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This article is about the philosopher and psychologist. For other people with the same name, see William James (disambiguation).
William James
A black and white photograph of James
James in the 1890s
Born (1842-01-11)January 11, 1842
New York City, New York
Died August 26, 1910(1910-08-26) (aged 68)
Tamworth, New Hampshire
Alma mater Harvard University
Era 19th/20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Pragmatism, Functional Psychology, Radical Empiricism
Main interests Pragmatism, psychology, philosophy of religion, epistemology, meaning
Notable ideas The Will to Believe Doctrine, the pragmatic theory of truth, radical empiricism, James–Lange theory of emotion, psychologist's fallacy, brain usage theory
Influences
Influenced

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States,[2] James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labelled him the "Father of American psychology".[3][4][5] Along with Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey, he is considered to be one of the greatest figures associated with the philosophical school known as pragmatism, and is also cited as one of the founders of functional psychology. He also developed the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. James' work has influenced intellectuals such as Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty.[6]

Born into a wealthy family, James was the son of the Swedenborgian theologian Henry James Sr and the brother of both the prominent novelist Henry James, and the diarist Alice James. James wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are Principles of Psychology, which was a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology, Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy, and The Varieties of Religious Experience, which investigated different forms of religious experience.

Early life[edit]

William James was born at the Astor House in New York City. He was the son of Henry James Sr., a noted and independently wealthy Swedenborgian theologian 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, his godson William James Sidis, as well as Charles Sanders Peirce, Bertrand Russell, Josiah Royce, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Macedonio Fernández, Walter Lippmann, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, Jr., G. Stanley Hall, Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud.

William James 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 in Newport, Rhode Island, but he switched in 1861 to scientific studies at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University.

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.[7] He was subject to a variety of psychological symptoms which were diagnosed at the time as neurasthenia, and which included periods of depression during which he contemplated suicide for months on end. Two younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) and Robertson (Bob), fought in the Civil War. The other three siblings (William, Henry, and Alice James) all suffered from periods of invalidism.

William James in Brazil, 1865

He took up medical studies at The Harvard Medical School in 1864. He took a break in the spring of 1865 to join naturalist Louis Agassiz on a scientific expedition up the Amazon River, but aborted his trip after eight months, as he suffered bouts of severe seasickness and mild smallpox. His studies were interrupted once again due to illness in April 1867. He traveled to Germany in search of a cure and remained there until November 1868; at that time he was 26 years old. During this period, he began to publish; reviews of his works appeared in literary periodicals such as the North American Review.

James finally earned his M.D. degree in June 1869 but he 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. In 1882 he joined the Theosophical Society.[8]

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".[9]

Career[edit]

James spent almost his entire academic career at Harvard. He was appointed instructor in physiology for the spring 1873 term, instructor in 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. James's acquaintance with the work of figures like Hermann Helmholtz in Germany and Pierre Janet in France facilitated his introduction of courses in scientific psychology at Harvard University. He taught his first experimental psychology course at Harvard in the 1875–1876 academic year.[10]

During his Harvard years, James joined in philosophical discussions & debates with Charles Peirce, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Chauncey Wright that evolved into a lively group informally known as The Metaphysical Club in 1872. Louis Menand speculates that the Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come. He joined the Anti-Imperialist League in 1898, in opposition to the U.S. annexation of the Philippines.

William James and Josiah Royce, near James's country home in Chocorua, New Hampshire in September 1903. James's daughter Peggy took the picture. On hearing the camera click, James cried out: "Royce, you're being photographed! Look out! I say Damn the Absolute!"

Among James's students at Harvard University were such luminaries as Boris Sidis, Theodore Roosevelt, George Santayana, W. E. B. Du Bois, G. Stanley Hall, Ralph Barton Perry, Gertrude Stein, Horace Kallen, Morris Raphael Cohen, Walter Lippmann, Alain Locke, C. I. Lewis, and Mary Whiton Calkins.

