The Info List - William James

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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, 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 labeled him the "Father of American psychology".

Along with Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey
John Dewey
, James is considered to be one of the major figures associated with the philosophical school known as pragmatism , and is also cited as one of the founders of functional psychology . A _Review of General Psychology
_ survey, published in 2002, ranked James as the 14th most cited psychologist of the 20th century. 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
Hilary Putnam
, and Richard Rorty
Richard Rorty
, and has even influenced Presidents, such as Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter

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
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 _The 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 , which also included the then theories on mind-cure .


* 1 Early life * 2 Career * 3 Family * 4 Writings

* 5 Epistemology

* 5.1 Pragmatism and "cash value" * 5.2 Will to believe doctrine

* 6 Free will * 7 Philosophy of religion * 8 Instincts

* 9 Theory of emotion

* 9.1 William James\' bear

* 10 Philosophy of history * 11 View on spiritualism and associationism

* 12 Jamesian theory of self

* 12.1 Material self * 12.2 Social self * 12.3 Spiritual self * 12.4 Pure ego

* 13 Notable works

* 13.1 Collections

* 14 See also * 15 References * 16 Sources * 17 External links


William James
William James
in Brazil, 1865

William James
William James
was born at the Astor House in New Hampshire. 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.

William James
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
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
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 . 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.

He took up medical studies at Harvard Medical School in 1864 (according to his brother Henry James). 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

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".

In 1875–1876, James, Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840–1911), Charles Pickering Putnam (1844–1914), and James Jackson Putnam (1846–1918) founded the Putnam Camp at St. Huberts , Essex County, New York .


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
John Dewey
, Macedonio Fernández , Walter Lippmann , Mark Twain , Horatio Alger, Jr. , G. Stanley Hall , Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud .

James spent almost all of his 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
Harvard University
. He taught his first experimental psychology course at Harvard
in the 1875–1876 academic year.

During his Harvard
years, James joined in philosophical discussions and 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 (2001) suggested that this Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come. James joined the Anti-Imperialist League in 1898, in opposition to the United States annexation of the Philippines. _ William James
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
Harvard University
were luminaries such as Boris Sidis , Theodore Roosevelt
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 . Antiquarian bookseller Gabriel Wells tutored under him at Harvard
in the late 1890s.

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 on August 26, 1910 at his home in Chocorua, New Hampshire . He was buried in the family plot in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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
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.


Alice Runnels James (Mrs. William James), John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent
, 1921

William James
William James
was the son of Henry James
Henry James
(Senior) of Albany, and Mary Robertson Walsh. He had four siblings: Henry (the novelist), Garth Wilkinson, Robertson, and Alice. William became engaged to Alice Howe Gibbens on May 10, 1878; they were married on July 10. They had 5 children: Henry (born May 18, 1878), William (born June 17, 1882), Herman (born 1884, died in infancy), Margaret (born March, 1887) and Alexander (the artist) (born December 22, 1890).


William James
William James
wrote voluminously throughout his life. A non-exhaustive bibliography of his writings, compiled by John McDermott , is 47 pages long.

He gained widespread recognition with his monumental _The 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' 1970s 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
Stanford University
in 1906, and published in 1910, 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 which "...sounds a rallying cry for service in the interests of the individual and the nation."


Portrait of William James
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.

"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.

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

He writes, "First, it is essential 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
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.

In _The Meaning of Truth_, James seems to speak of truth in relativistic terms: "The critic's 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 , scepticism or agnosticism , and of believing only in relative truths. To the contrary, he supported an epistemological realism position.


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 .


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 20th century objections to evidentialism and sought to ground justified belief in an unwavering principle that would prove more beneficial. Through his philosophy of pragmatism William James
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.


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.

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.

James called compatibilism a "quagmire of evasion", just as the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume
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.

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 laid out a two-stage decision process with chance in a present time of random alternatives, leading to a choice of one possibility that transforms an ambiguous future into a simple unalterable past. James' two-stage model separates chance (undetermined alternative possibilities) from choice (the free action of the individual, on which randomness has no effect). Subsequent thinkers using this model include Henri Poincaré , Arthur Holly Compton , and Karl Popper
Karl Popper



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. * Religious Mysticism is only one half of mysticism, the other half is composed of the insane and both of these are co-located in the 'great subliminal or transmarginal region'.

