William James Essay

1037 words - 5 pages

There are numerous psychologists that have made huge impacts and stand out in the world we live in. Some of these people include Skinner, Maslow, and Freud, people that everyone knows. However, a person who stands out in American psychology is William James. Even though his name is not known to everyone, he had many large contributions in psychology. He wrote two books, contributed to the James-Lange Theory of Emotion, impacted pragmatism, and functionalism. When he was just eight years old, he was better in mathematics than his “genius” father was. William James is so interesting to me because in the beginning, he did not like psychology at all, but today he is known for all of his works.

William James was born on January 11, 1842 in New York City. He was brought into a wealthy family where education was very important. His father, Henry, was very interested in philosophy and theology and he wanted his children to have a rich education. William James had a brother named Henry also who went on to become one of the most acclaimed American novelists. He also had a sister Alice who became known because of the diary she kept. James went to Europe often and attended the very best schools, absorbed in culture and art. He showed in interest in becoming a

painter but his dad wanted him to study science or philosophy. However, James was steady about wanting to become a painter so Henry allowed him to. After studying painting with William Morris Hunt for about a year, James realized he needed to support himself and switched to Harvard Medical School. James was unhappy with the medicine world and went on an expedition with Louis Agassiz, but he did not enjoy it. He said, “I was, body and soul, in a more indescribably hopeless, homeless and friendless state than I ever wanted to be in again”. William James suffered from heath problems and severe depression. He and his brother were not able to be enlisted in the American Civil War because of these problems. So, James spent the next two years in France and Germany. Suring this period of time, he studied with Hermann con Helmholtz and became interested in psychology. Later, the president of Harvard offered James a job being an instructor. He accepted the job and taught psychology at Harvard for the next 35 years.

William James went on to become one of the most important figures in society. He founded the first experimental psychology lab in the United States. He also wrote a book, The Principles of Psychology in 1890. This book was read all around but many people were critical about his tone. Wilhelm Wundt, a psychologist, said “it is beautiful but it is not psychology”. So, two years later, James wrote another book which was a shorter version of the work called Psychology: The Briefer Course. He wrote about pragmatism. Pragmatism is the truth of an idea that can never be proven. James said that we focus on “cash value” or the usefulness of an idea. He also said that “truths emerge from facts…but… the...

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