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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

blockage and pragmatism

I suppose this is technically writer's block. In a sense, I don't know what to write--and that is the condition I understand as writer's block. I mostly know, but I don't have it completely worked out.

But in truth I don't think it's particularly a knowledge issue. It feels much more emotional--a life issue. There's some kind of existential problem, simmering feelings of blockage and frustration, no doubt rooted in events and situations far in the past.

Ah, well. Everyone's got problems. One issue for me is that this blog, while as candid as I can make it, doesn't go into every cranny of my life (I don't want it to), and so there are zones of reporting that are open, so to speak, and others that aren't. I find myself having to tiptoe around a bit even right here in my own blog, of which I am the sole owner and editor-in-chief.

Yesterday another book arrived in the mail: a combined edition of William James's Pragmatism and The Meaning of Truth. In all of my persistent digging into the question of identity earlier this year, I gradually arrived at the realization that our most basic notion of what is true is simply that which is effective. I later found out that this is the kernel of the American philosophical school called pragmatism, and eagerly I sought out a promising-looking book on it and ordered it. This is it.

I felt very good about this realization, because I had arrived at it, so to speak, under my own steam, via my own route. That means I can approach James's ideas as a peer--I will not be imbibing his philosophy with the idea of accepting it (or rejecting it) on the basis of his authority. I can check his thinking against my own, and see whether we think alike. As far as I've gotten into chapter 1, I'd say we do. I'm sensing that William James is a kindred spirit for me.

Indeed, I was so enthusiastic about looking into his thoughts that I also ordered a used copy of his two-volume masterwork The Principles of Psychology. I sense a mind that is wide-ranging, undogmatic, and fearless--just the kind I want to spend time with.

Yes, there's always more reading to do. Where am I going with it? What have I learned?


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