Influential Past Teachers

Place of Birth 
New York City

Foundation of Teaching
Theory of Emotion, Mind and Body Connection, Psychology 

Example of Teaching
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.”


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William James

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who had trained as a physician. He was the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States and he was instrumental in establishing Harvard’s psychology department, which at its inception was tied to the department of philosophy.

William James was born in New York City and 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. Initially trained in painting, James abandoned the arts and enrolled in Harvard in 1861 to study chemistry and anatomy. During an extended stay in Germany, after graduating, James developed an interest in studying the mind as well as the body.

William conducted laboratory research on sensation and perception and he developed his belief in the connection between mind and body into what is known as the James-Lange Theory of emotion. The theory states that human experience of emotion arises from physiological changes in response to external events. Inspired by evolutionary theory, James’s theoretical perspective on psychology came to be known as functionalism, which sought causal relationships between internal states and external behaviors.

In 1890 James published a highly influential, two-volume synthesis and summary of psychology, Principles of Psychology. The books were widely read in North America and Europe, gaining attention and praise from Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in Vienna. James then moved away from experimental psychology to produce more philosophical works (he is credited as one of the founders of the school of American Pragmatism), although he continued to teach psychology until he retired from Harvard in 1907.



    Articles and Posts

  • philosopher william james
    views: 2492
    Does 'Consciousness' Exist?

    William James (1904) ‘Thoughts’ and ‘things’ are names for two sorts of object, which common sense will always find contrasted and will always practically oppose to each other. Philosophy, reflecting on the contrast, has varied in the past in her explanations [...]

  • william james philosopher
    views: 2623
    An Interview with William James

    Taking into account the specific cultural environments of the Spiritist Movement in the USA and Brazil, we present below 20 questions that were asked Dr. William James, the eminent American physician, psychologist and philosopher whom departed the material plane in [...]

  • views: 2568
    The Essence of Humanism

    by William James (1842-1910) Humanism is a ferment that has “come to stay.” It is not a single hypothesis of theorem, and it dwells on no new facts. It is rather a slow shifting in the philosophic perspective, making things appear as [...]

  • philosopher william james
    views: 3132
    William James on Habit

    by Maria Popova: References philosopher William James writings on Habit from 1887. “We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar.”  “We are [...]

  • William James and Josiah Royce
    views: 2325
    The Stream of Consciousness

    By William James (1892) The order of our study must be analytic. We are now prepared to begin the introspective study of the adult consciousness itself. Most books adopt the so-called synthetic method. Starting with ‘simple ideas of sensation,’ and regarding these [...]

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  1. “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
  2. “If there is aught of good in the style, it is the result of ceaseless toil in rewriting. Everything comes out wrong with me at first; but when once objectified I can torture and poke and scrape and pat it till it offends me no more.”
  3. “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
  4. “All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.”
  5. “Be willing to have it so. Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”
  6. “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”
  7. “Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.”

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