William James

William James

Overview
This article is about the American psychologist and philosopher. For other people named William James see William James (disambiguation)
William James (disambiguation)
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher.William James may also refer to:*William James , MP for Kent* W. Frank James , U.S. Representative from Michigan...


William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 and philosopher
American philosophy
American philosophy is the philosophical activity or output of Americans, both within the United States and abroad. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while American philosophy lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and...

 who was trained as a physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology
Educational psychology
Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing...

, psychology of religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 experience and mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

, and on the philosophy of pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'William James'
Start a new discussion about 'William James'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Quotations

The most any one can do is to confess as candidly as he can the grounds for the faith that is in him, and leave his example to work on others as it may.

"The Dilemma of Determinism" (1884)

Wherever you are it is your own friends who make your world.

As quoted in The Thought and Character of William James (1899) by Ralph Barton Perry, Vol. II, ch. 91

Tell him to live by yes and no — yes to everything good, no to everything bad.

As quoted in The Thought and Character of William James (1899) by Ralph Barton Perry, Vol. II, ch. 91

Every way of classifying a thing is but a way of handling it for some particular purpose.

Encyclopedia
This article is about the American psychologist and philosopher. For other people named William James see William James (disambiguation)
William James (disambiguation)
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher.William James may also refer to:*William James , MP for Kent* W. Frank James , U.S. Representative from Michigan...


William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 and philosopher
American philosophy
American philosophy is the philosophical activity or output of Americans, both within the United States and abroad. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while American philosophy lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and...

 who was trained as a physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology
Educational psychology
Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing...

, psychology of religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 experience and mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

, and on the philosophy of pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

. He was the brother of novelist Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

 and of diarist Alice James
Alice James
Alice James was a U.S. diarist. The only daughter of Henry James, Sr. and sister of philosopher William James and novelist Henry James, she is known mainly for the posthumously published diary that she kept in her final years.-Life:Born into a wealthy and intellectually active family, Alice James...

.

William James was born at the Astor House
Astor House
The Astor House was a fine hotel in New York City, that opened in 1836 and soon became the most famous hotel in America.-History:The Astor House was originally built by John Jacob Astor, who assembled the building lots around his former house until he had purchased the full block in the heart of...

 in New York City. He was the son of Henry James Sr.
Henry James Sr.
Henry James Sr. was an American theologian and Swedenborgian, best known as the father of the philosopher William James, novelist Henry James, and diarist Alice James.-Forebears:...

, an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian
Swedenborgian
A Swedenborgian is the doctrines, beliefs, and practices of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and is an adjective describing a person or an organization that understands the Bible through the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg....

 theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.

James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

, his godson William James Sidis
William James Sidis
William James Sidis was an American child prodigy with exceptional mathematical and linguistic abilities. His IQ was estimated to be between 250 and 300 - one of the highest ever recorded - he entered Harvard early at age 11, and as an adult was conversant in over 40 languages and dialects...

, as well as Charles Sanders Peirce, Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

, Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce was an American objective idealist philosopher.-Life:Royce, born in Grass Valley, California, grew up in pioneer California very soon after the California Gold Rush. He received the B.A...

, Ernst Mach
Ernst Mach
Ernst Mach was an Austrian physicist and philosopher, noted for his contributions to physics such as the Mach number and the study of shock waves...

, John Dewey
John Dewey
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

, Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War...

, Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

, Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr. was a prolific 19th-century American author, best known for his many formulaic juvenile novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty...

, Henri Bergson
Henri Bergson
Henri-Louis Bergson was a major French philosopher, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century. Bergson convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition are more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality.He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize...

 and Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

.

Early years


William James, with his younger brother Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

 (who became a prominent novelist) and sister Alice James
Alice James
Alice James was a U.S. diarist. The only daughter of Henry James, Sr. and sister of philosopher William James and novelist Henry James, she is known mainly for the posthumously published diary that she kept in her final years.-Life:Born into a wealthy and intellectually active family, Alice James...

 (who is known for her posthumously published diary), received an eclectic trans-Atlantic education, developing fluency in both German and French. Education in the James household encouraged cosmopolitanism. The family made two trips to Europe while William James was still a child, setting a pattern that resulted in thirteen more European journeys during his life. His early artistic bent led to an apprenticeship in the studio of William Morris Hunt
William Morris Hunt
William Morris Hunt , American painter, was born at Brattleboro, Vermont to Jane Maria Hunt and Hon. Jonathan Hunt, who raised one of the preeminent families in American art...

 in Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

, but he switched in 1861 to scientific studies at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

.

In his early adulthood, James suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including those of the eyes, back, stomach, and skin. He was also tone deaf
Tone deafness
Tone deafness is the lack of relative pitch, or the inability to distinguish between musical notes that is not due to the lack of musical training or education...

. He was subject to a variety of psychological symptoms which were diagnosed at the time as neurasthenia
Neurasthenia
Neurasthenia is a psycho-pathological term first used by George Miller Beard in 1869 to denote a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, neuralgia and depressed mood...

, and which included periods of depression
Depression (mood)
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless...

 during which he contemplated suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 for months on end. Two younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) and Robertson (Bob), fought in the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. The other three siblings (William, Henry, and Alice James) all suffered from periods of invalidism.

