William James and Phenomenology - A Study of the Principles of Psychology


How much do I want to read more? 7/10

I'm new to this stuff, but it's interesting. Between psychology and philosophy.
There's a fascination around William James, and the author do his part to share it with us.


FOREWORD - William Barrett

The figure of William James is slowly gaining a higher and more secure place in the philosophic pantheon.
we are becoming more and more aware of the power of his thought and the depth of his insight on philosophic matters that still concern us.

James's grasp of his subject is astonishing. Not only had he read all the relevant extant literature, but he was also able, while keeping all details in mind, to cut through always to the central issues.
the problems he brings us to are those that still face us today in the philosophy of mind.

Only the second - rate philosophers present us with the image of self-satisfied men who claim to have "solved" completely their particular problems.

INTRODUCTION - Why a phenomenological psychology?

The central thesis of phenomenology is that the world is comprehensible only in terms of its modes of appearance to mind, and that mind cannot be conceived independently of the world which appears to it.
It is not that the world exists only in the mind, but that the world can be specified only in terms of what it appears to be to mind.

Probably more has been written about William James than about any other American philosopher.

The central thesis of a phenomenological psychology is that mind and thoughts cannot be conceived independently of the world which appears to mind, and that this phenomenal world can be conceived only through a philosophical investigation of the world's own structures as revealed to mind.

It is all very well to say that James believed that mind performed a biological function in adjusting the organism to the environment; but if it is not added that he also believed that the function of mind cannot be rendered exclusively in biological terms, but requires irreducibly mentalistic ones expressing the way the environment appears to an organism conscious of its ends as its own, then more is concealed than revealed.

The phenomenologist maintains that any psychology which limits itself to an examination of organisms' contingent responses to contingent stimuli imposes a gratuitous limitation on its own development as a science.
He maintains as well that human behavior can be adequately understood only when its meaning is understood;

For example, no analysis of the mere movements of a speaker's mouth, no matter how finely they are correlated empirically to contingent events in the speaker's organism or environment, can elucidate the meaning of what he is saying, a fortiori no such analysis can elucidate the meaning of what he is doing.
The language as well as the whole symbolizing and evaluationallife of the person, together with his brute awareness of the world, must be understood.
we understand a person's language and evaluations only when we understand what the world has meant to all men in the course of civilization.
The relation of mind to world is internal and communal. The value of phenomenology, then, is that it prompts us to reconsider the scientific and cultural value of what has always seemed to be the core of our existence: that relational and referential opening onto the world-that pervading sense of what the world means to us.


ONE - James's dualistic program for a natural scientific psychology and its failure

W. James:
"Psychology, the science of finite individual minds, assumes as its data (1) thoughts and feelings, and (2) a physical world in time and space with which they coexist and which (3) they know.
Of course these data themselves are discussable; but the discussion of them (as of other elements) is called metaphysics and falls outside the province of this book.
This book, assuming that thoughts and feelings exist and are vehicles of knowledge, can go no farther, that is, as a natural science. If she goes farther she becomes metaphysical."

There are two kinds of stuff: thoughts on the one hand and physical things in space and time on the other.

II