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, New Hampshire. He was buried in the family plot in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He was one of the strongest proponents of the school of functionalism in psychology and of pragmatism in philosophy. He was a founder of the American Society for Psychical Research, 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.[11]

Writings[edit]

William James wrote voluminously throughout his life. A non-exhaustive bibliography of his writings, compiled by John McDermott, is 47 pages long.[12] (See below for a list of his major writings and additional collections)

He gained widespread recognition with his monumental Principles of Psychology (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, on April 17, 1977, equating the United States' 1970's energy crisis, oil 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." [13] [14] [15]

Epistemology[edit]

Portrait of William James by John La Farge, circa 1859

James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer. His pragmatic theory of truth was a synthesis of correspondence theory of truth and coherence theory of truth, 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.[16][17]

"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.[18]

"Anything short of God is not rational, anything more than God is not possible" he wrote.

He writes, "First, it esessential that God be conceived as the deepest power in the universe, and second, he must be conceived under the form of a mental personality."

He also writes, "A God who can relish such superfluities of horror is no God for human beings to appeal to. ...In other words the "Absolute" with his one purpose, is not the man-like God of common people."

James held a world view in line with pragmatism, 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, 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. James's description of the mind-world connection, which he described in terms of a "stream of consciousness", had a direct and significant impact on avant-garde and modernist literature and art, notably in the case of James Joyce.

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 made the contested claim 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 and Howard Mounce do not share Rorty's instrumentalist interpretation of James.[19]

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.' "[20] However, James responded to critics accusing him of relativism, scepticism or agnosticism, and of believing only in relative truths. To the contrary, he supported an epistemological realism position.[21]

Pragmatism and "cash value"[edit]

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, and 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 (were efficacious} 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.

Will to believe doctrine[edit]

Main article: The Will to Believe

In William James's lecture of 1896 titled "The Will to Believe," James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. This idea foresaw the demise of evidentialism in the 20th century[citation needed] and sought to ground justified belief in an unwavering principle that would prove more beneficial. Through his philosophy of pragmatism 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 a god and prove its existence by what the belief brings to one's life.

Free will[edit]

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 to pluralism. 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.[22]

In 1884 James set the terms for all future discussions of determinism and compatibilism in the free will debates with his lecture to Harvard Divinity School 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").

"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."[23]

James called compatibilism a "quagmire of evasion,"[23] just as the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume that free will was simply freedom from external coercion were called a "wretched subterfuge" by Immanuel Kant.

James described chance as neither hard nor soft determinism, but "indeterminism". 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." [24]

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."[25]

With this simple example, James was the first thinker to enunciate clearly a two-stage decision process (others include Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper), 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 also undetermined choices.

James’ two-stage model effectively separates chance (undetermined alternative possibilities) from choice (the free action of the individual, on which randomness has no effect).

Philosophy of religion[edit]

Excerpt.

James did important work in philosophy of religion. In his Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh he provided a wide-ranging account of The Varieties of Religious Experience (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" in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.

The investigation of mystical experience was constant throughout the life of James, leading him to experiment with chloral hydrate (1870), amyl nitrite (1875), nitrous oxide (1882), and even peyote (1896). James claimed that it was only when he was under the influence of nitrous oxide that he was able to understand Hegel.[26] 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. American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia classes him as one of several figures who "took a more pantheist or pandeist approach by rejecting views of God as separate from the world."[27]

Instincts[edit]

See also: instincts

Like Sigmund Freud, James was influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.[28] At the core of James' theory of psychology, as defined in Principles of Psychology (1890), was a system of "instincts."[28] James wrote that humans had many instincts, even more than other animals.[28] 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.[28] In the 1920s, however, psychology turned away from evolutionary theory and embraced radical behaviorism.[28]

Theory of emotion[edit]

James is one of the two namesakes of the James–Lange theory of emotion, which he formulated independently of Carl Lange 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 of the higher adrenaline level, heartbeat, etc. is the emotion.

This way of thinking about emotion has great consequences for the philosophy of aesthetics. Here is a passage from his great work, Principles of Psychology, that spells out those consequences:

[W]e must immediately insist that aesthetic emotion, pure and simple, the pleasure given us by certain lines and masses, and combinations of colors and sounds, is an absolutely sensational experience, an optical or auricular feeling that is primary, and not due to the repercussion backwards of other sensations elsewhere consecutively aroused. To this simple primary and immediate pleasure in certain pure sensations and harmonious combinations of them, there may, it is true, be added secondary pleasures; and in the practical enjoyment of works of art by the masses of mankind these secondary pleasures play a great part. The more classic one's taste is, however, the less relatively important are the secondary pleasures felt to be, in comparison with those of the primary sensation as it comes in. Classicism and romanticism have their battles over this point.