James took up medical studies at Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. It is located in the Longwood Medical Area of the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts....

 in 1864. He took a break in the spring of 1865 to join naturalist Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

 on a scientific expedition up the Amazon River
Amazon River
The Amazon of South America is the second longest river in the world and by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined...

, but aborted his trip after eight months, as he suffered bouts of severe seasickness and mild smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

. His studies were interrupted once again due to illness in April 1867. He traveled to Germany in search of a cure and remained until November 1868. (During this period he began to publish, with reviews appearing in literary periodicals like the North American Review.) He finally earned his M.D. degree in June 1869, but never practiced medicine. What he called his "soul-sickness" would only be resolved in 1872, after an extended period of philosophical searching. He married Alice Gibbens in 1878.

James's time in Germany proved intellectually fertile, helping him find that his true interests lay not in medicine but in philosophy and psychology. Later, in 1902 he would write: "I originally studied medicine in order to be a physiologist, but I drifted into psychology and philosophy from a sort of fatality. I never had any philosophic instruction, the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave".

Career


James spent almost his entire academic career at Harvard. He was appointed instructor in physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 for the spring 1873 term, instructor in anatomy
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

 and physiology in 1873, assistant professor of psychology in 1876, assistant professor of philosophy in 1881, full professor in 1885, endowed chair in psychology in 1889, return to philosophy in 1897, and emeritus professor of philosophy in 1907.

James studied medicine, physiology, and biology, and began to teach in those subjects, but was drawn to the scientific study of the human mind at a time when psychology was constituting itself as a science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

. James's acquaintance with the work of figures like Hermann Helmholtz in Germany and Pierre Janet
Pierre Janet
Pierre Marie Félix Janet was a pioneering French psychologist, philosopher and psychotherapist in the field of dissociation and traumatic memory....

 in France facilitated his introduction of courses in scientific psychology at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. He taught his first experimental psychology
Experimental psychology
Experimental psychology is a methodological approach, rather than a subject, and encompasses varied fields within psychology. Experimental psychologists have traditionally conducted research, published articles, and taught classes on neuroscience, developmental psychology, sensation, perception,...

 course at Harvard in the 1875–1876 academic year.

During his Harvard years, James joined in philosophical discussions with Charles Peirce, Oliver Wendell Holmes
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932...

, and Chauncey Wright
Chauncey Wright
Chauncey Wright , American philosopher and mathematician, was born at Northampton, Massachusetts.In 1852 he graduated at Harvard, and became computer to the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. He made his name by contributions on mathematical and physical subjects in the Mathematical Monthly...

 that evolved into a lively group informally known as The Metaphysical Club
The Metaphysical Club
The Metaphysical Club was a conversational philosophical club that future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., psychologist William James, and polymath Charles Sanders Peirce formed in January 1872 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and dissolved in December 1872. Upon Peirce's arrival at...

 in 1872. Louis Menand
Louis Menand
Louis Menand is an American writer and academic, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Metaphysical Club , an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America....

 speculates that the Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come.
Among James's students at Harvard University were such luminaries as Boris Sidis
Boris Sidis
Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D. was a Ukrainian Jewish psychologist, physician, psychiatrist, and philosopher of education. Sidis founded the New York State Psychopathic Institute and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. He was the father of the child prodigy William James Sidis...

, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, George Santayana
George Santayana
George Santayana was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States and identified himself as an American. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters...

, W. E. B. Du Bois, G. Stanley Hall
G. Stanley Hall
Granville Stanley Hall was a pioneering American psychologist and educator. His interests focused on childhood development and evolutionary theory...

, Ralph Barton Perry
Ralph Barton Perry
Ralph Barton Perry was an American philosopher.-Career:...

, Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

, Horace Kallen
Horace Kallen
-Biography:Born in the then German Bernstadt, Silesia to Jacob David Kallen and Esther Rebecca , an Orthodox rabbi and his wife, Kallen came to the United States as a child in 1887. He studied philosophy at Harvard University where he was a student of George Santayana, earning his B.A. in 1903...

, Morris Raphael Cohen
Morris Raphael Cohen
Morris Raphael Cohen was an American philosopher, lawyer and legal scholar who united pragmatism with logical positivism and linguistic analysis. He was father to Felix S. Cohen....

, Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War...

, Alain Locke, C. I. Lewis, and Mary Calkins
Mary Whiton Calkins
-Early life:Mary Whiton Calkins was born on March 30, 1863 in Hartford, Connecticut; she was the eldest of five children. She moved to Massachusetts in 1880 with her family to live for the rest of her life; this is also where she began her education. In 1882, Calkins entered into Smith College as...

.

Following his January, 1907 retirement from Harvard, James continued to write and lecture, publishing Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, and The Meaning of Truth. James was increasingly afflicted with cardiac pain during his last years. It worsened in 1909 while he worked on a philosophy text (unfinished but posthumously published as Some Problems in Philosophy). He sailed to Europe in the spring of 1910 to take experimental treatments which proved unsuccessful, and returned home on August 18. His heart failed him on August 26, 1910 at his home in Chocorua
Chocorua, New Hampshire
Chocorua is a village within the town of Tamworth in Carroll County, New Hampshire, United States. It is located in the general area where Routes 16 and 113 meet, south of Mount Chocorua and Chocorua Lake....

, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

. He was buried in the family plot in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

.

