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Critical Analysis of William James's Essay on a Blindness to the Truth

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From the beginning of his essay, “Now the blindness in human beings, of which this discourse will treat, is the blindness with which we all are afflicted in regard to the feelings of creatures and people different from ourselves”(WJ). William James is making the argument that we all have a blindness to the truth, and that blindness is all depending on how much the truth really affects us as a person. To go more in dept, giving the example of racial discrimination.

A lot, and when I say a lot I mean most, caucasian people in the world owned a slave or two. And most knew that it is wrong to treat a human being that is built like you just a different color, the way the treated them. Slaves were treated like objects and punished when they didn't fulfill their potential. And for the people who knew that this was wrong, didn't seem to pay it no mind. They had that blindness that William James describes. It didn't affect them in a negative way to make them want to change. As long as you are in your higher up you didn't see a problem with the disrimination of others.

James suggests that we “do not be blind to our own blindness”. He basically wants us to recognize everything that's going on, and then recognize how we are blind to the things that don't affect us. He wants us to take what we see and instead of pushing it to the side, we should use it to change the lives of others. Because after all, we are all living in the same nation, why not make it the best nation it can be. Be humble.


I think William James would definitely agree with some of the points that Roosevelt said in his speech “The Strenuous Life”. Both of their works can be compared with the same views multiple times. I think James would agree that in order for people to be successful you have to put in the effort so you can live the life you want to have. He would agree with that because he wanted others to put in the work to help the country and forever end the blindness that we were all built with. But, William James might also disagree with Roosevelt's speech because Roosevelt was also trying to develop imperialism in America as well as support a better and stronger military presence in the world.

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James would criticize the fact that every American has to work toward greatness every day of their lives. He would also criticize that people only need to worry about themselves, yes people need to lose the blindness that we all have, but in order to lose that blindness, we have to focus on what's going on around us.


I believe that William James is right in this argument. In order to create a better world for the following generation and even the generations alive now, we must focus on the negative that is going on around us and direct our attention to everyday issues that we choose to ignore because they don't affect us directly in the moment.

A critic might argue that change starts within. I agree but the only way you can really understand change is to watch how it affects others and changes things and people for the better.

I believe that William James kind of had the same concept that John Winthrop had in his “A Modell of Christian Charity”. They both want overall success for the country in the time period they are living in. They both believe the answer to success is to think outside of ourselves and help on another, even if that means putting aside our personal vendettas.

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Critical Analysis of William James’s Essay on a Blindness to the Truth. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of William James’s Essay on a Blindness to the Truth.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Critical Analysis of William James’s Essay on a Blindness to the Truth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2023].
Critical Analysis of William James’s Essay on a Blindness to the Truth [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Dec 4]. Available from:
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