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The Will To Believe In Privileged Moments

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explains one of the aspects of courageous vulnerability by engaging William James' theory of the "will to believe". It argues that the narrator has the will to believe in his predominantly aesthetic privileged moments, but that he lacks this will when the felt knowledge he acquires in a privileged moment is of a specifically moral nature. The discussion of the will to believe is preceded by a short study of James' understanding of mystical experience in the Varieties of Religious Experience. The chapter also argues that the privileged moments in À la recherche are mystical experiences in the Jamesian sense, and that this helps explain the felt knowledge which the narrator gains from them. It shows that the narrator is justified in believing that his felt knowledge is true. The chapter makes clear what involuntary memory does and what difference it can make if it is taken seriously.

Keywords: À la recherche; courageous vulnerability; involuntary memory; privileged moments; William James



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