The Mythology of Self and Nation
The chapters in part III of the book (on the American pragmatists Charles Sanders Peirce and William James) began with psychological concepts and ended with discussions of self, God, and nation, but this chapter inverts the direction of analysis, and offers a close reading of lectures written almost contemporaneously by James and Peirce. First, James's Puritan image of self, God, and nation is clarified, and then it is argued how these visions arise out of and/or parallel to James's understandings of consciousness, causality, will, and belief. Having established that Jamesian pragmatism delineates a strong version of the myth of the American self, the chapter concludes with a reading of Peirce that demonstrates how his pragmatism offers an alternate version of this myth. Peirce stands as the operative unthought of James; his views on self and nation engage the Puritan imagery as surely as those of James, but with less triumphalism and more humility. Perhaps the recent renewed interest in Peirce's complicated vision of the world can be attributed, at least in part, to precisely this sobriety and to the alternative genealogy he offers of the self and its relations to community and the cosmos.
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