He was one of the strongest proponents of the school of functionalism
Functional psychology
Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a general psychological philosophy that considers mental life and behavior in terms of active adaptation to the person's environment. As such, it provides the general basis for developing psychological theories not readily testable by controlled...

 in psychology and of pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

 in philosophy. He was a founder of the American Society for Psychical Research
American Society for Psychical Research
The American Society for Psychical Research is an organisation dedicated to parapsychology based in New York, where it maintains offices and a library. It is open to interested members of the public to join, and has a website...

, as well as a champion of alternative approaches to healing. He challenged his professional colleagues not to let a narrow mindset prevent an honest appraisal of those beliefs.

In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al. using six criteria such as citations and recognition, James was found to be the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century.

Writings


William James wrote voluminously throughout his life. A non-exhaustive bibliography of his writings, compiled by John McDermott, is 47 pages long. (See below for a list of his major writings and additional collections)

He gained widespread recognition with his monumental Principles of Psychology
Principles of Psychology
The Principles of Psychology is a monumental text in the history of psychology, written by William James and published in 1890.There were four methods in James' psychology: analysis , introspection , experiment The Principles of Psychology is a monumental text in the history of psychology, written...

(1890), totaling twelve hundred pages in two volumes, which took twelve years to complete. Psychology: The Briefer Course, was an 1892 abridgement designed as a less rigorous introduction to the field. These works criticized both the English associationist school and the Hegelianism of his day as competing dogmatisms of little explanatory value, and sought to re-conceive the human mind as inherently purposive and selective.

President Jimmy Carter's Moral Equivalent of War Speech
President Jimmy Carter's Moral Equivalent of War Speech
President Jimmy Carter's Moral Equivalent of War Speech was a speech in which United States President Jimmy Carter addressed the United States on April 17, 1977....

, on April 17, 1977, equating the United States' 1970's energy crisis
1970s energy crisis
The 1970s energy crisis was a period in which the major industrial countries of the world, particularly the United States, faced substantial shortages, both perceived and real, of petroleum...

, oil crisis
Oil crisis
Oil crisis may refer to:1970s*1970s energy crisis*1973 oil crisis*1979 energy crisisPost 1970s*Oil price increase of 1990*2000s energy crisis...

 and the changes and sacrifices Carter's proposed plans would require with the "moral equivalent of war," may have borrowed its title, much of its theme and the memorable phrase from James' classic essay "The Moral Equivalent of War" derived from his last speech, delivered at Stanford University in 1906, in which "James considered one of the classic problems of politics: how to sustain political unity and civic virtue in the absence of war or a credible threat...." and "...sounds a rallying cry for service in the interests of the individual and the nation."

Epistemology


James defined true
Truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

 beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer. His pragmatic theory of truth
Pragmatic theory of truth
Pragmatic theory of truth refers to those accounts, definitions, and theories of the concept truth that distinguish the philosophies of pragmatism and pragmaticism...

 was a synthesis of correspondence theory of truth
Correspondence theory of truth
The correspondence theory of truth states that the truth or falsity of a statement is determined only by how it relates to the world, and whether it accurately describes that world...

 and coherence theory of truth
Coherence theory of truth
Coherence theory of truth regards truth as coherence with some specified set of sentences, propositions or beliefs. There is no single coherence theory of truth, but rather an assortment of perspectives that are commonly collected under this title...

, with an added dimension. Truth is verifiable to the extent that thoughts and statements correspond with actual things, as well as the extent to which they "hang together," or cohere, as pieces of a puzzle might fit together; these are in turn verified by the observed results of the application of an idea to actual practice.

"The most ancient parts of truth . . . also once were plastic. They also were called true for human reasons. They also mediated between still earlier truths and what in those days were novel observations. Purely objective truth, truth in whose establishment the function of giving human satisfaction in marrying previous parts of experience with newer parts played no role whatsoever, is nowhere to be found. The reasons why we call things true is the reason why they are true, for 'to be true' means only to perform this marriage-function," he wrote.

James held a world view in line with pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

, declaring that the value of any truth was utterly dependent upon its use to the person who held it. Additional tenets of James's pragmatism include the view that the world is a mosaic of diverse experiences that can only be properly interpreted and understood through an application of "radical empiricism." Radical empiricism, not related to the everyday scientific empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

, asserts that the world and experience can never be halted for an entirely objective analysis, if nothing else the mind of the observer and simple act of observation will affect the outcome of any empirical approach to truth as the mind and its experiences, and nature are inseparable. James's emphasis on diversity as the default human condition — over and against duality, especially Hegelian dialectical duality — has maintained a strong influence in American culture, especially among liberals (see Richard Rorty
Richard Rorty
Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher. He had a long and diverse academic career, including positions as Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton, Kenan Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University...

). James's description of the mind-world connection, which he described in terms of a "stream of consciousness (psychology)
Stream of consciousness (psychology)
Stream of consciousness refers to the flow of thoughts in the conscious mind. The full range of thoughts that one can be aware of can form the content of this stream, not just verbal thoughts...

", had a direct and significant impact on avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 and modernist literature and art.

