Milton Konvitz American Ideals Lectures

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To understand William James’s pluralism, suggests Professor Konvitz, one must understand the influence of Emerson’s view of evil. Emerson postulates that every evil is utilized in some way for good, and there is an inevitability of good winning out. James, Professor Konvitz argues, rebels against such optimism. For Emerson, the concept of evil contradicts his belief in the infinite capacity of mankind and his belief in the religious tradition that God the Creator creates only good. Konvitz then relates this view of God to Emerson’s acceptance of the concept of the universal spiritual totality or the Over-Soul and explains why, in this spiritual oneness, there could be no room for actual evil. William James is introduced with a brief biographical sketch of his work as a physiologist, a psychologist, and finally a philosopher interested in religion.

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