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63 Works of William James

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Stanford’s Ideal Destiny[1] Foreigners, commenting on our civilization, have with great unanimity remarked the privileged position that institutions of learning occupy in America as receivers of benefactions. Our typical men of wealth, if they do not found a college, will at least single out some college or university on which to lavish legacies or gifts. […]

The True Harvard[1] When a man gets a decoration from a foreign institution, he may take it as an honor. Coming as mine has come to-day, I prefer to take it for that far more valuable thing, a token of personal good will from friends. Recognizing the good will and the friendliness, I am going […]

A PLURALISTIC MYSTIC[1] Not for the ignoble vulgar do I write this article, but only for those dialectic-mystic souls who have an irresistible taste, acquired or native, for higher flights of metaphysics. I have always held the opinion that one of the first duties of a good reader is to summon other readers to the […]

ON SOME MENTAL EFFECTS OF THE EARTHQUAKE[1] When I departed from Harvard for Stanford University last December, almost the last good-by I got was that of my old Californian friend B: “I hope they’ll give you a touch of earthquake while you ‘re there, so that you may also become acquainted with that Californian institution.” […]

REMARKS AT THE PEACE BANQUET[1] I am only a philosopher, and there is only one thing that a philosopher can be relied on to do, and that is, to contradict other philosophers. In ancient times philosophers defined man as the rational animal; and philosophers since then have always found much more to say about the […]

THE MORAL EQUIVALENT OF WAR[1] The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals from the ups […]

THE ENERGIES OF MEN[1] Everyone knows what it is to start a piece of work, either intellectual or muscular, feeling stale–or oold, as an Adirondack guide once put it to me. And everybody knows what it is to “warm up” to his job. The process of warming up gets particularly striking in the phenomenon known […]

THE PH.D. OCTOPUS[1] Some years ago we had at our Harvard Graduate School a very brilliant student of Philosophy, who, after leaving us and supporting himself by literary labor for three years, received an appointment to teach English Literature at a sister-institution of learning. The governors of this institution, however, had no sooner communicated the […]

THE SOCIAL VALUE OF THE COLLEGE-BRED[1] Of what use is a college training? We who have had it seldom hear the question raised; we might be a little nonplussed to answer it offhand. A certain amount of meditation has brought me to this as the pithiest reply which I myself can give: The best claim […]

HERBERT SPENCER’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY[1] “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” If the greatest of all his wonders be the human individual, the richness with which the specimens thereof are diversified, the limitless variety of outline, from gothic to classic or flowing arabesque, the contradictory nature of the filling, composed of little and […]

THOMAS DAVIDSON: A KNIGHT-ERRANT OF THE INTELLECTUAL LIFE.[1] I wish to pay my tribute to the memory of a Scottish-American friend of mine who died five years ago, a man of a character extraordinarily and intensely human, in spite of the fact that he was classed by obituary articles in England among the twelve most […]

Francis Boott

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FRANCIS BOOTT[1] How often does it happen here in New England that we come away from a funeral with a feeling that the service has been insufficient. If it be purely ritual, the individuality of the departed friend seems to play too small a part in it. If the minister conducts it in his own […]

FINAL IMPRESSIONS OF A PSYCHICAL RESEARCHER[1] The late Professor Henry Sidgwick was celebrated for the rare mixture of ardor and critical judgment which his character exhibited. The liberal heart which he possessed had to work with an intellect which acted destructively on almost every particular object of belief that was offered to its acceptance. A […]

FREDERIC MYERS’ SERVICES TO PSYCHOLOGY[1] On this memorial occasion it is from English hearts and tongues belonging, as I never had the privilege of belonging, to the immediate environment of our lamented President, that discourse of him as a man and as a friend must come. It is for those who participated in the endless […]

When Clerk Maxwell was a child it is written that he had a mania for having everything explained to him, and that when people put him off with vague verbal accounts of any phenomenon he would interrupt them impatiently by saying, “Yes; but I want you to tell me the PARTICULAR GO of it!” Had […]

In the last lecture we turned ourselves from the usual way of talking of the universe’s oneness as a principle, sublime in all its blankness, towards a study of the special kinds of union which the universe enfolds. We found many of these to coexist with kinds of separation equally real. “How far am I […]