In What Pragmatism Means, James writes that the central point of his own doctrine of truth is, in brief, that "Truths emerge from facts, but they dip forward into facts again and add to them; which facts again create or reveal new truth (the word is indifferent) and so on indefinitely. The 'facts' themselves meanwhile are not true. They simply are. Truth is the function of the beliefs that start and terminate among them." Richard Rorty
Richard Rorty
Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher. He had a long and diverse academic career, including positions as Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton, Kenan Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University...

 claims that James did not mean to give a theory of truth with this statement and that we should not regard it as such. However, other pragmatism scholars such as Susan Haack
Susan Haack
Susan Haack is an English professor of philosophy and law at the University of Miami in the United States. She has written on logic, the philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics. Her pragmatism follows that of Charles Sanders Peirce.-Career:Haack is a graduate of the University of...

 and Howard Mounce do not share Rorty's instrumentalist
Instrumentalism
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that a scientific theory is a useful instrument in understanding the world. A concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective...

 interpretation of James.

In The Meaning of Truth, James seems to speak of truth in relativistic terms: "The critic's [sc., the critic of pragmatism] trouble...seems to come from his taking the word 'true' irrelatively, whereas the pragmatist always means 'true for him who experiences the workings.' " However, James responded to critics accusing him of relativism
Relativism
Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration....

, scepticism or agnosticism
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

, and of believing only in relative truths. To the contrary, he supported an epistemological realism
Epistemological realism
Epistemological realism is a philosophical position, a subcategory of objectivism, holding that what you know about an object exists independently of your mind. It opposes epistemological idealism....

 position.

Cash Value


From the introduction to William James's Pragmatism by Bruce Kuklick, p.xiv.
James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth. He would seek the meaning of 'true' by examining how the idea functioned in our lives. A belief was true, he said, if it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world. James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their "Cash Value" was, what consequences they led to. A belief was not a mental entity which somehow mysteriously corresponded to an external reality if the belief were true. Beliefs were ways of acting with reference to a precarious environment, and to say they were true was to say they guided us satisfactorily in this environment. In this sense the pragmatic theory of truth applied Darwinian ideas in philosophy; it made survival the test of intellectual as well as biological fitness
Fitness (biology)
Fitness is a central idea in evolutionary theory. It can be defined either with respect to a genotype or to a phenotype in a given environment...

. If what was true was what worked, we can scientifically investigate religion's claim to truth in the same manner. The enduring quality of religious beliefs throughout recorded history and in all cultures gave indirect support for the view that such beliefs worked. James also argued directly that such beliefs were satisfying — they enabled us to lead fuller, richer lives and were more viable than their alternatives. Religious beliefs were expedient in human existence, just as scientific beliefs were.

Will to Believe Doctrine


In William James's lecture of 1896 titled "The Will to Believe," James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism
Evidentialism
Evidentialism is a theory of justification according to which the justification of a belief depends solely on the evidence for it. Technically, though belief is typically the primary object of concern, evidentialism can be applied to doxastic attitudes generally...

 in order to justify hypothesis venturing. This idea foresaw the demise of evidentialism in the 20th century and sought to ground justified belief in an unwavering principle that would prove more beneficial. Through his philosophy of pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

 William James justifies religious beliefs by using the results of his hypothetical venturing as evidence to support the hypothesis' truth. Therefore, this doctrine allows one to assume belief in God and prove His existence by what the belief brings to one's life.

Free Will


In The Will to Believe, James simply asserted that his will was free. As his first act of freedom, he said, he chose to believe his will was free. He was encouraged to do this by reading Charles Renouvier, whose work convinced James to convert from monism
Monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

 to pluralism
Pluralism (philosophy)
Pluralism is a term used in philosophy, meaning "doctrine of multiplicity", often used in opposition to monism and dualism . The term has different connotations in metaphysics and epistemology...

. In his diary entry of April 30, 1870, James wrote,


"I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier's second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — 'the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts' — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will."


In 1884 James set the terms for all future discussions of determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 and compatibilism
Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

 in the free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

 debates with his lecture to Harvard Divinity School
Harvard Divinity School
Harvard Divinity School is one of the constituent schools of Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States. The School's mission is to train and educate its students either in the academic study of religion, or for the practice of a religious ministry or other public...

 students published as "The Dilemma of Determinism." In this talk he defined the common terms "hard determinism' and "soft determinism" (now more commonly called "compatibilism
Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

").


"Old-fashioned determinism was what we may call hard determinism. It did not shrink from such words as fatality, bondage of the will, necessitation, and the like. Nowadays, we have a soft determinism which abhors harsh words, and, repudiating fatality, necessity, and even predetermination, says that its real name is freedom; for freedom is only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom."


James called compatibilism a "quagmire of evasion," just as the ideas of Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 and David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 that free will was simply freedom from external coercion were called a "wretched subterfuge" by Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

.

James described chance as neither hard nor soft determinism, but "indeterminism
Indeterminism
Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

". He said


"The stronghold of the determinist argument is the antipathy to the idea of chance...This notion of alternative possibility, this admission that any one of several things may come to pass is, after all, only a roundabout name for chance."


James asked the students to consider his choice for walking home from Lowell Lecture Hall after his talk.


"What is meant by saying that my choice of which way to walk home after the lecture is ambiguous and matter of chance?...It means that both Divinity Avenue and Oxford Street are called but only one, and that one either one, shall be chosen."


With this simple example, James was the first thinker to enunciate clearly a two-stage decision process (others include Henri Poincaré
Henri Poincaré
Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science...

, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

), with chance in a present time of random alternatives, leading to a choice which grants consent to one possibility and transforms an equivocal ambiguous future into an unalterable and simple past. There is a temporal sequence of undetermined alternative possibilities followed by adequately determined choices.

James’ two-stage model effectively separates chance (the indeterministic free element) from choice
Choice
Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

 (an arguably determinate decision that follows causally from one’s character, values, and especially feelings and desires at the moment of decision).

Philosophy of religion


James did important work in philosophy of religion
Philosophy of religion
Philosophy of religion is a branch of philosophy concerned with questions regarding religion, including the nature and existence of God, the examination of religious experience, analysis of religious language and texts, and the relationship of religion and science...

. In his Gifford Lectures
Gifford Lectures
The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford . They were established to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God." The term natural theology as used by Gifford means theology supported...

 at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

 he provided a wide-ranging account of The Varieties of Religious Experience
The Varieties of Religious Experience
The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard University psychologist and philosopher William James that comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology" delivered at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland between 1901 and 1902.These lectures...

(1902) and interpreted them according to his pragmatic leanings. Some of the important claims he makes in this regard:
  • Religious genius (experience) should be the primary topic in the study of religion, rather than religious institutions—since institutions are merely the social descendant of genius.
  • The intense, even pathological varieties of experience (religious or otherwise) should be sought by psychologists, because they represent the closest thing to a microscope of the mind—that is, they show us in drastically enlarged form the normal processes of things.
  • In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain "over-beliefs
    Overbelief
    Overbelief is philosophical term for a belief adopted that requires more evidence than one presently has. Generally, acts of overbelief are justified on emotional need or faith, rather than evidence. It contrasts with the less-often debated concept, underbelief. Someone who fails to adopt a belief...

    " in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.


The investigation of mystic
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

al experience was constant throughout the life of James, leading him to experiment with chloral hydrate
Chloral hydrate
Chloral hydrate is a sedative and hypnotic drug as well as a chemical reagent and precursor. The name chloral hydrate indicates that it is formed from chloral by the addition of one molecule of water. Its chemical formula is C2H3Cl3O2....

 (1870), amyl nitrite
Alkyl nitrites
Alkyl nitrites are a group of chemical compounds based upon the molecular structure R-ONO. Formally they are alkyl esters of nitrous acid. They are distinct from nitro compounds ....

 (1875), nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or sweet air, is a chemical compound with the formula . It is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature, it is a colorless non-flammable gas, with a slightly sweet odor and taste. It is used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic...

 (1882), and even peyote
Peyote
Lophophora williamsii , better known by its common name Peyote , is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.It is native to southwestern Texas and Mexico...

 (1896). James claimed that it was only when he was under the influence of nitrous oxide that he was able to understand Hegel. He concluded that while the revelations of the mystic hold true, they hold true only for the mystic; for others, they are certainly ideas to be considered, but can hold no claim to truth without personal experience of such. For example, consider the claim to truth held by the immutable laws of physics.

Instincts



Like Sigmund Freud, James was influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. At the core of James's theory of psychology, as defined in Principles of Psychology (1890), was a system of "instincts." James wrote that humans had many instincts, even more than other animals. These instincts, he said, could be overridden by experience and by each other, as many of the instincts were actually in conflict with each other. In the 1920s, however, psychology turned away from evolutionary theory and embraced radical behaviorism.

Theory of emotion


James is one of the two namesakes of the James-Lange theory
James-Lange theory
The James–Lange theory refers to a hypothesis on the origin and nature of emotions and is one of the earliest theories of emotion, developed independently by two 19th-century scholars, William James and Carl Lange.-Overview:...

 of emotion
Emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

, which he formulated independently of Carl Lange
Carl Lange
Carl Georg Lange was a Danish physician and psychologist. He and William James independently developed the James-Lange theory of emotion, which posits that all emotions are developed from, and can be reduced to, physiological reactions to stimuli. Unlike James, Lange specifically stated that...

 in the 1880s. The theory holds that emotion is the mind's perception of physiological conditions that result from some stimulus. In James's oft-cited example; it is not that we see a bear, fear it, and run. We see a bear and run, consequently we fear the bear. Our mind's perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 of the higher adrenaline level, heartbeat, etc., is the emotion.

This way of thinking about emotion has great consequences for the philosophy of aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

. Here is a passage from his great work, Principles of Psychology, that spells out those consequences.

William James' bear


From Joseph LeDoux's description of William James's Emotion
Why do we run away if we notice that we are in danger? Because we are afraid of what will happen if we don't. This obvious (and incorrect) answer to a seemingly trivial question has been the central concern of a century-old debate about the nature of our emotions.

It all began in 1884 when William James published an article titled "What Is an Emotion?" The article appeared in a philosophy journal called Mind, as there were no psychology journals yet. It was important, not because it definitively answered the question it raised, but because of the way in which James phrased his response. He conceived of an emotion in terms of a sequence of events that starts with the occurrence of an arousing stimulus {the sympathetic nervous system
Sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is one of the three parts of the autonomic nervous system, along with the enteric and parasympathetic systems. Its general action is to mobilize the body's nervous system fight-or-flight response...

 or the parasympathetic nervous system
Parasympathetic nervous system
The parasympathetic nervous system is one of the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system . The ANS is responsible for regulation of internal organs and glands, which occurs unconsciously...

