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The Varieties Of Religious Experience, By William James
William James (1842-1910)
A Note On The Author Of "The Varieties Of Religious
road by which William James arrived at his position of leadership
among American philosophers was, during his childhood, youth
and early maturity, quite as circuitous and unpredictable
as were his father's ideas on the training of his children.
That Swedenborgian theologian foresaw neither the career
of novelist for his son Henry, nor that of pragmatist philosopher
for the older William.
The father's migrations between New York, Europe
and Newport meant that William's education had variety if
it did not have fixed direction. From 13 to 18 he studied in Europe and returned to Newport,
Rhode Island, to study painting under the guidance of John
La Farge. After
a year, he gave up art for science and entered Harvard University,
where his most influential teachers were Louis Agassiz and
Charles W. Eliot.
In 1863, William James began the study of medicine,
and in 1865 he joined an expedition to the Amazon. Before
long, he wrote: "If
there is anything I hate, it is collecting." His studies
constantly interrupted by ill health, James returned to
Germany and began hearing lectures and reading voluminously
in philosophy. He
won his medical degree at Harvard in 1870.
For four years he was an invalid in Cambridge, but
finally, in 1873, he passed his gravest physical and spiritual
crises and began the career by which he was to influence
so profoundly generations of American students.
From 1880 to 1907 he was successively assistant professor
of philosophy, professor of psychology and professor of
philosophy at Harvard.
In 1890, the publication of his Principles of Psychology
brought him the acknowledged leadership in the field of
The selection of William James to deliver the Gifford
lectures in Edinburgh was at once a tribute to him and a
reward for the university that sponsored the undertaking.
These lectures, collected in this volume, have since
become famous as the standard scientific work on the psychology
of the religious impulse.
Death ended his career on August 27th, 1910.