89 Facts About William James


William James was an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States.


William James trained as a physician and taught anatomy at Harvard, but never practiced medicine.


William James wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism.


William James was born at the Astor House in New York City on January 11,1842.


William James received an eclectic trans-Atlantic education, developing fluency in both German and French.


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.


William James then switched in 1861 to scientific studies at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard College.


William James 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.


William James took up medical studies at Harvard Medical School in 1864.


William James's studies were interrupted due to illness in April 1867.


William James traveled to Germany in search of a cure and remained there until November 1868; at that time he was 26 years old.


William James finally earned his MD degree in June 1869 but he never practiced medicine.


William James spent almost all of his academic career at Harvard.


William James 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.


William 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.


William James joined the Anti-Imperialist League in 1898, in opposition to the United States annexation of the Philippines.


William James's students enjoyed his brilliance and his manner of teaching was free of personal arrogance.


William James was increasingly afflicted with cardiac pain during his last years.


William James sailed to Europe in the spring of 1910 to take experimental treatments which proved unsuccessful, and returned home on August 18.


William James's heart failed on August 26,1910, at his home in Chocorua, New Hampshire.


William James was buried in the family plot in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


William James was one of the strongest proponents of the school of functionalism in psychology and of pragmatism in philosophy.


William James was a founder of the American Society for Psychical Research, as well as a champion of alternative approaches to healing.


William James challenged his professional colleagues not to let a narrow mindset prevent an honest appraisal of those beliefs.


William James was the son of Henry James of Albany, and Mary Robertson Walsh.


William James had four siblings: Henry, Garth Wilkinson, Robertson, and Alice.


William James became engaged to Alice Howe Gibbens on May 10,1878; they were married on July 10.


All of William James's ancestors were Protestant, well educated, and of character.


William James came to America from Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, Ireland in 1789 when he was 18 years old.


William James went from being a poor Irish immigrant to one of the richest men in New York.


William James gained widespread recognition with his monumental The Principles of Psychology, totaling twelve hundred pages in two volumes, which took twelve years to complete.


Ever the empiricist, William James believes we are better off evaluating the fruitfulness of ideas by testing them in the common ground of lived experience.


William James was remembered as one of America's representative thinkers, psychologist, and philosopher.


William James was one of the most influential writers on religion, psychical research, and self-help.


William James was told to have a few disciples that followed his writing since they were inspired and enriched by his research.


William James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer.


William James's pragmatic theory of truth was a synthesis of correspondence theory of truth and coherence theory of truth, with an added dimension.


William 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 William 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.


In "What Pragmatism Means", William James writes that the central point of his own doctrine of truth is, in brief:.


Richard Rorty made the contested claim that William James did not mean to give a theory of truth with this statement and that we should not regard it as such.


William James solves the issue by making a distinction between practical meaning.


William James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth.


William James would seek the meaning of "true" by examining how the idea functioned in our lives.


William James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their "cash value" was, and what consequences they led to.


William James will accept a view if its conception of truth is analyzed and justified through interpretation, pragmatically.


The closest William James is able to get in explaining this idea is by telling his audience to weigh the difference it would "practically make to anyone" if one opinion over the other were true, and although he attempts to clarify it, he never specifies nor establishes the method in which one would weigh the difference between one opinion over the other.


William James firstly defines our basic ability to choose as free will.


William James says that in the sequence of the model, chance comes before choice.


When it comes to choice, William James says we make a choice based on different experiences.


However, in his development of the design, William James struggled with being able to prove that free will is actually free or predetermined.


In "The Will to Believe", William James simply asserted that his will was free.


William James was encouraged to do this by reading Charles Renouvier, whose work convinced James to convert from monism to pluralism.


In 1884, William 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".


William James described chance as neither hard nor soft determinism, but "indeterminism":.


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


William James investigated mystical experiences throughout his life, leading him to experiment with chloral hydrate, amyl nitrite, nitrous oxide, and peyote.


William James claimed that it was only when he was under the influence of nitrous oxide that he was able to understand Hegel.


William James 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.


William James provided a description of the mystical experience, in his famous collection of lectures published in 1902 as The Varieties of Religious Experience.


William James's preference was to focus on human experience, leading to his research of the subconscious.


At the core of William James's theory of psychology, as defined in The Principles of Psychology, was a system of "instincts".


William James wrote that humans had many instincts, even more than other animals.


In William 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.


William James conceived of an emotion in terms of a sequence of events that starts with the occurrence of an arousing stimulus ; and ends with a passionate feeling, a conscious emotional experience.


For example, when we see William James's bear, we run away.


In 1880, William James waded into this controversy with "Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment", an essay published in the Atlantic Monthly.


William James studied closely the schools of thought known as associationism and spiritualism.


William James 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.


William James had a strong opinion about these schools of thought.


William James 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.


William 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.


William James was influenced by Emanuel Swedenborg, who first introduced him to this idea.


William 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.


William James combined the views of spiritualism and associationism to create his own way of thinking.


William James discussed tender-minded thinkers as religious, optimistic, dogmatic, and monistic.


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


In 1885, the year after the death of his young son, William James had his first sitting with Piper at the suggestion of his mother-in-law.


William James was convinced that Piper knew things she could only have discovered by supernatural means.


William James was convinced that the "future will corroborate" the existence of telepathy.


Cattell in a letter to William James wrote that the "Society for Psychical Research is doing much to injure psychology".


William James linked this part of the self to the soul of a person, or what is thought of as the mind.


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


Second to the body, William James felt a person's clothes were important to the material self.


William James 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.


William James felt that if one lost a family member, a part of who they are was lost.


William James believed that people had as many social selves as they did social situations they participated in.


For William 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.


William James believed that the pure ego was similar to what we think of as the soul, or the mind.