}; and ends with a passionate feeling, a conscious emotional experience. A major goal of emotion research is still to elucidate this stimulus-to-feeling sequence—to figure out what processes come between the stimulus and the feeling.

James set out to answer his question by asking another: do we run from a bear because we are afraid or are we afraid because we run? He proposed that the obvious answer, that we run because we are afraid, was wrong, and instead argued that we are afraid because we run:

Our natural way of thinking about... emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion (called 'feeling' by Damasio).

The essence of James's proposal was simple. It was premised on the fact that emotions are often accompanied by bodily responses (racing heart, tight stomach, sweaty palms, tense muscles, and so on; sympathetic nervous system
Sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is one of the three parts of the autonomic nervous system, along with the enteric and parasympathetic systems. Its general action is to mobilize the body's nervous system fight-or-flight response...

) and that we can sense what is going on inside our body much the same as we can sense what is going on in the outside world. According to James, emotions feel different from other states of mind because they have these bodily responses that give rise to internal sensations, and different emotions feel different from one another because they are accompanied by different bodily responses and sensations. For example, when we see James's bear, we run away. During this act of escape, the body goes through a physiological upheaval: blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, pupils dilate, palms sweat, muscles contract in certain ways (evolutionary, innate defense mechanisms). Other kinds of emotional situations will result in different bodily upheavals. In each case, the physiological responses return to the brain in the form of bodily sensations, and the unique pattern of sensory feedback gives each emotion its unique quality. Fear feels different from anger or love because it has a different physiological signature {the parasympathetic nervous system
Parasympathetic nervous system
The parasympathetic nervous system is one of the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system . The ANS is responsible for regulation of internal organs and glands, which occurs unconsciously...

 for love}. The mental aspect of emotion, the feeling, is a slave to its physiology, not vice versa: we do not tremble because we are afraid or cry because we feel sad; we are afraid because we tremble and are sad because we cry.

Philosophy of history


One of the long-standing schisms in the philosophy of history
Philosophy of history
The term philosophy of history refers to the theoretical aspect of history, in two senses. It is customary to distinguish critical philosophy of history from speculative philosophy of history...

 concerns the role of individuals in social change.

One faction sees individuals (as seen in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution, A History) as the motive power of history, and the broader society as the page on which they write their acts. The other sees society as moving according to holistic principles or laws, and sees individuals as its more-or-less willing pawns. In 1880, James waded into this controversy with "Great Men and Their Environment," an essay published in the Atlantic Monthly. He took Carlyle's side, but without Carlyle's one-sided emphasis on the political/military sphere, upon heroes as the founders or overthrowers of states and empires.

A philosopher, according to James, must accept genius
Genius
Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight....

es as a given entity the same way as a biologist accepts as an entity Darwin's ‘spontaneous variations’. The role of an individual will depend on the degree of its conformity with the social environment, epoch, moment etc.

James introduces a notion of receptivities of the moment. The societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

' mutations from generation to generation
Generation
Generation , also known as procreation in biological sciences, is the act of producing offspring....

 are determined (directly or indirectly) mainly by the acts or examples of individuals whose genius was so adapted to the receptivities of the moment or whose accidental position of authority was so critical that they became ferments, initiators of movements, setters of precedent or fashion, centers of corruption, or destroyers of other persons, whose gifts, had they had free play, would have led society in another direction
For James, the great men of history manipulate the thoughts of society. "Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." He continues, "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."

View on Spiritualism and Associationism


James studied closely the schools of thought known as associationism
Associationism
Associationism in philosophy refers to the idea that mental processes operate by the association of one state with its successor states.The idea is first recorded in Plato and Aristotle, especially with regard to the succession of memories....

 and spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

. The view of an associationist is that each experience that one has leads to another, creating a chain of events. The association does not tie together two ideas, but rather physical objects. This association occurs on an atomic level. Small physical changes occur in the brain which eventually form complex ideas or associations. Thoughts are formed as these complex ideas work together and lead to new experiences. Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 and David Hartley
David Hartley (philosopher)
David Hartley was an English philosopher and founder of the Associationist school of psychology. -Early life and education:...

 both were precursors to this school of thought, proposing such ideas as “physical vibrations in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves are the basis of all sensations, all ideas, and all motions...” James disagreed with associationism in that he believed it to be too simple. He referred to associationism as “psychology without a soul” because there is nothing from within creating ideas; they just arise by associating objects with one another.

On the other hand, a spiritualist believes that mental events are attributed to the soul. Whereas in associationism, ideas and behaviors are separate, in spiritualism, they are connected. Spiritualism encompasses the term innatism
Innatism
Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a 'blank slate' at birth, as early empiricists such as John Locke claimed...

, which suggests that ideas cause behavior. Ideas of past behavior influence the way a person will act in the future; these ideas are all tied together by the soul. Therefore, an inner soul causes one to have a thought, which leads them to perform a behavior, and memory of past behaviors determine how one will act in the future.

These two schools of thought are very different, and yet James had a strong opinion about the two. He was, by nature, a pragmatist
Pragmatist
Pragmatist may refer to:*A person who subscribes to pragmatism, a field of philosophy*A person who subscribes to pragmaticism, Charles Sanders Peirce's post-1905 branch of philosophy...