James investigated mystical experiences throughout his life, leading him to experiment with chloral hydrate (1870), amyl nitrite (1875), nitrous oxide (1882), and peyote (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. _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."


See also: Instinct

Like Sigmund Freud, James was influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. At the core of James' theory of psychology, as defined in _The 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.


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 as well as to the philosophy and practice of education . Here is a passage from his great work, _The Principles of Psychology_, that spells out those consequences:

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.

The theory of emotion was also independently developed in Italy by the Anthropologist Giuseppe Sergi,. In order to give due credit, such a theory should be called the James-Lange-Sergi theory of emotion.


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 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
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 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 theory, 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.


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.

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.


William James
William James
in a séance with a spiritualist medium

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. 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
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..." 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 , 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.

James had a strong opinion about these schools of thought. He was, by nature, a pragmatist and thus took the view 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 Emanuel Swedenborg , who first introduced him to this idea. James stated 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 combined the views of spiritualism and associationism to create his own way of thinking.

James was a founding member and vice president of the American Society
for Psychical Research . 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. 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." 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.

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 have been a source of information that Piper used for private details about James. 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 also have ears."

James was convinced that the "future will corroborate" the existence of telepathy . Psychologists such as James McKeen Cattell and Edward B. Titchener took issue with James's support for psychical research and considered his statements unscientific. Cattell in a letter to James wrote that the " Society
for Psychical Research is doing much to injure psychology".


William James' theory of self divided a person's mental picture of self into two categories: the "Me" and the "I". The "Me" can be thought of as a separate object or individual a person refers to when describing their personal experiences; while the "I" is the self that knows who they are and what they have done in their life. Both concepts are depicted in the statement; "_I_ know it was _me_ who ate the cookie." He called the "Me" part of self the "empirical me" and the "I" part "the pure Ego". For James, the "I" part of self was the thinking self, which could not be further divided. He linked this part of the self to the soul of a person, or what is now thought of as the mind. Educational theorists have been inspired in various ways by James's theory of self, and have developed various applications of these theories to curricular and pedagogical theory and practice.

James further divided the "Me" part of self into: the material self, the social self, and the spiritual self, as below.


The material self consists of things that belong to a person or entities that a person belongs to. Thus, things like the body, family, clothes, money, and such make up the material self. For James, the core of the material self was the body. Second to the body, James felt a person's clothes were important to the material self. He believed a person's clothes were one way they expressed who they felt they were; or clothes were a way to show status, thus contributing to forming and maintaining one's self-image. Money and family are critical parts of the material self. James felt that if one lost a family member, a part of who they are was lost also. Money figured in one's material self in a similar way. If once a person had significant money then lost it, who they were as a person changed as well.


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. 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. An example of this would be, in the social context of an individual's work environment, the difference in behavior when that individual is interacting with their boss versus their behavior when interacting with a co-worker.


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. 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.


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. 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.


* _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 , 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 : 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 , 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 _ (1912), Dover Publications 2003, ISBN 0-486-43094-4

* critical edition, Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers, editors. Harvard University
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
William James
not found in the earlier edition of the _Letters of William James_) * _ 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" * _ William James
William James
on Habit, Will, Truth, and the Meaning of Life_, James Sloan Allen, ed. Frederic C. Beil, Publisher, ISBN 978-1-929490-45-5


* _William James: Writings 1878–1899_ (1992). Library of America
Library of America
, 1212 p., ISBN 978-0-940450-72-1

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
, 1379 p., ISBN 978-0-940450-38-7

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 pp., ISBN 0-226-39188-4

Pragmatism, Essays in Radical Empiricism, and A Pluralistic Universe complete; plus selections from other works

* In 1975, Harvard University
Harvard University
Press began publication of a standard edition of _The Works of William James_.


