Which Source to Cite?

William James Society Forums William James Forum Which Source to Cite?

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    • #1261
      Avatar photoGary Jaron

        Let’s examine the merits of each. There is now, of course, the academic standard of the Harvard University Press hardbound editions. The collection started in the 1970s and finally finished by the end of the 1980s. The ‘definitive’ The Works of William James with Frederick H. Burkhardt as the general editor of the collection.

        Now, there is no question that the volumes of collected essays, comments, and reviews all gathered together in a single volume are a worthy project and perhaps the only singular source for such complete writings of James. As is his collected manuscript notes and lecture notes, where else could we access these valuable resources thanks to the efforts of Burkhardt and Harvard University Press.

        What I am pondering here is not those volumes but rather the Harvard editions of the standard texts of James. Basically, ten texts make up the published corpus of James’s canon. Starting with Principles of Psychology and ending with the posthumous collection Essays in Radical Empiricism.

        The Harvard edition prices vary between $160 to $175 each. To own the basic 10 canonical texts, if you bought them from Harvard University Press directly, it would come to $2,075.00. Of course, one could go to the ubiquitous, used bookstore websites, starting with Amazon itself, and perhaps find some of these texts for less than the asking price. Still, purchasing all ten of the standard academic editions can be, as you can see, an expensive undertaking. That doesn’t include owning the collection of essays and other James writings that Harvard has gathered together in their hardback editions.

        Through Dover Press and the University of Nebraska Press websites, one can purchase paperback reprints of the originally published texts for far less than $160.00 each. There is an unfortunate and significant flaw in this undertaking, for it turns out that Dover Press has let the text The Meaning of Truth go out of print, and their edition of Pragmatism is also flawed in that it is not printed in a manner that matches the pagination of the original text. Thus for both of these important books, there is no reprint of these volumes available to be purchased. Although, a single paperback edition of Pragmatism and The Meaning of Truth is available through Harvard University Press. This could become the ‘definitive’ paperback edition.

        Yes, there also exist other paperback editions of James’s texts that one could purchase.

        However, the point is this. When you cite a passage from James’s text, citing him from a definitive and recognized source enables others to go to that source and not merely check it but to find the context of that passage by reading what came before your cited passage and what came afterward. The fixed pagination is the significant reason to use either the Harvard editions or the reprints. To cite from any paperback edition that is not a reprint would not clearly locate the passage for others to find since the pagination would not be consistent from one printed book to another.

        From the day James’s original texts were first published until the 1970s, all academic criticism and explorations of James referred to the same editions of James in the same text. That continuity is maintained and kept with the ability to obtain a reprint of the original text. Since the Harvard editions came onto the scene, the shift has been to move to these volumes as the definitive source to cite and thus to break that chain of prior continuity.

        So, the question I put worth to the Forum is: which source do we cite? Why? What are the pros and cons?

        As always, the point is not necessarily to have a definitive answer but to enjoy having the question that allows us to have this conversation.

        Here is an example of a problematic citation. The authors, rather than cite the Harvard Edition or a reprint of the original text, cite a text I assume is from their own library, which is a selection of material collected by an editor.

        “No theory is absolutely a transcript of reality, but that any one of them may from some point of view be useful. Their great use is to summarize old facts and to lead to new ones. They are only a man-made language, a conceptual shorthand, as some one calls them, in which we write our reports of nature; and languages, as is well known, tolerate much choice of expression and many dialects.
        (Strube, Yost and Bailey 1992, 192) {From E. Rhys, Editor, Selected Papers on Philosophy by William James, 1924, pg. 205. This is a selection from Pragmatism: A New Way for Some Old Ways of Thinking, 1907, found on page 57 in the original text and on page 33 of the Harvard 1978 paperback edition.}

        Now the obvious problem that Strube, Yost, and Bailey have caused by using the E. Rhys source, the one that they are presumably familiar with, is that it makes it problematic for anyone else who doesn’t have access to that same text the ability to clearly check the quote or the context of the passage. This renders the citation of that source almost useless for anyone else doing further scholarly work.

        To make it scholarly and useful, you have to bring it back to either the Harvard edition or the original text. I have access to the internet source of the original text of Pragmatism, and doing a search of that text was able to locate the actual and proper citation as page 57 in the original published 1907 edition of the text Pragmatism. I could then further discover that in the Harvard paperback edition of 1978, this quotation is found on page 33.

