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William James

William James became the most famous and recognized psychologist in America. His books were both uncomplicated and stimulator to thoughts. He is famously known for his popular writing of ‘The Principles of Psychology’ and ‘Pragmatism’.

Background

  • was born in the city of New York on 11th of January 1842. He was the eldest born in the family of intellectuals and had four siblings. His father Henry James Sr. was a philosopher and his mother was Mary Walsh James. His younger brother Henry James became a great author while his other two brothers Wilky and Bob joined the Union Army. They were a wealthy family and spent time between America and Europe.

  • Education

    • All the children of the James family were taught in New York and also in Europe. In the initial days, James wanted to be an artist. He also took training in Painting with William M Hunt when the family stayed at Rhode Island in the year 1858.

      In the year 1861, James joined Lawrence Scientific School to study physiology and chemistry. Three years later in the year 1864, he joined Harvard Medical School. The year 1865 was a break year when he joined Louis Agassiz in his expedition to the Amazon in Brazil. In the year 1867, James spent some time in Germany to recover from depression, back pains, and other health issues.

      James got his medical degree in the year 1869 but he decided not to practice in the field and joined Harvard University as a lecturer in Physiology.

    Career

    • James joined Harvard University as a lecturer of Physiology in the year 1872 and eventually started teaching Psychology as well. During this time, he constantly suffered from delicate health issues. With no constant pursuit of a stable career, James often found self-confused and distressed. It is mentioned that during the year 1870, he even considered suicide. During his teaching of Psychology, he even established the first even Psychology laboratory in America.

      It was during this time that he met a school teacher named Alice Howe Gibbens whom he married in the year 1878. Both of them had five children together named Henry, William, Herman, Margaret Mary and Alexander. The couple was distraught when they lost their son Herman at the age of two due to issues from coughing. They lived in Cambridge and had a good married life. Alice was able to control and maintain James’ health issues well.

      It was in the year 1880 that James was appointed to write a book on Psychology. James initiated on the work and took ten years complete with the book titled ‘The Principles of Psychology’ which got published in the year 1890. The book had a good response and also influenced many great thinkers including John Dewey and Bertrand Russell. With the passing of years, James got more and more interested in the study of Psychology. He concentrated on Psychology completely and became the most famous psychologist in America. In the year 1899, he suffered from breakdown. During this time, he experienced the great deal of religious occurrences which he mentioned in his book ‘The Varieties of Religious Experiences’ which was published in the year 1902.

      He traveled to California to give lectures Psychology. The following book ‘Pragmatism’ was published in the year 1907. The same year he resigned from his position from the Harvard University. He feared his death due to the constant health issues he was facing which included shortness of breath, mood swings, and obsessions.

      Two years late in 1909, James published ‘Pluralistic Universe’ which was one of his most prominent works. The next year, he went to his summer home in Chocorua, New Hampshire with deteriorating health issues. It had become so bad that it had become hard for him to carry out ordinary daily activities. While he was working on his book ‘Some Problem of Psychology’, James had a heart attack and succumbed to death on 16th of August, 1910.

      His son Henry published ‘Memoirs and Studies’ in the year 1911. Following year, he published his father’s ‘Essays in Radical Empiricism’. In the year 1920, Henry published two volumes of ‘Collected Essays and Reviews and The Letters of ’. All of James’ work were successful and appreciated for his style of writing which was easy to understand and were uncomplicated.

    Major achievements

    • was reputed as a great psychological thinker in America for his thoughts he put up through his books. He has written some of the best books that kindled thoughts even in great thinkers. He co-founded the first American Psychological laboratory named American Society for Psychical Research. His various books on Psychology, philosophy and religion include ‘The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy’, ‘The Principles of Psychology’, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ and ‘Pragmatism‘.

    Works

    • The Principles of Psychology
      1890
    • The Principles of Psychology is a monumental text in the history of psychology, written by William James and published in 1890.

    Politics

    William was one of the most popular and prominent Psychologists in America. He was not inclined to politics.

    Religion

    has been one of the most prominent American Philosopher of religion. This can be understood from the books that he wrote including ‘Will to Believe’ and ‘The Varieties of Religious Experiences’ which showcases his ideas in the field. He has used both science and logic to understand the existence of God.

    Denomination: Christian

    Views

    went through several downfalls in his life with his delicate health until he met up with the study of Psychology which made him thinking and express his deep emotions in Psychology through his books that got published in the following years. From the one who suffered from depression, James’ writing stimulated thoughts in several great thinkers. In one of his books, he has mentioned that a person can change his experiences through his faith and the major part of the attitude of a human is build based on his faith in religion. His books were uncomplicated and straightforward which made them appreciated by all.

    He was considered to be the best Psychologist in America. He mentions that rather than staying away from the conflicts one should face them and feel uncomfortable which will become another experience of life that will build once attitude. James was a great thinker which he expressed through his book. He was a good family man and was dedicated to writing more about human behavior until his death due to a heart attack in the year 1910.

    Quotations: ‘Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.’

