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William James

1842–1910
William James, 1880, by J. Notman, Boston (photographer). (Houghton Library at Harvard University; public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Major works:
The Principles of PsychologyThe Varieties of Religious ExperiencePragmatismA Pluralistic Universe • “The Moral Equivalent of War”

“None of us will ever see a man like William James again: there is no doubt about that. And yet it is hard to state what it was in him that gave him either his charm or his power, what it was that penetrated and influenced us, what it is that we lack and feel the need of, now that he has so unexpectedly and incredibly died. I always thought that William James would continue forever; and I relied upon his sanctity as if it were sunlight.”
—John Jay Chapman

Read an excerpt from

A Pluralistic Universe

William James

My present field of consciousness is a centre surrounded by a fringe that shades insensibly into a subconscious more. I use three separate terms here to describe this fact; but I might as well use three hundred, for the fact is all shades and no boundaries. Which part of it properly is in my consciousness, which out? If I name what is out, it already has come in. The centre works in one way while the margins work in another, and presently overpower the centre and are central themselves. What we conceptually identify ourselves with and say we are thinking of at any time is the centre; but our full self is the whole field, with all those indefinitely radiating subconscious possibilities of increase that we can only feel without conceiving, and can hardly begin to analyze.

Read a passage from A Pluralistic Universe by William James
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