Consensus Vide Convention - A review of David Lapoujade, William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism Convention (Duke University Press, 2020). (2021)
Originally published in French in 1997 and finally translated into English, David Lapoujade's William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism (2019) is varnished by the specter of Deleuzean transcendental empiricism. Despite Lapoujade – perhaps the single greatest living French Deleuze scholar – rarely references Deleuze directly in this book, he culls James’s pragmatistic theory of truth by way of a relational ontology of referential becoming by simultaneously tracking in Deleuzean parlance. From the connective synthesis to the disjunctive synthesis, Lapoujade references key facets of Deleuze’s tripartite synthesis of time, bridging these concepts with how, in James’s system, continuities function as givens and empiricism, by way of stream of consciousness, weaves co-penetrations with continuous flows. In turn, William James is as much an archeological disinterring of Deleuze by way of James as it is a recovery of James’s pragmatism from Richard Rorty’s neo-pragmatism – an attempt to supersede Rorty’s sprawling overhang and commanding philosophical shadow. As Lapoujade markedly articulates in the first few pages of his book, he understands Rorty's neo-pragmatism – and, more specifically, Rorty's notion of “conversation” – as incorrectly reducing James's conception of “convention” to “consensus”.