Louis Agassiz

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LOUIS AGASSIZ[1] It would be unnatural to have such an assemblage as this meet in the Museum and Faculty Room of this University and yet have no public word spoken in honor of a name which must be silently present to the minds of all our visitors. At some near future day, it is to […]

At the close of the last lecture I reminded you of the first one, in which I had opposed tough-mindedness to tender-mindedness and recommended pragmatism as their mediator. Tough-mindedness positively rejects tender-mindedness’s hypothesis of an eternal perfect edition of the universe coexisting with our finite experience. On pragmatic principles we cannot reject any hypothesis if […]

What hardens the heart of everyone I approach with the view of truth sketched in my last lecture is that typical idol of the tribe, the notion of THE Truth, conceived as the one answer, determinate and complete, to the one fixed enigma which the world is believed to propound. For popular tradition, it is […]

ADDRESS AT THE EMERSON CENTENARY IN CONCORD[1] The pathos of death is this, that when the days of one’s life are ended, those days that were so crowded with business and felt so heavy in their passing, what remains of one in memory should usually be so slight a thing. The phantom of an attitude, […]

A Dialogue

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After correcting the proofs of all that precedes I imagine a residual state of mind on the part of my reader which may still keep him unconvinced, and which it may be my duty to try at least to dispel. I can perhaps be briefer if I put what I have to say in dialogue […]

I am now to make the pragmatic method more familiar by giving you some illustrations of its application to particular problems. I will begin with what is driest, and the first thing I shall take will be the problem of Substance. Everyone uses the old distinction between substance and attribute, enshrined as it is in […]

Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find everyone engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel–a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human […]

In the preface to that admirable collection of essays of his called ‘Heretics,’ Mr. Chesterton writes these words: “There are some people–and I am one of them–who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it […]

We saw in the last lecture that the pragmatic method, in its dealings with certain concepts, instead of ending with admiring contemplation, plunges forward into the river of experience with them and prolongs the perspective by their means. Design, free-will, the absolute mind, spirit instead of matter, have for their sole meaning a better promise […]

[Footnote: Remarks at the meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Cornell University, December, 1907.] My account of truth is realistic, and follows the epistemological dualism of common sense. Suppose I say to you ‘The thing exists’– is that true or not? How can you tell? Not till my statement has developed its meaning farther is […]

[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, etc., 1906.] Professor W. A. Brown, in the Journal for August 15, approves my pragmatism for allowing that a belief in the absolute may give holidays to the spirit, but takes me to task for the narrowness of this concession, and shows by striking examples how great a […]

[Footnote: Originally printed under the title of ‘Truth versus Truthfulness,’ in the Journal of Philosophy.] My account of truth is purely logical and relates to its definition only. I contend that you cannot tell what the WORD ‘true’ MEANS, as applied to a statement, without invoking the CONCEPT OF THE STATEMENTS WORKINGS. Assume, to fix […]

Abstract concepts, such as elasticity, voluminousness, disconnectedness, are salient aspects of our concrete experiences which we find it useful to single out. Useful, because we are then reminded of other things that offer those same aspects; and, if the aspects carry consequences in those other things, we can return to our first things, expecting those […]

[Footnote: Reprint from the Journal of Philosophy for December 3, 1908 (vol. v, p. 689), of a review of Le Pragmatisme et ses Diverses Formes Anglo-Americaines, by Marcel Hebert. (Paris: Librairie critique Emile Nourry. 1908. Pp. 105.)] Professor Marcel Hebert is a singularly erudite and liberal thinker (a seceder, I believe, from the Catholic priesthood) […]

[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, vol. ii. No. 5, March 2, 1905.] Humanism is a ferment that has ‘come to stay.’ It is not a single hypothesis or theorem, and it dwells on no new facts. It is rather a slow shifting in the philosophic perspective, making things appear […]

[Footnote: Extract from an article entitled ‘A World of Pure Experience,’ in the Journal of Philosophy, etc., September 29,1904.] Throughout the history of philosophy the subject and its object have been treated as absolutely discontinuous entities; and thereupon the presence of the latter to the former, or the ‘apprehension’ by the former of the latter, […]

