parts and wholes

William James: philosopher of laughing gas

Benjamin Breen in the Paris Review — After huffing a large amount of nitrous oxide, James set out to tackle a prominent bugbear of 1880s intellectual life: Hegelian dialectics. He came up with a stream of consciousness that centered on a kind of ecstatic binary thinking:

Don’t you see the difference, don’t you see the identity? Constantly opposites united! The same me telling you to write and not to write! Extreme—extreme, extreme! Within the extensity that “extreme” contains is contained the “extreme” of intensity Something, and other than that thing! …. By George, nothing but othing! That sounds like nonsense, but it’s pure onsense! Thought much deeper than speech … ! Medical school; divinity school, school! SCHOOL! Oh my God, oh God; oh God!