Abstract

The relationship between William James and the stoics remains an enigma. He was clearly influenced by reading Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus throughout his career. Some work has been done on the thematic convergences between Jamesian pragmatism and stoic thought, but this study takes a different path. I argue that the rhetorical style that James uses in arguing for his moral claims in front of popular audiences can be better understood if we see it in light of the stoic style of argumentation. I look at a text James read closely and recommended to close acquaintances—Marcus Aurelius's Meditations—to extract a sense of stoic rhetorical style. James's use of the stoic's tactics of vivid examples and rhetorical questions to shape the rhetorical experience of his audience and to thereby make his points becomes understandable as a possible extension of the stoic style of persuasion.

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