Faith and Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 3, July 1986

Laura Westra
Pages 285-297

The Religious Dimension of Individual Immortality in the Thinking of William James

William James states “Immortality is one of the great spiritual needs of man,” yet the arguments presented in his LECTURE ON IMMORTALITY, while interesting and ingenious, are somewhat less than conclusive in proving that human beings can survive bodily death. Therefore I attempt to clarity the notion of “individual survivor” through an analysis and discussion of various approaches to the problem, before returning to a further examination of James’ thought in the “Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher,” the THEORY OF THE SOUL, the PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY, the VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE and a PLURALISTIC UNIVERSE. James’ often neglected Christian position provides the key to a better understanding of his thought on the topic, and allows me to conclude on a cautiously optimistic note on the possibility of a philosophical proof for human survival.