Isaiah Berlin and William James: Tragedy, Tragicomedy, Comedy

The Pluralist 16 (3):65-86 (2021)
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While both Isaiah Berlin and William James are widely seen as pluralists, this paper contends that neither is a pluralist tout court. Berlin certainly is a pluralist when it comes to morality and politics, but he is a monist when it comes to nature. And James is, paradoxically, both a pluralist and a monist as regards all of reality. These claims are advanced by showing how both thinkers’ approaches contrast with those of monists, not least Plato, Hegel, and Nietzsche. They are also shown to be associated with different narrative genres: tragedy in Berlin’s case, and tragicomedy in James’. The paper then concludes with a brief discussion of an alternative approach, one that treads a path in between monism and pluralism and, because of this, favours a particular form of comedy.
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First archival date: 2021-11-09
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