Is William James the Last Literary Scientist?
I really enjoyed James' 1903 Varieties of Religious Experience. It led me to wonder if any scientist since him has been so literary. By my use of the word, being literary is different than being a good writer. I'm not positive, but I think that part of being a literary writer is making non-scientist claims. These are not necessarily unscientific claims, or at least not claims that are non-scientist because they are unscientific. For example, in Varieties, James takes much evidence from literature; Whitman, Tolstoy, and in the process provides compelling reviews of much of this writing. Providing fiction as evidence is a great example of something non-scientist.
Alternatively, maybe I see him as so compellingly literary because he uses literature and uses it well.
So the question: Is James the last literary scientist? Is he the last one who could write in a literary manner (using either definition) without losing credibility as a scientist? By modern standards, does he lose credibility for having written that way? Have we defined his writing out of what a scientist can be?
I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out. But I'd be very eager to hear proposals for other literary scientists, particularly in the 20th or 21st centuries. It may be the bias of psychology education at the turn of the millennium, but I'm inclined to define 'scientist' narrowly enough to exclude the psychoanalysts.
First response: "
- Bertrand Russell, if you call him a scientist. I mean, mathematics...dotdotdot. Maybe that part's a stretch. But you can't fight the Swedish Academy on the "literary" bit, and the man writes the way other people breathe.
- Oh. But better.
Also: " ...But I would hardly say that he was the last literary scientist. There have been a goodly number, among them one of favorites Loren Eiseley whom I love for the sheer beauty and elegance of his style. I would begin with a little book of his entitled The Immense Journey. "