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Overcoming Cynicism: William James and the Metaphysics of Engagement (Hardback)
  • Overcoming Cynicism: William James and the Metaphysics of Engagement (Hardback)
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Overcoming Cynicism: William James and the Metaphysics of Engagement (Hardback)

(author)
£88.00
Hardback 196 Pages / Published: 17/03/2011
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Scholars, public figures, and prominent theologians alike clamor to diagnose our age as cynical. Combating the notion of a "healthy" cynicism, A Crisis of Relations demonstrates that the cynic engages not in genuine critique, but rather in a denial of the possibility of fruitful change. Mustain first uses two historical versions of cynicism - ancient Greek and Victorian - to describe competing currents within the cynical attitude. She brings this historical discussion to bear upon two contemporary sources of cynicism: Christian fundamentalism and scientism. Christian fundamentalism, with its location of possibilities in an otherworldly realm, pronounces worldly amelioration impossible, and scientism's reduction of all phenomena to their most basic material components renders worldly change at once inevitable and meaningless. Mustain offers an alternative path which seeks to confront the real problems we encounter in our experiences of relations without either explaining those problems away or making them fundamental. In so doing, she suggests ways of possible amelioration whereby we might unseat the cynicism that dominates our age, supplanting it instead with genuine relational engagement.

Publisher: Continuum Publishing Corporation
ISBN: 9781441115225
Number of pages: 196
Weight: 460 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Mustain's well-crafted meditation on cynicism is both timely and provocative. Drawing on four case studies, from fourth-century B.C.E. Athens to twentieth century Christian fundamentalism, she skillfully diagnoses cynicism as a metaphysical disorder of disconnectedness and provides a welcome prescription that draws on William James's investigation of felt relations." Larry A. Hickman, Director of the Center for Dewey Studies and Professor of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA.
"Overcoming Cynicism is a bold and originating diagnosis of an ancient contention, which flails us to this very day. If ultimate certitude is beyond our reach, what then is the possibility of possibility, the meaning and presence of hope and the actuality of human growth? Megan Mustain takes on this central human conflict with high intelligence, rhetorical verve and informed philosophical acuity. I welcome Megan Mustain to the newest generation of creative and wise interpreters of our rich intellectual tradition as rooted in Classical American Philosophy." John J. McDermott, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Texas A&M University, USA.
"Megan Mustain has put the ideas of William James to work in the twenty-first century. She offers a diagnosis of our present and ongoing inabilities to deal with our existential instabilities by way of the history and presence of cynicism. The cynics of disjunction Diogenes and contemporary scientism fail to see the importance of conjunctive relations and thus are blind to possibility and the human ability to create meaning. The cynics of conjunction Victorian colonialism and contemporary religious fundamentalism try to ignore in ostrich-like fashion our existential disconnectedness offering instead a blind faith in an as yet incompleted ontological whole. Drawing on James's radical empiricism, Mustain suggests we recognize the importance of both sorts of relations and engage our existential situation with hope not certainty, with possibility not necessity. Though philosophical in temper, this book reaches into our dealings with the everyday world and asks us to acknowledge the risks and to create meaning whenever possible for Mustain, as for Aristotle, Margaret Fuller, and William James, life is more than surviving and less than becoming divine. Overcoming cynicism is not achieved by way of a universal game plan but through our individual and communal dealings with the problems of material and spirit that are at hand for us." - Douglas Anderson, Professor of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University, USA.
This book is valuable for its perspicuity of human character through a range of philosophical and cultural movements, from ancient to contemporary, and for its courage in suggesting practical solutions. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers.--Sanford Lakoff

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