William James' bear[edit]

From Joseph LeDoux's description of William James's Emotion [29]

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 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?"[30] 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 or the parasympathetic nervous system}; 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) 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 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[edit]

One of the long-standing schisms in the 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, Great Thoughts, and the 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 geniuses 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.[31]

James introduces a notion of receptivities of the moment. The societies' mutations from generation to generation 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.[32]

View on spiritualism and associationism[edit]

James studied closely the schools of thought known as associationism and spiritualism. 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.[33] 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 and David Hartley 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..."[34] James disagreed with associationism in that he believed it to be too simple. He referred to associationism as “psychology without a soul”[35] 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, 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.[35]

These two schools of thought are very different, and yet James had a strong opinion about the two. He was, by nature, a pragmatist and therefore believed that one should use whatever parts of theories make the most sense and can be proven.[36] 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.[36] 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.[33] 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 a founding member and vice president of the American Society for Psychical Research.[37] The lending of his name made Leonora Piper a famous medium. In 1885, the year after the death of his young son, James had his first sitting with Piper at the suggestion of his mother-in-law.[38] James was soon convinced that Piper knew things she could only have discovered by supernatural means. He expressed his belief in Piper by saying, "If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, it is enough if you prove that one crow is white. My white crow is Mrs. Piper."[39] However, James did not believe that Piper was in contact with spirits. After evaluating sixty-nine reports of Piper's mediumship he considered the hypothesis of telepathy as well as Piper obtaining information about her sitters by natural means such as her memory recalling information. According to James the "spirit-control" hypothesis of her mediumship was incoherent, irrelevant and in cases demonstrably false.[40]

James held séances with Piper and was impressed by some of the details he was given, however, according to Massimo Polidoro a maid in the household of James was friendly with a maid in Piper's house and this may of been a source of information that Piper used for private details about James.[41] Bibliographers Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers who compiled the works of James wrote "It is thus possible that Mrs. Piper's knowledge of the James family was acquired from the gossip of servants and that the whole mystery rests on the failure of the people upstairs to realize that servants [downstairs] also have ears."[42]

Jamesian theory of self[edit]

William James developed a theory of self that was divided into two main categories. The first was the "Me" self, the second was the "I" self.[43] The "me" self refers to the aspects of someone that come from that persons experiences. James broke the "me" self down into three sections, The Material Self, The Social Self, and The Spiritual Self.[44] For James the "I" self was classified as the thinking self. James linked this self to the soul of a person or what we now think of as the mind.[45] The Pure Ego was the name given to the "I" self.[44]

Material self[edit]

The material self consists of things that belong to us or that we belong to. Things like family, clothes, our body, and money are some of what makes up our material selves.[43] For James, the core of the material self was the body.[45] Second to the body, a persons clothes were important to the Material Self as well. James believed that people's clothes were a way that they expressed who they were, or a way to show status, thus contributing to the formation of self.[45] Money and family are also part of the material self. James felt that if we lost a family member, a part of who we are was gone as well. Money was a part of the material self in the same way. If at one point we had a lot of money then lost it, who we are as a person would change as well.[45]

Social self[edit]

Our social selves are who we are in a given social situation. For James, people change how they act depending on the social situation that they are in. James believed that people had as many social selves as they did social situations they participated in.[45] For example, a person may act in a different way at work when compared to how that same person may act when they are out with a group of friends. James also believed that in a given social group, an individual's social self may be divided even further.[45] An example of this would be, in the social context of an individuals work environment, the difference in behavior when that individual is interacting with their boss versus their behavior when interacting with a fellow co-worker.

Spiritual self[edit]

For James the spiritual self was who we are at our core. The spiritual self is more concrete or permanent than the other two selves. The spiritual self is our subjective and most intimate self. Aspects of an individual's spiritual self include things like their personality,core values, and conscience that do not typically change throughout their lifetime. The spiritual self involves introspection, or looking inward to deeper spiritual, moral, or intellectual questions without the influence of objective thoughts.[45] For James, achieving a high level of understanding of who we are at our core, or understanding our spiritual selves is more rewarding than satisfying the needs of the social and material selves.

