In the Fourth Person Singular: Pragmatism, Anarchism, and the Earth

Savransky, Martin. 2024. In the Fourth Person Singular: Pragmatism, Anarchism, and the Earth. Subjectivity, ISSN 1755-6341 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

Nothing has done more to cement William James’s reputation than his unrepentant individualism. In a present marked by the challenge of imagining modes of transformative action worthy of our planetary travails, James’s individualism appears dated, unworthy of the present. Yet such judgement neglects its pragmatic dimension, as well as its political connections to James’s anarchistic pluralism. Situating anarchism at the centre of James’s vision, this article argues that his defence of individuals constitutes no ontological postulate but forms part of a speculative theory of change. Rather than apologia for individual heroism, James’s individualism is better understood in the impersonal voice of the “fourth person singular:” individual lives matter not as originary sources of heroic action but as zones of divergence through which terrestrial forces of mutation and metamorphosis pass. Revisiting connections between James’s individualism, pragmatism, and anarchism, the article offers a radical reappraisal of James’s thought as a vital method for intensifying unruly forces of transformation on an earth unstable and unsafe.

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William James, Earth, Anarchism, Pragmatism, Individuals, Fourth Person Singular

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7 February 2024Accepted

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Date Deposited:

08 Feb 2024 11:43

Last Modified:

11 Apr 2024 23:45

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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