How do students learn? What is the mental life of the pupil? How can students and teachers alike intensify their relationship and enhance the learning environment? American psychologist and philosopher WILLIAM JAMES (18421910), brother of novelist Henry James, was a groundbreaking researcher at Harvard University, as well as a profoundly influential explorer of the learning process and one of the most significant academics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In these essays, considered a vital companion to Jamess Principles of Psychology (1890) and gleaned from a series of lectures on psychology given to teachers at Harvard in 1892James addresses both students and teachers on: [ psychology and the teaching art t[ he stream of consciousness [ education and behavior [ the laws of habit [ the acquisition of ideas [ the gospel of relaxation [ what makes a life significant [ and more.
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William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world.