A Stroll With William James by Jacques Barzun

By Jacques Barzun

With this publication, Jacques Barzun will pay what he describes as an "intellectual debt" to William James—psychologist, thinker, and, for Barzun, advisor and mentor. Commenting on James's lifestyles, proposal, and legacy, Barzun leaves us with a smart and civilized distillation of the nice thinker's work.

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However, the problem is one of their possible coincidence or identity: can philosophy become a form of selfknowledge? Can the subject overcome the contradictions both within existence and within knowledge to reach a higher state of accordance with truth? The mode of presentation of this problem is clearly a Hegelian one. However, it should be clear that the anxiety of its achievement, the creation of adequate concepts and the articulation of modes of thought which can themselves perform the task of producing unity between the subject and knowledge is a problem which haunts all philosophies of the subject and not solely its dominant Hegelian formulation.

Such subjectivity wants to give form to everything, and precisely for this reason succeeds only in mirroring a segment of reality. 8 42 CONTEMPORARY FRENCH PHILOSOPHY Indeed, this existential self-estrangement of the subject, this absence of a 'life-totality' and a coincidence between life and being, is due largely to the temporal distance of self and world. 11 In both The Theory of the Novel and Soul and Form, Lukacs is unable to account for the tragic existence of the subject in sociohistorical terms, nor resolve this disjuncture metaphysically.

The dislocating force of negativity is the desire on the part of the subject for unity and recognition by the other. In the activity of work/labour, the subject negates itself and shapes and refashions the object; labour humanizes nature and conveys a sense of coherence and universality upon human existence. In other words, it grounds reason as a human event. Despite the implicit references to Marx here and the evident parallels with 36 CONTEMPORARY FRENCH PHILOSOPHY the Kojevean account above, it is important not to subsume Hyppolite's conception of the subject within this philosophical perspective.

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