William James Remembered

William James Remembered

William James Remembered

William James Remembered

Synopsis

William James was one of the most remarkable intellectuals of his day-an influential philosopher and psychologist who was also a charismatic teacher, groundbreaking scholar, and widely admired public figure. William James Remembered brings together the reminiscences of James by family members, friends, and colleagues. The result is a many-sided portrait of a man who, besides playing a crucial role in American life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, remains an animating spirit in our own time.

Excerpt

In his own time, William James was the foremost philosopher and psychologist in America. His Principles of Psychology, Varieties of Religious Experience, and Pragmatism established him as an innovator who was creating, almost single-handedly, an original American philosophy for a democratic and culturally diverse community. James's articles in popular journals and his frequent lectures brought his ideas, rendered easily intelligible through lively anecdotes and wit, to a wide audience of ordinary men and women throughout America and Europe.

But it is not only his ideas that attract our attention and attracted the interest of his contemporaries. James energized the men and women who knew him. His contemporaries responded not only to what he said and wrote but to his charm and warmth. 'He was in a marked degree unpretending, unconventional, human and direct,' wrote Dickinson Miller, one of James's students at Harvard. At just over five foot eight inches, trim and spry, with lively blue eyes, James, even in old age, seemed spirited and vigorous. Wearing his favorite Norfolk jacket, red and black checked trousers, and one or another of his vibrantly colored ties, there was, his dour colleagues thought, an air of Bohemia about him.

This anthology brings together twenty-five memoirs by individuals who knew James in a variety of contexts: as a father, brother, friend, colleague, mentor. The writers testify to James's kindness and understanding, to his sprightly irreverence, to his unpretentious friendliness. 'Properly speaking,' James wrote in The Principles of Psychology, 'a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind.' William James Remembered reveals many of James's social selves. But the writers here note with frequency certain recurring traits: James's . . .

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