William James

Philip Davis


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Oxford University Press
25 August 2022
ISBN: 9780192847324
208 pages

From the publisher

Discusses the life and work of William James, a founder of the study of psychology. William James (1842-1910) was elder brother to the novelist Henry James and a founder of the study of psychology. But he was also a thinker who sought to work across conventional boundaries, and did not believe in separate disciplines or over-professionalized ways of thinking. James was above all interested in those moments when thoughts suddenly come into being, 'hot' and 'alive'. William James is for anyone who has experienced the personal need for such thinking and feels the excitement of ideas. It concerns the personal experience of reading James, involving extensive quotation from his work in relation to Philip Davis' own inner life and the lives of other readers of James-a thinker who is defiantly convinced of the fundamental validity of the inner life in the making of the Real. This book is about William James's life-writing, writing for the sake of existence, that puts together a mix of literature, psychology, philosophy, and biography in the search for purpose and human flourishing, in place of formal religion. It includes James' interest in his brother's novels and in Shakespearean drama, as well as Thomas Hardy's pessimistic challenge to James. Davis is a reader of literature who feels that readers of novels and poems also need the help of psychology and philosophy, to get the thinking out, to make it into a working part of a life. His book is for readers, especially readers of literature, seeking to create, like William James, a literary way of thinking outside the realm of literature.