27Oct2000 rev - Change Classical Thinking Mode to Classical Thinking Method. QTMs are modal, CTMs are less so.)
(5Jul2001 rev - Add link to A Comprehensive List of English Language Problematics in last paragraph.)
(20Aug2001 rev - Change 'or' anchor name to 'reality is moral.' Alter first 'he' in that paragraph to 'William James.')
(20Aug2001 rev - Add bracketed quantum uncertainty insertion in 'Reality is Moral' paragraphical asides.)
(20Aug2001 rev - Remediate quantum comtexts in same paragraph. Change 'vs.' to 'visàvis.')
(21Aug2001 rev - Language remediate portions of succeeding paragraphs. Add EOOO.)
(22Sep2001 rev - Add James' comments from his Varieties of Religious Experience, re: Peirce's views.)
(3Nov2001 rev - Reset red updates. Alter/extend our comments on determinism/indeterminism.)
(6Nov2001 rev - Repair Bergson's Creative Evolution publish date.)
(21Jan2002 rev - Remediate quantum comtextual occurrences of 'complement' to 'c¤mplement.)
(23Jul2002 rev - Change QELR links to A-Z pages.)
(18Sep2002 rev - Add missing 'Or' anchor which we should have done 7Apr2000.)
(7Oct2002 rev - Add an anchor to our Pragmatism Critique.)
(5May2003 rev - Extend our comments on quantum pragmatism.)
(8Jan2004 rev - Add Durant extension on James and Peirce.)
(1Oct2005 rev - Add 'SOM's knife' bold and color and adjust colors.)
(13Dec2008 rev - Reformat.)
(7Dec2009 rev - Adjust colors. Make page current. Resize text boxes.)

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