Psychology | William James and Contemporary Psychology
P657 | 3876 | Thelen, E


William James (1842-1910) is a monumental figure in American
philosophy and psychology, a founder of American pragmatism and a
profound anti-Cartesian. Although Jamesí influence waned with the
ascent of analytic philosophy, behaviorism, and computational
cognitive science, he is now being rediscovered by authors from
Damasio,  Schacter, Edelman and others for his profound insights into
the basic psychological processes, the mind-body problem and the
nature of consciousness.  James's work is the jumping off point for
much of what forms 20th century psychology: habit, association,
attention, memory, imagination, object and space perception, etc.,
but even more importantly, he resonates with 21th century notions of
embodiment and dynamic systems. We will read Volume I of his
masterwork, Principles of Psychology, as well as selected chapters
from Volume II and from his Essays on Radical Empiricism. James is
deliciously fun to read (some have said that no one who wrote that
well could be a serious philosopher!). As we read each chapter, we
will compare James to current thinking in psychology and cognitive
science on that topic. Students will be responsible for the weekly
reading, answering a short thought question by email ahead of class,
and for an in-depth comparison of one topic from James and the
contemporary scene, to culminate in a final paper.