Pure ego[edit]

The pure ego is what James refers to as the "I" self. For James, the pure ego is what provides the thread of continuity between our past, present, and future selves. The pure ego's perception of consistent individual identity arises from a continual stream of consciousness.[46] James believed that the pure ego was similar to what we think of as the soul, or the mind. The pure ego was not a substance and therefore could not be examined by science.[43]

Works by James[edit]

Collections[edit]

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)
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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bill James, of Harvard, was among the first foreigners to take cognizance of Thought and Reality, already in 1873...", Lettres inédites de African Spir au professeur Penjon (Unpublished Letters of African Spir to professor Penjon), Neuchâtel, 1948, p. 231, n. 7.
  2. ^ T.L. Brink (2008) Psychology: A Student Friendly Approach. "Unit One: The Definition and History of Psychology." pp 10
  3. ^ "William James: Writings 1878–1899". The Library of America. 1992-06-01. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  4. ^ "William James: Writings 1902–1910". The Library of America. 1987-02-01. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  5. ^ Dr. Megan E. Bradley. "William James". PSYography. Faculty.frostburg.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  6. ^ "William James". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford University. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  7. ^ Sachs, Oliver (2008). Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition. New York: Vintage Books. pp. xiii. ISBN 1-4000-3353-5. 
  8. ^ Antony Lysy, "William James, Theosophist", The Quest Volume 88, number 6, November–December 2000.
  9. ^ Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, vol. 1, (1935), 1996 edition: ISBN 0-8265-1279-8, p. 228.
  10. ^ Duane P. Schultz; Sydney Ellen Schultz (22 March 2007). A History of Modern Psychology. Cengage Learning. pp. 185–. ISBN 978-0-495-09799-0. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Haggbloom, S.J. et al. (2002). "The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century". Review of General Psychology 6 (2): 139–15. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.6.2.139. . Haggbloom et al. combined 3 quantitative variables: citations in professional journals, citations in textbooks, and nominations in a survey given to members of the Association for Psychological Science, with 3 qualitative variables (converted to quantitative scores): National Academy of Science (NAS) membership, American Psychological Association (APA) President and/or recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and surname used as an eponym. Then the list was rank ordered.
  12. ^ John J. McDermott, The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, University of Chicago Press, 1977 revised edition, ISBN 0-226-39188-4, pp. 812–58.
  13. ^ William James' The Moral Equivalent of War Introduction by John Roland. Constitution.org. Retrieved on 2011-08-28.
  14. ^ William James' The Moral Equivalent of War – 1906. Constitution.org. Retrieved on 2011-08-28.
  15. ^ Harrison Ross Steeves; Frank Humphrey Ristine (1913). Representative essays in modern thought: a basis for composition. American Book Company. pp. 519–. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  16. ^ James, William, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking Lect. 6, "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth," (1907)
  17. ^ Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol.6, "Pragmatic Theory of Truth", pp. 427–428 (Macmillan, 1969)
  18. ^ William James. "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth". Lecture 6 in Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. New York: Longman Green and Co (1907): p. 83.
  19. ^ H. O. Mounce (1997). The two pragmatisms: from Peirce to Rorty. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-15283-9. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  20. ^ The Meaning of Truth, Longmans, Green, & Co., New York, 1909, p. 177
  21. ^ See his Defense of a Pragmatic Notion of Truth, written to counter criticisms of his Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 1907 lecture
  22. ^ Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, vol. 1, p. 323; Letters of William James, vol. I, p. 147
  23. ^ a b The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p. 149
  24. ^ The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p. 153
  25. ^ The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p. 155
  26. ^ William James, "Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide"
  27. ^ John Lachs and Robert Talisse (2007). American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia. p. 310. ISBN 0415939267. 
  28. ^ a b c d e Buss, David M. Evolutionary psychology: the new science of the mind. Pearson. 2008. Chapter 1, pp. 2–35.
  29. ^ Joseph E. LeDoux, (1996) The Emotional Brain: the Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life, ISBN 0-684-83659-9, p. 43.
  30. ^ "What is an Emotion?" Mind, vol. 9, 1884, pp. 188-205
  31. ^ Grinin L. E. 2010. The Role of an Individual in History: A Reconsideration. Social Evolution & History, Vol. 9 No. 2 (pp. 95–136). p. 103
  32. ^ James, W. 2005 [1880]. Great Men and Their Environment. Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing. p. 174.
  33. ^ a b James, (1892)
  34. ^ Richardson, (2006)
  35. ^ a b James, (1890).
  36. ^ a b Richardson (2006)
  37. ^ Eugene Taylor. (2009). The Mystery of Personality: A History of Psychodynamic Theories. Springer. p. 30. ISBN 978-0387981031
  38. ^ Deborah Blum. (2007). Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life. Penguin Group. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-14-303895-5.
  39. ^ Gardner Murphy, Robert O. Ballou. (1960). William James on Psychical Research. Viking Press. p. 41
  40. ^ Francesca Bordogna. (2008). William James at the Boundaries: Philosophy, Science, and the Geography of Knowledge. University Of Chicago Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0226066523
  41. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 36. ISBN 978-1573928960
  42. ^ Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers. (1986). Essays in Psychical Research. Harvard University Press. p. 397 in William James. The Works of William James. Edited by Frederick H. Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers, and Ignas K. Skrupskelis. 19 vols. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press. 1975-1988.
  43. ^ a b c http://www.iep.utm.edu/james-o/
  44. ^ a b Cooper, W. E. (1992). William James's theory of the self. Monist,75(4), 504.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g http://psychclassics.asu.edu/James/Principles/prin10.htm
  46. ^ http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/hunt.html