    ‘Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is an attitude. ‘

    ‘No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one's sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one's character may remain entirely unaffected for the better. ‘

    ‘The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. ‘

    Personality

    came from a well-to-do household. Initially, he wanted to become an artist but left it soon to study medicine. Even after the completion of his medicine degree, he did not want to practice it and was looking for a right career path. During all these changing decisions and the instability of life, his family completely supported him. He explored his interest in Psychology while teaching in Harvard and majorly when he was allotted to write a book on it which took him ten years to complete. The constant touch with the subject got him closer to it and he dedicated rest of him life to explore and writing about it.

    While he was enjoying the fame of being the most established philosopher in America, on the personal side, James suffered from severe bad health which took him very badly. Constant mood swings, back pains, depression had become a part of life which he couldn’t ignore.

    He mentions that rather than staying away from the conflicts one should face them and feel uncomfortable which will become another experience of life that will build once attitude. James was a great thinker which he expressed through his book. While he was working on his book ‘Some Problem of Psychology’, James had a heart attack and succumbed to death on 16th of August, 1910.

    Physical Characteristics: suffered from bad health throughout his life. He had to take breaks from completing his medical course to recover from the health issues that he was facing which included back pains. He was tortured by obsession, mood swings and depression throughout his life. He is also mentioned to have several religious experiences during this time which he has mentioned in his book. At the later stage of life, his deteriorating health became such a big concern that he had to move to his summer home when he couldn’t even carry out usual daily activities. The same year in 1910, he suffered from heart attack and succumbed to death.

    Interests

    Psychology

    Connections

    • It was during James’ initial teaching years at Harvard that he met a school teacher named Alice Howe Gibbens. Both of them got married in the year 1878 and had five children together named Henry, William, Herman, Margaret Mary and Alexander.

      The couple was distraught when they lost their son Herman at the age of two due to issues from coughing. They lived in Cambridge and had a good married life. Alice was able to control and maintain James’ health issues well. After the death of James, his son Henry published ‘Memoirs and Studies’ in the year 1911. Following year, he published his father’s ‘Essays in Radical Empiricism’. In the year 1920, Henry published two volumes of ‘Collected Essays and Reviews and The Letters of William James’.

      Brother- Henry James – Author, Novelist
    • father: Review Henry J. James
    • mother: Mary R. (Walsh) James
    • spouse: Alice H. Gibbens

    References

    William James
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    Died August 26, 1910
    (aged 68)
    Nationality
    • 1861
      Lawrence Scientific School
    • 1864 - 1869
      Harvard Medical School
    • 1872 - 1907
      Lecturer of Physiology and Psychology, Harvard University

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    Ritesh Srivastava

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      • Author: Principles of Psychology (2 vols.), 1890. Psychology—Briefer Course, 1892. The Will to Believe, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, 1897. Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Life’s Ideals, 1898. Human Immortality—Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine, 1899. The Varieties of Religious Experiences, 1902. Pragmatism—A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, 1907. A Pluralistic Universe, 1908. The Meaning of Truth, 1909.
      • Author: Principles of Psychology (2 vols.), 1890. Psychology—Briefer Course, 1892. The Will to Believe, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, 1897.Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Life’s Ideals, 1898. Human Immortality—Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine, 1899. The Varieties of Religious Experiences, 1902.Pragmatism—A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, 1907. A Pluralistic Universe, 1908. The Meaning of Truth, 1909.
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      • Harvard Medical School
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      • Lawrence Scientific School
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      • Harvard University
    • Major Achievements
      • William James was reputed as a great psychological thinker in America for his thoughts he put up through his books. He has written some of the best books that kindled thoughts even in great thinkers. He co-founded the first American Psychological laboratory named American Society for Psychical Research. His various books on Psychology, philosophy and religion include ‘The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy’, ‘The Principles of Psychology’, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ and ‘Pragmatism‘.
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    • Major Achievements
      • William James was reputed as a great psychological thinker in America for his thoughts he put up through his books. He has written some of the best books that kindled thoughts even in great thinkers. He co-founded the first American Psychological laboratory named American Society for Psychical Research. His various books on Psychology, philosophy and religion include ‘The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy’, ‘The Principles of Psychology’, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ and ‘Pragmatism‘.
      • was reputed as a great psychological thinker in America for his thoughts he put up through his books. He has written some of the best books that kindled thoughts even in great thinkers. He co-founded the first American Psychological laboratory named American Society for Psychical Research. His various books on Psychology, philosophy and religion include ‘The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy’, ‘The Principles of Psychology’, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ and ‘Pragmatism‘.
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      • book: The Varieties of Religious Experience
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      • book: The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, and Human Immortality
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      • book: Pragmatism
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      • book: The Principles of Psychology
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      • book: William James : Writings 1902-1910 : The Varieties of Religious Experience / Pragmatism / A Pluralistic Universe / The Meaning of Truth / Some Problems of Philosophy / Essays (Library of America) by William James
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      • book: Essays in Radical Empiricism by William James, Timeless Books. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
    • Works
      • Author: Principles of Psychology (2 vols.), 1890. Psychology—Briefer Course, 1892. The Will to Believe, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, 1897.Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Life’s Ideals, 1898. Human Immortality—Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine, 1899. The Varieties of Religious Experiences, 1902.Pragmatism—A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, 1907. A Pluralistic Universe, 1908. The Meaning of Truth, 1909.
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