Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

William J. Kelly

Second Advisor

Patrick Carey

Third Advisor

Daniel Maguire

Fourth Advisor

Robert Masson

Fifth Advisor

Thomas Prendergast


In their responses to the works of the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910), American Catholic thinkers have developed at least five different approaches: Neo-Scholastic, Neo-Traditionist, Radical, Liberal, and Academic. Investigation of these responses may suggest some answers to the general question, In what ways have Catholic intellectuals related to American culture and society during the twentieth century? This dissertation is a study of the Neo-Scholastic and Neo-Traditionist responses. It begins with an account of the American Catholic intellectual scene in 1900 and an exposition of James's religious philosophy. Next, the Neo-Scholastic and the Neo-Traditionist responses are analyzed separately; the development of their major themes is traced; their distinctive characteristics are defined; and their historical and ideological relationships are described. Finally some implications of the study are suggested regarding the historiography of American Catholicism and the conduct of systematic theology by American Catholics. Catholic writers have regularly responded to James's religious philosophy from the beginning of the century to the present. The earliest responses came from those who associated themselves with Neo-Scholastic (usually Neo-Thomist) philosophy and theology; and this variety was dominant from 1900 to 1960. It developed through four stages: (1) Naive, dominant before 1907, which evaluated James by his usefulness to Catholics; (2) Religious, typical until 1920, which condemned James for his Protestantism, Modernism, immoral teaching, and Americanism; (3) Rational, dominant from 1910 to 1960, which judged James's logic, epistemology, and metaphysics to be radically incompatible with its own; and (4) Reflective, dominant among Neo-Scholastics since the 1960's, which tolerated James's radical differences and encouraged more extensive inquiry and dialog. A major alternative to Neo-Scholasticism was embodied in the Neo-Traditionism formulated by Robert Channon Pollock (1901-1978) of Fordham University beginning in the 1940's. Relying on Augustinian themes, he detected radical sympathies and compatibilities between James's philosophy and the intellectual and moral heritage of the Catholic tradition. For the historiography of American Catholic intellectual life, a chronology of its development and a taxonomy of its varieties are suggested. For American Catholic theology, this dissertation suggests greater emphasis on the value and practice of pluralism; greater commitment to professional standards in the practice of scholarship, philosophy, and theology; and greater involvement with the main currents of American intellectual life--including the religious philosophy of William James.



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