William James wrote in a letter to his friend, ” The problem I have set myself is a hard one: first, to defend ‘experience’ against ‘philosophy’ as being the real back-bone of the world’s religious life.. and second, to make the hearer or reader believe, what i myself invincibly do believe, that, although all the special manifestations of religion may have been absurd ( I mean its creeds and theories), yet the life of it as a whole is mankind’s most important function.”  James was also fulfilling a pledge in which he told his father he would someday deal with the issue of religion.

William James did not look at religion as it appeared in the object, for instance God, but rather as it appeared in the subject.  William James thought of religion in the sense of believing, doubting, praying and experiencing.  William James was above all a humanitarian.

The Fundamental fact: Consciousness of some sort goes on.


1)Every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness.

2)Within each personal consciousness thoughts are always changing.

3) Each personal consciousness thought is sensibly continuous.

4) Consciousness always appears to deal with objects independent of itself.

5) It is interested in some parts of these objects and chooses from among them.

Rita Carter believes that wherever attention goes, your consciousness follows.  Change blindness demonstrates that we are only aware of a tiny bit of a scene at a time.  Even though it most certainly does not feel this way.  Consciousness as Carter put it, seems to arise at the same time as the events actually take place.  We actually live our lives half a second out of synchrony with the external world.  A huge state of our lives is lived, un-reportable. Our inability to remember anything before our attention was engaged suggests that we were not conscious until that moment.  But perhaps, consciousness is always on, even with our eyes open and when we slip into an unconscious state.  The only sort of consciousness that we can ever be sure of is reported consciousness.  This can only arise in which a system is responsible in recording its own state.

Knowing what goes on in a persons mind from moment to moment is impossible.  “The idea-that mind is the basis of reality- is essentially the same as the religious belief that places God as the source of all.”  Much like William James, Rita Carter takes a religious stance when in comes to the human conscious.  Either mind, consciousness, God, is the root of all things, or matter goes right to the bottom and mind is just some special physical state.

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One Response to “William James & Rita Carter”

  1.   Dominique Zino said:

    Excellent post, Maggie!


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