* Philosophy portal * Psychology

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William James
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* ^ "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. * ^ "Krey, Peter (2004). The Ethics of Belief: William Clifford versus William." p. 1. * ^ T.L. Brink (2008) _Psychology: A Student Friendly Approach_. "Unit One: The Definition and History of Psychology". p. 10 * ^ "William James: Writings 1878–1899". The Library of America
Library of America
. 1992-06-01. Retrieved 2013-09-21. * ^ "William James: Writings 1902–1910". The Library of America. 1987-02-01. Retrieved 2013-09-21. * ^ Dr. Megan E. Bradley. "William James". _PSYography_. Faculty.frostburg.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-21. * ^ Haggbloom, Steven J.; Warnick, Jason E.; Jones, Vinessa K.; Yarbrough, Gary L.; Russell, Tenea M.; Borecky, Chris M.; McGahhey, Reagan; et al. (2002). "The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century". _Review of General Psychology_. 6 (2): 139–52. doi :10.1037/1089-2680.6.2.139 . CS1 maint: Explicit use of et al. (link ) * ^ "William James". _ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy _. Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford University . Retrieved 2013-09-21. * ^ James, William (2009). _The Varieties of Religious Experience_. The Library of America. pp. 74–120. ISBN 1598530623 . * ^ 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 . * ^ Antony Lysy, "William James, Theosophist", _The Quest_ Volume 88, number 6, November–December 2000. * ^ Ralph Barton Perry , _The Thought and Character of William James_, vol. 1, (1935), 1996 edition: ISBN 0-8265-1279-8 , p. 228. * ^ "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)" (Searchable database). New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation . Retrieved 2016-02-01. _Note:_ This includes Rachel D. Carley (January 2012). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Putnam Camp" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-02-01. and _Accompanying photographs_ * ^ 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. * ^ Schmidt, Barbara. "A History of and Guide to Uniform Editions of Mark Twain\'s Works". twainquotes.com. Retrieved 1 October 2014. * ^ 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 . Archived from the original on 2006-04-29. . 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. * ^ 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. * ^ William James\' The Moral Equivalent of War Introduction by John Roland. Constitution.org. Retrieved on 2011-08-28. * ^ William James\' The Moral Equivalent of War – 1906. Constitution.org. Retrieved on 2011-08-28. * ^ 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. * ^ ""The Moral Equivalent of War" by William James, McClure\'s Magazine, August 1910". _UNZ.org_. Retrieved 2016-11-25. * ^ James, William, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking Lect. 6, "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth," (1907) * ^ Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol.6, "Pragmatic Theory of Truth", pp. 427–28 (Macmillan, 1969) * ^ 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. * ^ H. O. Mounce (1997). _The two pragmatisms: from Peirce to Rorty_. Psychology
Press. ISBN 978-0-415-15283-9 . Retrieved 28 August 2011. * ^ _The Meaning of Truth_, Longmans, Green, Letters of William James, vol. I, p. 147 * ^ _A_ _B_ The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p. 149 * ^ The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p. 153 * ^ The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in _The Will to Believe_, Dover, 1956, p. 155 * ^ James, William (1985). _The Varieties of Religious Experience_. New York: Penguin Classics. p. 426. * ^ William James, "Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide" * ^ John Lachs and Robert Talisse (2007). _American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia_. p. 310. ISBN 0415939267 . * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Buss, David M. Evolutionary psychology: the new science of the mind. Pearson. 2008. Chapter 1, pp. 2–35. * ^ _A_ _B_ Ergas, Oren (2017). _Reconstructing 'education' through mindful attention_. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-58781-7 . * ^ Giuseppe Sergi , (1858) _L'origine dei fenomeni psichici e loro significazione biologica_, ISBN 1271529408 , Milano, Fratelli Dumolard * ^ Giuseppe Sergi , (1894) _Principi di Psicologie: Dolore e Piacere; Storia Naturale dei Sentimenti", ISBN 1147667462 , Milano, Fratelli Dumolard_ * ^ Joseph E. LeDoux , (1996) _The Emotional Brain: the Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life_, ISBN 0-684-83659-9 , p. 43. * ^ "What is an Emotion?" _Mind_, vol. 9, 1884, pp. 188–205 * ^ Grinin L. E. 2010. The Role of an Individual in History: A Reconsideration. Social Evolution Wertheimer, Michael; White, Charlotte. (2013). _Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology_. Psychology Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-8058-0620-2 * ^ Goodwin, C. James. (2015). _A History of Modern Psychology_. Wiley. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-118-83375-9 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-20. Retrieved 2013-12-03. * ^ _A_ _B_ Cooper, W. E. (1992). "William James's theory of the self". _Monist_ 75(4), 504. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-06. Retrieved 2013-12-03. * ^ "Introduction to William James". _www.uky.edu_. * ^ beil.com