, and therefore believed that one should use whatever parts of theories make the most sense and can be proven. Therefore, he recommended breaking apart spiritualism and associationism and using the parts of them that make the most sense. James believed that each person has a soul, which exists in a spiritual universe, and leads a person to perform the behaviors they do in the physical world. James was influenced by Emmanuel Swedenborg, who first introduced him to this idea. James states that, although it does appear that humans use associations to move from one event to the next, this cannot be done without this soul tying everything together. For, after an association has been made, it is the person who decides which part of it to focus on, and therefore determines in which direction following associations will lead. Associationism is too simple in that it does not account for decision-making of future behaviors, and memory of what worked well and what did not. Spiritualism, however, does not demonstrate actual physical representations for how associations occur. James therefore chose to combine the views of spiritualism and associationism to create his own way of thinking that he believed to make the most sense.

James was the first president of the American branch of the Society for Psychical Research
Society for Psychical Research
The Society for Psychical Research is a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand "events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal by promoting and supporting important research in this area" and to "examine allegedly paranormal phenomena...

. The lending of his name made Leonora Piper
Leonora Piper
Leonora Piper was a famous trance medium in the area of Spiritualism. Piper was the subject of intense interest and investigation by American and British psychic research associations during the early 20th century, most notably William James and the Society for Psychical Research. She claimed to...

 a famous medium. He wrote that "the supernormal knowledge which she unquestionably displays" was at least achieved through genuine telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

, though he remained unconvinced she communicated with spirits.
In time James found the investigations of Piper's mysterious abilities boring.

See also


  • The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life
    The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life
    "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life" was an essay by the philosopher William James, which he first delivered as a lecture to the Yale Philosophical Club, in 1891. It was later included in the collection, The Will to Believe and other Essays in Popular Philosophy.James' essay anticipated...

  • Psychology of religion
    Psychology of religion
    Psychology of religion consists of the application of psychological methods and interpretive frameworks to religious traditions, as well as to both religious and irreligious individuals. The science attempts to accurately describe the details, origins, and uses of religious beliefs and behaviours...

  • Functional psychology
    Functional psychology
    Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a general psychological philosophy that considers mental life and behavior in terms of active adaptation to the person's environment. As such, it provides the general basis for developing psychological theories not readily testable by controlled...

  • American philosophy
    American philosophy
    American philosophy is the philosophical activity or output of Americans, both within the United States and abroad. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while American philosophy lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and...

  • List of American philosophers
  • William James Lectures
    William James Lectures
    The William James Lectures are a series of invited lectureships at Harvard University sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, who alternate in the selection of speakers. The series was created in honor of the American Pragmatist philosopher William James, a former faculty member...

  • Leonora Piper
    Leonora Piper
    Leonora Piper was a famous trance medium in the area of Spiritualism. Piper was the subject of intense interest and investigation by American and British psychic research associations during the early 20th century, most notably William James and the Society for Psychical Research. She claimed to...

  • William James Society
    William James Society
    The William James Society is an interdisciplinary professional society which supports the study of the life and work of American psychologist and philosopher William James. The organization was founded in 1999. For several years, the WJS published a newsletter named ...


Works by James

  • The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols. (1890) Dover Publications 1950, vol. 1: ISBN 0-486-20381-6, vol. 2: ISBN 0-486-20382-4
  • Psychology (Briefer Course) (1892) University of Notre Dame Press 1985: ISBN 0-268-01557-0, Dover Publications 2001: ISBN 0-486-41604-6
  • The Will to Believe
    Will to believe doctrine
    "The Will to Believe" is a lecture by William James, first published in 1896, which defends, in certain cases, the adoption of a belief without prior evidence of its truth...

    , and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy
    (1897)
  • Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (the Ingersoll Lecture, 1897)
    • The Will to Believe, Human Immortality (1956) Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-20291-7
  • Talks to Teachers on Psychology: and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals (1899), Dover Publications 2001: ISBN 0-486-41964-9, IndyPublish.com 2005: ISBN 1-4219-5806-6
  • The Varieties of Religious Experience
    The Varieties of Religious Experience
    The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard University psychologist and philosopher William James that comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology" delivered at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland between 1901 and 1902.These lectures...

    : A Study in Human Nature
    (1902), ISBN 0-14-039034-0
  • Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907), Hackett Publishing 1981: ISBN 0-915145-05-7, Dover 1995: ISBN 0-486-28270-8
  • A Pluralistic Universe (1909), Hibbert Lectures
    Hibbert Lectures
    The Hibbert Lectures are an annual series of non-sectarian lectures on theological issues. They are sponsored by the Hibbert Trust, which was founded in 1847 by the Unitarian Robert Hibbert with a goal to uphold "the unfettered exercise of private judgement in matters of religion."...

    , University of Nebraska Press 1996: ISBN 0-8032-7591-9
  • The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to "Pragmatism" (1909) Prometheus Books, 1997: ISBN 1-57392-138-6
  • Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (1911), University of Nebraska Press 1996: ISBN 0-8032-7587-0
  • Memories and Studies (1911) Reprint Services Corp: 1992: ISBN 0-7812-3481-6
  • Essays in Radical Empiricism
    Essays in Radical Empiricism
    Essays in Radical Empiricism by William James is a collection edited and published posthumously by his colleague and biographer Ralph Barton Perry in 1912...