Mr. Bertrand Russell’s article entitled ‘Transatlantic Truth,’ [Footnote: In the Albany Review for January, 1908.] has all the clearness, dialectic subtlety, and wit which one expects from his pen, but it entirely fails to hit the right point of view for apprehending our position. When, for instance, we say that a true proposition is one […]

[Footnote: Reprinted, with slightverbal revision, from Mind, vol. xiii, N. S., p. 457 (October,1904). A couple of interpolations from another article in Mind,‘Humanism and truth once more,’ in vol. xiv, have been made.] RECEIVING from the Editor of Mind an advance proof of Mr. Bradley’sarticle on ‘Truth and Practice,’ I understand this as a hint […]

[Footnote: Reprint from the Journal of Philosophy, July 18, 1907.] My failure in making converts to my conception of truth seems, if I may judge by what I hear in conversation, almost complete. An ordinary philosopher would feel disheartened, and a common choleric sinner would curse God and die, after such a reception. But instead […]

[Footnote: Reprint from the Philosophical Review, January, 1908 (vol. xvii, p. 1).] The account of truth given in my volume entitled Pragmatism, continues to meet with such persistent misunderstanding that I am tempted to make a final brief reply. My ideas may well deserve refutation, but they can get none till they are conceived of […]

I [Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, etc., August 15, 1907 (vol. iv, p. 464).] Professor J. B. Pratt’s paper in the Journal of Philosophy for June 6, 1907, is so brilliantly written that its misconception of the pragmatist position seems doubly to call for a reply. He asserts that, for a pragmatist, truth […]

[Footnote: Extracts from a presidential address before the American Psychological Association, published in the Psychological Review, vol. ii, p. 105 (1895).] THERE are two ways of knowing things, knowing them immediately or intuitively, and knowing them conceptually or representatively. Altho such things as the white paper before our eyes can be known intuitively, most of […]

[Footnote: Read before the Aristotelian Society, December 1, 1884, and first published in Mind, vol. x (1885).–This, and the following articles have received a very slight verbal revision, consisting mostly in the omission of redundancy.] The following inquiry is (to use a distinction familiar to readers of Mr. Shadworth Hodgson) not an inquiry into the […]

THE pivotal part of my book named Pragmatism is its account of the relation called ‘truth’ which may obtain between an idea (opinion, belief, statement, or what not) and its object. ‘Truth,’ I there say, ‘is a property of certain of our ideas. It means their agreement, as falsity means their disagreement, with reality. Pragmatists […]

No seeker of truth can fail to rejoice at the terre-a-terre sort of discussion of the issues between Empiricism and Transcendentalism (or, as the champions of the latter would probably prefer to say, between Irrationalism and Rationalism) that seems to have begun in Mind.[1] It would seem as if, over concrete examples like Mr. J. […]

HUMANISM AND TRUTH ONCE MORE.[129] Mr. Joseph’s criticism of my article ‘Humanism and Truth'[130] is a useful contribution to the general clearing up. He has seriously tried to comprehend what the pragmatic movement may intelligibly mean; and if he has failed, it is the fault neither of his patience nor of his sincerity, but rather […]

MR. PITKIN’S REFUTATION OF ‘RADICAL EMPIRICISM'[122] Although Mr. Pitkin does not name me in his acute article on radical empiricism,[123] […] I fear that some readers, knowing me to have applied that name to my own doctrine, may possibly consider themselves to have been in at my death. In point of fact my withers are […]

IS RADICAL EMPIRICISM SOLIPSISTIC?[1] If all the criticisms which the humanistic Weltanschauung is receiving were as sachgemaess as Mr. Bode’s,[2] the truth of the matter would more rapidly clear up. Not only is it excellently well written, but it brings its own point of view out clearly, and admits of a perfectly straight reply. The […]

LA NOTION DE CONSCIENCE[1] Je voudrais vous communiquer quelques doutes qui me sont venus au sujet de la notion de Conscience qui regne dans tous nos traites de psychologie. On definit habituellement la Psychologie comme la Science des faits de Conscience, ou des phenomenes, ou encore des etats de la Conscience. Qu’on admette qu’elle se […]

THE ESSENCE OF HUMANISM[105] Humanism is a ferment that has ‘come to stay.'[106] It is not a single hypothesis or theorem, and it dwells on no new facts. It is rather a slow shifting in the philosophic perspective, making things appear as from a new centre of interest or point of sight. Some writers are […]

