What is a Pure Experience?

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    • #1268
      Avatar photoGary Jaron
      Member

        I believe the key to understanding William James’s idea of Pure Experience is to realize that PE is an experience that is pure. Pure of what? Pure of any and all concepts. PE points to the experience of the world or ourselves before we apply any conceptual analysis to that experience.

        The brief paper I uploaded begins to explore this idea.

        What do you think of it and of the idea of what James meant by the term Pure Experience?

        Is it still a relevant and useful idea?

      • #1365
        Avatar photoPhil Oliver
        Member

          I do think WJ intended PE as an aspirational target in our philosophizing, a notion of pre-conceptual immediacy that would stand as a brake on runaway intellectualism. He always proposed to defend experience AGAINST philosophy (and other post-experiential abstractions and reconstructions). Is there really such a thing, though, as a recovered experience free of conception? Probably not. But the concept of PE is useful as a reminder that experience in the first instance always precedes most, at least, of our conceptions.

          I’ve written a bit about this… https://www.google.com/books/edition/William_James_s_Springs_of_Delight/OonHEQJuyaUC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=purity%20of%20pure%20experience&pg=PA79&printsec=frontcover

        • #1374
          Avatar photoGary Jaron
          Moderator

            Phil,
            I will check out your work on the topic.
            As I understand James, PE is the primary phase of the process of experience. Recognizing that forces us to realize that all our concepts derived from PE are just one of many possible permutations and interpretations. We don’t dwell in that initial phase unless we take up meditation, nor can we reconstitute it. It is just important to recognize that this step is there so that we don’t falsely conclude that our concepts are really and fully describing what is out there.

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