* _Essays Philosophical and Psychological in Honor of William James, by his Colleagues at Columbia University_ (London, 1908) * James Sloan Allen, _ William James
William James
on Habit, Will, Truth, and the Meaning of Life_ (2014). Frederic C. Beil, Publisher, ISBN 978-1-929490-45-5 * Margo Bistis, "Remnant of the Future: William James' Automated Utopia", in Norman M. Klein and Margo Bistis, _The Imaginary 20th Century_ (Karlsruhe: ZKM, 2016). * Émile Boutroux , _William James_ (New York, 1912) * Werner Bloch, _Der Pragmatismus von James und Schiller nebst Exkursen über Weltanschauung und über die Hypothese_ (Leipzig, 1913) * K. A. Busch, _ William James
William James
als Religionsphilosoph_ (Göttingen, 1911) * Jacques Barzun . _A Stroll with William James_ (1983). Harper and Row: ISBN 0-226-03869-6 * Deborah Blum . _ Ghost
Hunters: William James
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 978-0-8014-8642-5 * Théodore Flournoy , _La Philosophie de William James_ (Saint-Blaise, 1911) * Sergio Franzese, _The Ethics of Energy. William James's Moral Philosophy in Focus_, Ontos Verlag, 2008 * Sergio Franzese & Felicitas Krämer (eds.), _Fringes of Religious Experience. Cross-perspectives on William James\'s Varieties of Religious Experience_, Frankfurt / Lancaster, ontos verlag, Process Thought XII, 2007 * Peter Hare, Michel Weber , James K. Swindler, Oana-Maria Pastae, Cerasel Cuteanu (eds.), _International Perspectives on Pragmatism_, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009 * James Huneker , "A Philosophy for Philistines" in his _The Pathos of Distance_ (New York, 1913) * Henry James
Henry James
's _A Small Boy and Others_ (1913) and _Notes of a Son and Brother_ (1914) * Amy Kittelstrom, _The Religion
of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition._ New York: Penguin, 2015. * H. V. Knox, _Philosophy of William James_ (London, 1914) * R, W. B. Lewis _The Jameses: A Family Narrative_ (1991) Farrar, Straus includes 230 pages of notes. * Giuseppe Sergi L'origine dei fenomeni psichici e loro significazione biologica, Milano, Fratelli Dumolard, 1885. * Giuseppe Sergi Principi di Psicologie: Dolore e Piacere; Storia Naturale dei Sentimenti, Milano, Fratelli Dumolard, 1894. * James Pawelski. _The Dynamic Individualism of William James_ (2007). SUNY press, ISBN 0-7914-7239-6 . * R. B. Perry , _Present Philosophical Tendencies_ (New York, 1912) * 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 978-0-674-05561-2 * Jane Roberts . _The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The View of William James_ (1978. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-018515-9 .) * Josiah Royce , _ William James
William James
and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Life_ (New York, 1911) * J. Michael Tilley, "William James: Living Forward and the Development of Radical Empiricism," In _Kierkegaard's Influence on Philosophy: Anglophone Philosophy,_ edited by Jon Stewart, 2012, Ashgate Publishing, 87-98. * Linda Simon. _Genuine Reality: A Life of William James_ (1998). Harcourt Brace & Company, ISBN 0-226-75859-1 * Michel Weber . _Whitehead’s Pancreativism. Jamesian Applications_. Ontos Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-386838-103-0 * Michel Weber, "On Religiousness and Religion. Huxley’s Reading of Whitehead’s Religion
in the Making in the Light of James’ Varieties of Religious Experience", Jerome Meckier and Bernfried Nugel (eds.), _Aldous Huxley Annual. A Journal of Twentieth-Century Thought and Beyond_, Volume 5, Münster, LIT Verlag, March 2005, pp. 117–32. * Michel Weber, "James’s Mystical Body in the Light of the Transmarginal Field of Consciousness", in Sergio Franzese padding:0.75em; background:#f9f9f9;"> Find more aboutWILLIAM JAMESat Wikipedia's sister projects

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* Political science of religion * Faith
and rationality * _more... _



* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 56625773 * LCCN : n78095539 * ISNI : 0000 0001 2134 0790 * GND : 118556851 * SELIBR : 191438 * SUDOC : 028526732 * BNF : cb12034524d (data) * BIBSYS : 90069936 * ULAN : 500252086 * MGP : 29244 * NLA : 35242044 * NDL : 00444510 * NKC : jn20000603186 * BNE : XX889868 * IATH : w6s46skr

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