THE EXPERIENCE OF ACTIVITY[85] BRETHREN OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION: In casting about me for a subject for your President this year to talk about it has seemed to me that our experiences of activity would form a good one; not only because the topic is so naturally interesting, and because it has lately led to […]

THE PLACE OF AFFECTIONAL FACTS IN A WORLD OF PURE EXPERIENCE[75] Common sense and popular philosophy are as dualistic as it is possible to be. Thoughts, we all naturally think, are made of one kind of substance, and things of another. Consciousness, flowing inside of us in the forms of conception or judgment, or concentrating […]

HOW TWO MINDS CAN KNOW ONE THING[68] In [the essay] entitled ‘Does Consciousness Exist?’ I have tried to show that when we call an experience ‘conscious,’ that does not mean that it is suffused throughout with a peculiar modality of being (‘psychic’ being) as stained glass may be suffused with light, but rather that it […]

THE THING AND ITS RELATIONS[43] Experience in its immediacy seems perfectly fluent. The active sense of living which we all enjoy, before reflection shatters our instinctive world for us, is self-luminous and suggests no paradoxes. Its difficulties are disappointments and uncertainties. They are not intellectual contradictions. When the reflective intellect gets at work, however, it […]

A WORLD OF PURE EXPERIENCE[25] It is difficult not to notice a curious unrest in the philosophic atmosphere of the time, a loosening of old landmarks, a softening of oppositions, a mutual borrowing from one another on the part of systems anciently closed, and an interest in new suggestions, however vague, as if the one […]

DOES ‘CONSCIOUSNESS’ EXIST?[2] ‘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 of it, and may be expected to vary in the future. At first, ‘spirit […]

Summary of religious characteristics– Men’s religions need not be identical– “The science of religions” can only suggest, not proclaims a religious creed– Is religion a “survival” of primitive thought?– Modern science rules out the concept of personality– Anthropomorphism and belief in the personal characterized pre-scientific thought– Personal forces are real, in spite of this– Scientific […]

OTHER CHARACTERISTICS Aesthetic elements in religion–Contrast of Catholicism and Protestantism– Sacrifice and Confession– Prayer– Religion holds that spiritual work is really effected in prayer– Three degrees of opinion as to what is effected– First degree– Second degree– Third degree– Automatisms, their frequency among religious leaders– Jewish cases– Mohammed– Joseph Smith– Religion and the subconscious region […]


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Over and over again in these lectures I have raised points and left them open and unfinished until we should have come to the subject of Mysticism. Some of you, I fear, may have smiled as you noted my reiterated postponements. But now the hour has come when mysticism must be faced in good earnest, […]

We have now passed in review the more important of the phenomena which are regarded as fruits of genuine religion and characteristics of men who are devout. Today we have to change our attitude from that of description to that of appreciation; we have to ask whether the fruits in question can help us to […]


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The last lecture left us in a state of expectancy. What may the practical fruits for life have been, of such movingly happy conversions as those we heard of? With this question the really important part of our task opens, for you remember that we began all this empirical inquiry not merely to open a […]

The last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did with evil as a pervasive element of the world we live in. At the close of it we were brought into full view of the contrast between the two ways of looking at life which are characteristic respectively of what we called the healthy-minded, […]

The Sick Soul

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At our last meeting, we considered the healthy-minded temperament, the temperament which has a constitutional incapacity for prolonged suffering, and in which the tendency to see things optimistically is like a water of crystallization in which the individual’s character is set. We saw how this temperament may become the basis for a peculiar type of […]

If we were to ask the question: “What is human life’s chief concern?” one of the answers we should receive would be: “It is happiness.” How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they […]

Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto. This belief and this adjustment are the religious attitude in the soul. […]

Most books on the philosophy of religion try to begin with a precise definition of what its essence consists of. Some of these would-be definitions may possibly come before us in later portions of this course, and I shall not be pedantic enough to enumerate any of them to you now. Meanwhile the very fact […]

It is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my place behind this desk, and face this learned audience. To us Americans, the experience of receiving instruction from the living voice, as well as from the books, of European scholars, is very familiar. At my own University of Harvard, not a winter passes […]