William James and the Art of Popular Statement cover
William James and the Art of Popular Statement
At the turn of the twentieth century, no other public intellectual was as celebrated in America as the influential philosopher and psychologist William James. Sought after around the country, James developed his ideas in lecture halls and via essays and books intended for general audiences. Reaching out to and connecting with these audiences was crucial to James—so crucial that in 1903 he identified “popular statement,” or speaking and writing in a way that animated the thought of popular audiences, as the “highest form of art.” Paul Stob’s thought-provoking history traces James’s art of popular statement through pivotal lectures, essays, and books, including his 1878 lectures in Baltimore and Boston, “Talks to Teachers on Psychology,” “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” and “Pragmatism.” The book explores James’s unique approach to public address, which involved crafting lectures in science, religion, and philosophy around ordinary people and their experiences. With democratic bravado, James confronted those who had accumulated power through various systems of academic and professional authority, and argued that intellectual power should be returned to the people. Stob argues that James gave those he addressed a central role in the pursuit of knowledge and fostered in them a new intellectual curiosity unlike few scholars before or since.
Publication Date: March 1st, 2013
370 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Early Praise

"In this superb work, Paul Stob takes us back to a time when public intellectuals seriously engaged ordinary citizens. William James’s “art of public statement” was not just a sidelight to his scholarly career, but rather “a different kind of thought, a different epistemology.”  James was a true “intellectual populist,” and his example has much to teach us about how scholars might make a difference in the world."
J. Michael Hogan, Liberal Arts Research Professor and Director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation at Penn State University
"William James and the Art of Popular Statement is an outstanding and provocative book on several levels. It is beautifully written and researched, and integrates archival sources seamlessly into the analysis of primary texts. In the long and sometimes tempestuous historical dialogue between philosophy and rhetoric, this is one of the few works which, in depth and detail, makes the case that rhetorical practice helps constitute philosophical theory. Stob shows that William James’s pragmatism, in all its forms, grew out of a rhetorical engagement with a variety of publics, and that James’s career as a speaker and philosopher are indeed the same career."
William Keith, Professor of Communication at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

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