William James is considered one of the founders of psychology. He had a varied career as a philosopher and psychologist and made significant contributions to both fields. James was especially interested in the nature of consciousness and how it shapes our experience of the world. In this William James biography, we’ll take a closer look at his life and work, and explore some of his most important contributions to psychology.
William James was born on January 11, 1842, in New York City. His most influential work are Principles of Psychology which is one of the founding texts for scientific psychology and Varieties of Religious Experience which explores spiritual experience across cultures.
William James was a philosopher and psychologist who wrote about the relationship between psychology and religion. He believed that science could not answer all questions, which is why he studied philosophy.
His most famous work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, has been published in various editions since 1902. It is considered to be one of the great books on religion ever written.
William James’ Biography
William James was born on January 11, 1842, in New York City. He died at age 67 on August 26, 1910, because of a heart attack. His most widely known for his work with psychology and philosophy of mind. His philosophies are what led to the creation of humanistic psychology which focuses on a person’s will to better themselves rather than their mental illness or brain chemistry that causes them to have certain behaviors.
One point he makes is “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” which means people want to be valued by other people and they also value themselves enough so that they can take care of themselves too. He wrote several books on philosophy which became classics in America during the time period like “The Varieties of Religious Experience” which is about conversion experiences in religion and “Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.”
William James’ Contributions to Psychology
William James contributed a lot to psychology, but his most important contribution was probably the theory of emotions also known as the James-Lange Theory.
The James-Lange theory is a theory that the experience of emotions is caused by the autonomic nervous system.
The theory was first proposed in the 1920s by psychologist William James and physiologist Carl Lange. The theory suggests that when we experience an emotion, such as fear, the autonomic nervous system will activate first. This activation will then cause certain changes in bodily functions, such as an increased heart rate and a release of adrenaline. These changes will then cause us to experience the emotion that we are feeling. For example, if we see a scary movie, our heart rate might increase because of the autonomic nervous system’s response, and this might make us feel afraid or scared.
Books by William James
Notable Books by William James;
- The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols. (1890), Dover Publications 1950
- Psychology (Briefer Course) (1892), University of Notre Dame Press 1985, Dover Publications 2001
- Is Life Worth Living? (1895), the seminal lecture delivered at Harvard on April 15, 1895
- 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
- Talks to Teachers on Psychology: and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals (1899), Dover Publications 2001, IndyPublish.com 2005
- The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902)
- Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907), Hackett Publishing 1981, Dover 1995
- A Pluralistic Universe (1909), Hibbert Lectures, University of Nebraska Press 1996
- The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to “Pragmatism” (1909), Prometheus Books, 1997
- Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (1911), University of Nebraska Press 1996
- Memories and Studies (1911), Reprint Services Corp: 1992
- Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912), Dover Publications 2003
- Letters of William James, 2 vols. (1920)
- Collected Essays and Reviews (1920)
- William James on Psychical Research (1960)
- The Correspondence of William James, 12 vols. (1992–2004) University of Virginia Press
- The Dilemma of Determinism
- William James on Habit, Will, Truth, and the Meaning of Life, James Sloan Allen, ed. Frederic C. Beil
Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by Lucas Berg