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On Some of Life's Ideals

William James

"... As you sit reading the most moving romance you ever fell upon, what sort of a judge is your fox-terrier of your behavior? With all his good will toward you, the nature of your conduct is absolutely excluded from his comprehension. To sit there like a senseless statue when you might be taking him to walk and throwing sticks for him to catch! What queer disease is this that comes over you every day, of holding things and staring at them like that for hours together, paralyzed of motion and vacant of all conscious life?

On Some of Life’s Ideals consists of two lectures by the famous early American psychologist and philosopher, William James. The talks are “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” and “What Makes a Life Significant.” They were reprinted in this edition in 1913 from the book Talks to Teachers (1899).

William James (1842-1910) was trained as a physician but is remembered as America’s foremost philosopher and the father of American psychology. He was the first to teach a psychology course in the United States and was a pragmatist philosopher of the radical empiricism school. His work has been credited with influencing such intellectuals as Husserl, Bertrand Russell, and Wittgenstein. He was born into a wealthy New York family, brother of the famous American novelist Henry James. William’s best-known books are Principles of Psychology, Essays in Radical Empiricism, and The Varieties of Religious Experience. It took him years to earn his MD degree, yet he never practiced. He suffered ill health and depression in his earlier years, but found his footing after marriage and moving into his psychological and philosophical studies. He once said that he had no instruction in philosophy and the first lecture he ever heard on psychology was his own first lecture on the subject.

Book publisher: New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1913
Book copyright: William James, 1899, 1900
Book edition: 1913 reprint
Pages: 94 (100 bound pages)
Dust jacket: No
Illustrations: None
Digital edition © 2006 Curtis Philips. All Rights Reserved

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