Monday, December 1, 2014
William James - The Basic Intro - Part 1 of 3
William James, born in 1842 in New York City, was a famous American philosopher and the "Father of American psychology". At a young age, James experienced many physical and psychological issues, which drove him to study medicine at Harvard. In his twenties, however, he moved away from medicine and took up an interest in psychology and philosophy.
James was a pragmatist; he believed that truth could be determined through the practical application of ideas and beliefs. If an idea or belief were true, he believed, then it would be beneficial to our lives. As an example, he believed that one's religion could be proven based upon what role it plays in the person's life.
On the topic of free will, James felt that his belief in free will was an act of free will in itself. He also believed that decision making could be divided into two parts: chance and choice. A realm of possibilities unaffected by one's free will (chance) would result in a personal decision entirely dependent on one's free will (choice).
James believed that associationism, or the idea that our thoughts are a result of our brains' associations between physical objects, was true in part, but overall too simplistic. He felt that there must be something more, that it must be our souls that bind all of the associations we make together. Only the most logical components of associationism and spiritualism, in his opinion, could provide truth in the matter of how we generate ideas and make decisions.
Alongside Carl Lange, James developed a theory of emotions. This theory, known as the James-Lange theory, proposes that emotion is a direct result of the body and brain reacting first physiologically and then psychologically to external stimuli. James suggested that we do not run from a bear because we are afraid, but rather are afraid because we are running from the bear.
Here is a link to James' most influential work, The Principals of Psychology. For those who are interested in taking psychology, this will come up often in your classes and is worth taking a glance at.