        Another interesting example, I am currently reading Charlene Haddock Seigfried’s William James’s Radical Reconstruction of Philosophy, published by the State University of New York in 1990. I highly recommend the book and find it a fascinating and insightful exploration of James. What I find odd is that she lists in her bibliography/Abbreviations of the Works of James all the Harvard editions and then goes on to list: Memories and Studies, Greenwood Press, 1971 (M&S), which is a reprint of the 1911 text, as well as Collected Essays and Reviews, Russel & Russell, 1969 (CER)that is a reprint of a 1920 edition. What puzzles me is that presumably everything in M&S or CER can also be found in the definitive Harvard Editions. Why bother using the Harvard editions if you are going to cite some other collection of passages from something other than the Harvard editions? In 1990 when she was writing her book, you couldn’t do this, but now, with the internet access to the searchable original copies of James’s writings readily accessible on the net, you can, with some effort, trace any quote from the M&S or the CER back too James’s original printed version. From there, with a little more effort, you could manually search your Harvard edition to find that same quote.

        I own the Harvard editions of the essays and the two manuscript volumes in my collection of James’s writings. These texts serve a needed niche as they present a definitive collection that would not be readily available without those efforts and subsequent publication. I simply didn’t spend the money to acquire the Harvard editions of the main canon of James. I own the much more accessible reprinted editions.

        The point is that for scholarly purposes, there is necessary to use either the original text via the internet, a published reprint of the original, or the accepted Harvard edition. Only in using either of those two texts can one reliably offer a useful quotation and citation that enables other scholars to examine that quotation. Using merely any published copy of James’s works and citing off this renders your cite utterly useless for academic purposes.

        In the end, are the Harvard hardback editions really so superior to the reprint editions? The stated purpose of the Harvard editions is to “employ the principles and techniques of modern textual criticism to provide an authoritative text that represents as closely as possible James’s final intentions.” My point here is that have you found any significant differences? I would be curious to put them to the test. This topic of the Forum is dedicated to playing this game. Do they make a difference that makes a difference? Put up one of your favorite passages of James from the Harvard edition, and then we’ll compare it to the reprint. Was there any actual significant difference? Did the Harvard edition render that passage differently?

        Texts Cited:
        Strube, Michael J., John H. Yost, and James R. Bailey. 1992. “William James and Contemporary Research on the Self: The Influence of Pragmatism, Reality, and Truth.” In Reinterpreting the Legacy of William James, edited by Margaret E. Donnelly, 189-207. American Psychological Association.

      • #1366
        Avatar photoPhil Oliver

          It makes sense to cite the Harvard edition when the anticipated audience is primarily professional scholars. For everyone else, it’s most helpful to cite the more accessible volumes. For WJ, whose work aimed to reach both kinds of audience, it would be ideal to cite both. And since WJ’s work is in the public domain, it’s good to remember that these texts can be found at Project Gutenberg and elsewhere.

        • #1375
          Avatar photoGary Jaron

            I prefer to cite the original source rather than the Harvard source. Since I would assume that the vast majority of readers don’t own the Havard collection on their shelves. Though you can, with work and the internet page I create on our site – track down what the original source page was from the Harvard citation. You can’t do that in reverse – meaning if I gave an original source citation, there is no quick way to locate the Harvard page number for that same citation.
            Part of my creating this topic was to put out there the challenge: are the Harvard quotations of the material actually significantly different than how it was printed in the original source?
            I still am not yet impressed and convinced of the value of the Harvard texts for the major canonical books. I do own the Harvard texts for the notes, and essay collections.
            Is anyone willing to offer a quote that shows why the Harvard text is ‘superior’ to the original? Or even if it is – how and why to justify that difference?

          • #1398
            Avatar photojohncapps

              Interesting question about the worth of the Harvard editions: I agree they seem outrageously pricy. (On the other hand, volumes in Dewey’s collected works aren’t exactly cheap and Peirce scholars probably have it worst of all.)

              And what about the Library of America editions of James’ works? I’ve seen those cited a few times and they seem accessible, comprehensive, and relatively inexpensive, at least on a per page basis.

            • #1399
              Avatar photoGary Jaron

                John, I agree that the Library of America editions are accessible and priced very reasonably.


                The major problem with them is that they are not reprints of the original published text. Thus citing them means that unless you own a copy of that book, you have to track down in your Harvard or reprint version where the citation actually comes from. So again if you cite this edition, your readers have to struggle to find the actual quotation in their own edition.

              • #1401
                Avatar photoPhil Oliver

                  I cited Harvard, LOA, AND McDermott in Springs of Delight. No need to exclude any of them. Maybe the most democratic thing would just be to cite Gutenberg.

                • #1402
                  Avatar photoGary Jaron

                    The Harvard and the Reprints – like the links I have on here or the actual paperback reprints – are all good to cite. The idea is that the source is accessible to the readers.

                    What I’m still curious about is if the Harvard editions are a difference that makes a difference. Would love to see someone post some significant paragraphs from a Havard edition so then we could compare it to the reprints and see if there was a difference between the two. I assume the point of those editions wasn’t just to be an expensive book but to offer some scholarly value. That is an assumption I’m making since I don’t own any of the Harvard editions of the primary texts. I only own the Harvard editions of the essay collections and the notes.

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