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The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (Oxford World's Classics)

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'By their fruits ye shall know them, not by their roots.'

The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) is William James's classic survey of religious belief in its most personal, and often its most heterodox, aspects. Asking questions such as how we define evil to ourselves, the difference between a healthy and a divided mind, the value of saintly behaviour, and what animates and characterizes the mental landscape of sudden conversion, James's masterpiece stands at a unique moment in the relationship between belief and culture. Faith in institutional religion and dogmatic theology was fading away, and the search for an authentic religion rooted in personality and subjectivity was a project conducted as an urgent necessity. With psychological insight, philosophical rigour, and a determination not to jump to the conclusion that in tracing religion's mental causes we necessarily diminish its truth or value, in the Varieties James wrote a truly foundational text for modern belief.

Matthew Bradley's wide-ranging new edition examines the ideas that continue to fuel modern debates on atheism and faith.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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One of the seminal works of philosophy and theology. (Catholic Herald)

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When William James went to the University of Edinburgh in 1901 to deliver a series of lectures on "natural religion," he defined religion as "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine." Considering religion, then, not as it is defined by--or takes place in--the churches, but as it is felt in everyday life, he undertook a project that, upon completion, stands not only as one of the most important texts on psychology ever written, not only as a vitally serious contemplation of spirituality, but for many critics one of the best works of nonfiction written in the 20th century. Reading The Varieties of Religious Experience, it is easy to see why. Applying his analytic clarity to religious accounts from a variety of sources, James elaborates a pluralistic framework in which "the divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may all find worthy missions." It's an intellectual call for serious religious tolerance--indeed, respect--the vitality of which has not diminished through the subsequent decades.

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