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Educational offices
Preceded by
George Trumbull Ladd
3rd President of the American Psychological Association
1894–95
Succeeded by
James McKeen Cattell
Preceded by
William Lowe Bryan
13th President of the American Psychological Association
1904–1905
Succeeded by
Mary Whiton Calkins



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The Guardian

The Guardian
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:56:15 -0700

William James Vahey is believed to have abused about 60 boys at Southbank International School. Photograph: AP. Serial paedophile William Vahey drugged and abused dozens of boys left in his care after a series of serious failings by the elite London ...
 
Chicago Sun-Times
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:31:16 -0700

William James “Will” Gallagher, who enlisted in the Army at 16 and fought in some of the most harrowing battles in military history, used the leadership he learned in World War II to mount a huge undertaking: the first major revision of the ...
 
Gazettextra
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 02:22:30 -0700

On June 9, 2014 Bill lost his battle with esophageal cancer while receiving superior care from the staff at AGRACE in Fitchburg. Dr. Kinsley, thank you for helping Bill to keep his dignity. Bill is survived by his wife, Susan; their children: son, Kory ...
 
Mail Tribune
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:33:45 -0700

William James Emerson, 84, of Grants Pass, Ore. passed away Friday, July 18, 2014 at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. Bill was born October 16, 1929 in Watertown, S.D. to Emery H. and Florence (Van Dan Acker) Emerson. He grew up in Bryant, ...
 
Marquette Mining Journal
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 15:30:00 -0700

William James Bauman Jr. July 17, 2014. Mining Journal. Save |. MUNISING, MI - William James Bauman, Jr., age 92, of Comstock Park, Michigan and formerly of Munising, Gladstone, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin died on Wednesday morning, July 16, 2014 at ...

The Guardian

Yahoo News
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 08:33:45 -0700

LONDON (Reuters) - A British government inquiry has found that hardline Muslims tried to impose an "intolerant and aggressive" Islamic agenda on some schools in the city of Birmingham, including separation of boys and girls in lessons and banning ...
 
Vernon Morning Star
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 01:07:44 -0700

He also appreciated the help from Christine Clement, a genealogist and researcher in New Zealand. Rutter's grandson, William James Rutter, 10, was excited to hear about the medal and the distant relative he was named for. “I have almost the same name ...
 
The Tennessean
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:56:15 -0700

Middle school action will start things off with Dickson Middle facing William James at 5 p.m. Dickson Co. High will play McGavock afterward. While the event is an opportunity for the football teams it is also the start of fundraising by the booster ...
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