    (1912) Dover Publications 2003, ISBN 0-486-43094-4
    • critical edition, Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers, editors. Harvard University Press 1976: ISBN 0-674-26717-6 (includes commentary, notes, enumerated emendations, appendices with English translation of "La Notion de Conscience")
  • Letters of William James, 2 vols. (1920)
  • Collected Essays and Reviews (1920)
  • Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, 2 vols. (1935) Vanderbilt University Press 1996 reprint: ISBN 0-8265-1279-8 (contains some 500 letters by William James not found in the earlier edition of the Letters of William James)
  • William James on Psychical Research (1960)
  • The Correspondence of William James, 12 vols. (1992–2004) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-2318-2
  • The Dilemma of Determinism

Works by others

  • Essays Philosophical and Psychological in Honor of William James, by his Colleagues at Columbia University (London, 1908)
  • Flournoy, La Philosophie de William James (Saint-Blaise, 1911)
  • Josiah Royce
    Josiah Royce
    Josiah Royce was an American objective idealist philosopher.-Life:Royce, born in Grass Valley, California, grew up in pioneer California very soon after the California Gold Rush. He received the B.A...

    , William James and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Life (New York, 1911)
  • Ménard, Analyse et critique des principes de la psychologie de W. James (Paris, 1911)
  • K. A. Busch, William James als Religionsphilosoph (Göttingen, 1911)
  • Boutroux, William James (New York, 1912)
  • R. B. Perry
    Ralph Barton Perry
    Ralph Barton Perry was an American philosopher.-Career:...

    , Present Philosophical Tendencies (New York, 1912)
  • James Huneker
    James Huneker
    James Gibbons Huneker was an American music writer and critic.Huneker was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied piano in Europe under Leopold Doutreleau and audited the Paris piano class of Frédéric Chopin's pupil Georges Mathias. He came to New York City in 1885 and remained there...

    , "A Philosophy for Philistines" in his The Pathos of Distance (New York, 1913)
  • Werner Bloch, Der Pragmatismus von James und Schiller nebst Exkursen über Weltanschauung und über die Hypothese (Leipzig, 1913)
  • H. V. Knox, Philosophy of William James (London, 1914)
  • Henry James
    Henry James
    Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

    's A Small Boy and Others (1913) and Notes of a Son and Brother (1914)
  • Roberts, Jane, The Afterdeath Journal of William James, ISBN 0-13-01815-9

Collections

  • William James: Writings 1878–1899, (1992). Library of America
    Library of America
    The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature.- Overview and history :Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LoA has published over 200 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip...

    , 1212 p., ISBN 978-0-94045072-1
Psychology: Briefer Course (rev. and condensed Principles of Psychology), The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, Talks to Teachers and Students, Essays (nine others)

  • William James: Writings 1902–1910, (1987). Library of America
    Library of America
    The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature.- Overview and history :Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LoA has published over 200 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip...

    , 1379 p., ISBN 978-0-94045038-7
The Varieties of Religious Experience, Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, The Meaning of Truth, Some Problems of Philosophy, Essays

  • The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, (1978). University of Chicago Press, 912 p., ISBN 0-226-39188-4
Pragmatism, Essays in Radical Empiricism, and A Pluralistic Universe complete; plus selections from other works
  • In 1975, Harvard University Press began publication of a standard edition of The Works of William James.

Secondary works

  • Jacques Barzun
    Jacques Barzun
    Jacques Martin Barzun is a French-born American historian of ideas and culture. He has written on a wide range of topics, but is perhaps best known as a philosopher of education, his Teacher in America being a strong influence on post-WWII training of schoolteachers in the United...

    . A Stroll with William James (1983). Harper and Row: ISBN 0-226-03869-6
  • Deborah Blum
    Deborah Blum
    Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York....

    . Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (2006). Penguin Press, ISBN 1-59420-090-4
  • Wesley Cooper. The Unity of William James's Thought (2002). Vanderbilt University Press, ISBN 0-8265-1387-5
  • Howard M. Feinstein. Becoming William James (1984). Cornell University Press, ISBN 978-0801486425
  • Louis Menand
    Louis Menand
    Louis Menand is an American writer and academic, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Metaphysical Club , an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America....

    . The Metaphysical Club (2001). Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-52849-7. analyzes the lives and relationship between James, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Pierce, and John Dewey
    John Dewey
    John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

    .
  • Gerald E. Myers. William James: His Life and Thought (1986). Yale University Press 2001 paperback: ISBN 0-300-08917-1. focuses on his psychology, includes 230 pages of notes.
  • James Pawelski. The Dynamic Individualism of William James (2007). SUNY press, ISBN 0-7914-7239-6.
  • Robert D. Richardson. William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism (2006). Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-618-43325-2
  • Robert D. Richardson, ed. "The Heart of William James" (2010). Harvard U. Press, ISBN 978-0674-05561-2
  • Linda Simon. Genuine Reality: A Life of William James (1998). Harcourt Brace & Company, ISBN 0-226-75859-1

Fiction

  • Richard Liebmann-Smith. The James Boys: A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers (2008) posits Jesse and Frank are noms de outlaw used by William and Henry James's two younger brothers who went West and fought in the Civil War. Written somewhat in the style of Henry James.

External links



Full texts of James's works