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Oct 25 / Jonathan

Matter’s possibilities

William JamesWilliam James’ third son, Herman, died of whooping cough at the age of 18 months. Some 22 years later, James wrote in Pragmatism (he was 65):

To anyone who has ever looked on the face of a dead child or parent, the mere fact that matter could have taken for a time that precious form, ought to make matter sacred for ever after. It makes no difference what the principle of life may be, material or immaterial, matter at any rate co-operates, lends itself to all life’s purposes. That beloved incarnation was among matter’s possibilities.


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  1. Jed Wormhoudt / Oct 25 2010

    The first sentence is so directly to the heart, so immediate and real- the arresting wonder of a being, loved, heart crushingly acknowledged. And the last betrays it utterly- who looking at a still dead child, parent or friend gives a rat’s ass about ‘matter’s possibilities’- I’d need all of twenty-two years to even grant such an idea.

  2. jlundell / Oct 26 2010

    I have the opposite reaction, and find the passage more affecting as it progresses.

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