Friday, June 12, 2009
William James (1842-1910 A.D.)
By Richard E. Noble
William James - Philosopher/Psychologist. He was most noted as a psychologist but enters the ranks of the Philosophers because of his definition of truth, according to Bertrand Russell. William James says that if enough people believe in something and it makes them happy to do so, then what they believe in must be true. And, of course, from this type of philosophic logic we can conclude that the world was, in fact, flat at one point in history and that the earth was at one time truly the center of the universe - and Elvis Presley is not really dead. If this makes William James a Philosopher where does that put my Mother who used to say to me as an 'a priori' proof of pure ignorance and stupidity, "so if everybody was going to jump off a bridge, you would too, I suppose, dimwit?!"
William James's Grandfather was a multi-millionaire, which left William's father with virtually nothing to do. So, he devoted his life to studying theology and became a Presbyterian. William and his brother (the successful novelist) both had serious mental problems. They both suffered from severe depression, and William, a serious hypochondriac, contemplated suicide very sincerely and for a long, long time. Their sister Alice was pretty much a wacko from the get-go. Most biographers attribute all of this to their stern Presbyterian upbringing. I wouldn't know. I have never even met a Presbyterian, but this family's story should be enough of a warning to any of us in the case that we ever do.
How does a thinker recognize that he has attained a rational concept, asks James. "Subjectively," he answers, "by a strong feeling of ease, peace, and rest."
Well, that does it. I have always had my suspicions, but this confirms what I have, in the past, only suspected. Truth, in reality, is really sex. I mean, that is the only time that I have ever, ever felt - ease, peace, and, rest. I wonder if this also means that Truth is primarily a 'male' thing. I'm not sure about this but I think that Truth for the female of the species is . . . hot fudge. You girls out there will have to let me know, or maybe we could compare? (Please, don't ask me about this when the old battle-ax is around).
William went from almost totally out of his mind to prominent psychologist traveling about the world becoming rich and famous by telling people whatever it was that he thought that they might like to hear. He did real well until one day he started telling people that war was no good. People did not want to hear this and William took a lot of static over it.
He became a para-psychologist (nothing to do with jumping out of airplanes) and a ghost hunter. He also introduced Gertrude Stein to the technique of automatic writing, after which she became very, very famous writing poetry that no one could understand.
The study of William James's life makes one fact very clear - if you, as a student, find yourself leaning to the discipline of Psychology, you probably have mental problems of a potentially serious nature, and should forget about Psychology altogether and take a creative cooking course conducted by Emeril Lagasse, Bamb! Bamb! Bamb! Either that or see a psychiatrist as soon as possible.