William James was born on this day in 1842
William James was born in New York City into an intellectual family and was educated in both the USA and Europe. He started off studying art but switched to chemistry at Harvard and then to medicine, still at Harvard. It took him a while to get his medical degree due to various illnesses including depression but when he did, he joined the staff at Harvard until her retired in 1907. His brother was Henry James the novelist.
William James primary book was “The Principles of Psychology” which has been highly influential in the field of psychology. It’s 1200 pages in two volumes and it took more than a decade to complete. There is an abridged version!
In this book he discussed beliefs and truth, stating that that belief is true if it is useful. He discussed how emotions are physiological reactions, saying for example that in the fight or flight reaction, fear is response to the physiological experience. He also asserted that will is free and proved this fact by stating that he chose to believe that will is free!
In my opinion, and that of many others in my field, Freud is the father of psychotherapy and James is the father of psychology.