Over the past several years, in conversations with colleagues and students, and in the more rigorous atmosphere of various graduate seminars, it has become clear to us that William James Principles of Psychology still offers fresh insights (and delights) to the psychologist who takes the trouble to read it. We, along with several of our contributors, are not the first to note that in many instances our discipline has failed to advance very far beyond the intellectual legacy that James has left for us. It is this context which supplied the impetus for our undertaking the editorial project which has resulted in this volume commemorating the 100th year since the original publication of the Principles--a century in which it has never been out of print.
The specific idea for this book began in the Fall of 1987, a time when a few voices began to be heard concerning the advent of 1990, and the significance of the centennial of the publication of James's magnum opus. It was the first editorial undertaking of this kind for each of us and we learned a lot along the way, including an occasional appreciation of Sartre's observation that "hell is other people"--an opinion probably shared by one or two of our authors. Through it all it has been an interesting experience and, even through the boring bits, a true labor of love.
Our overall plan was to ask our contributors to provide a chapter that would examine some portion of the Principles from the perspective of their own current interests and expertise. Other than attempting to select authors with a range of substantive backgrounds--along with a common interest in James, of course--our contributors were given a free hand in their choice of subject matter and the way in which they chose to cover it. The result is a volume that samples a good deal of the diversity of James's thought, without attempting (or pretending) to cover everything. That is a task beyond