Born January 11, 1842 and died August 26, 1910, William James is an American philosopher and psychologist plus a trained physician. He was the first educator to endorse and develop psychology education and science course. James was one of the leading thinkers of the nineteenth century and one of the most influential philosophers in the United States. He taught pragmatism or the theory that functional thought is an instrument for prediction problem solving and action. James is the founder of functional psychology.
James was born into a wealthy family and his brother is the novelist Henry James. James used his writing talents to expound on epistemology, psychology, religion, mysticism and metaphysics. He wrote the Principles of Psychology, The Varieties of Religious Experience and Essays on Radical Empiricism. His early life was taken up with physical ailments and depression.
James spent most of his early life at Harvard teaching physiology, anatomy, and psychology. He studied medicine but was drawn to the study of the human mind and formed The Metaphysical Club with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Peirce and Chauncey Wright. James retired from Harvard in 1907 continuing to write and lecture. He published Pragmatism, A Pluralistic University and the Meaning of Truth.
James went on to affirm free will in The Will to Believe, The Philosophy of Religion and interpreted his religious experiences as pragmatic leanings. He also discussed instincts as a theory of natural selection. Instincts, James claimed are overridden by experiences and working with others. James is the namesake of the James-Lange theory of emotion that claims emotion is the mind's perception of physiological conditions. James argued that the perception of fear includes a higher adrenaline level and heartbeat and this is the emotion. In other words, James believed that emotions are things rather than ambiguous feelings.