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The Heart of William James Hardcover – September 30, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (September 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674055616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674055612
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

William James, brother of novelist Henry James, has long been recognized as one of the fathers of modern psychology and of philosophical pragmatism. In this new selection of essays from James's voluminous writings, Richardson, James's biographer and a professor at Wesleyan University, attempts to add to this list of achievements, with slight success, by casting James as an early self-help guru. Seventeen essays--ranging from the early but formative ones on the physiology of emotions, the relationship between perception and belief, right through to James's mature works on habit formation, will, and action--provide an admirably broad overview of the author's expansive output. Scattered too among classic essays are lesser known gems such as "The Ph.D. Octopus," a brief disquisition on higher education, and a fascinating 1910 essay on war that might raise some modern eyebrows for its exhortation to substitute war between men for "warfare against nature." However, the collection's weakest moments are the editor's introductions to the individual pieces that are littered with platitudes and questionable speculation. The overall force and authority of James's prose, however, with its blend of insight and urgency, is more than strong enough to make up for the missteps.
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Review

William James brought heart to the intellect and passion to the world of ideas in an unprecedented manner in American life. He is the most profound, adorable, and unpretentious public intellectual in American history. (Cornel West, Princeton University)

A gift from the best biographer of William James, this volume collects some of James's most engaging and unforgettable writings. Readers unfamiliar with James will discover why his ideas continue to reverberate so powerfully a century after his death; those who already know James will delight in Robert Richardson's expert selections and incisive commentary. At a time when self-proclaimed followers of James's philosophy inhabit schools of medicine and law as well as divinity, and his ideas inspire those working in sites ranging from psychology laboratories and corporate board rooms to the White House, this sparkling collection reminds us why James remains alive today. (James T. Kloppenberg, Harvard University)

An admirably broad overview of the author's expansive output. Scattered too among classic essays are lesser known gems such as "The Ph.D. Octopus," a brief disquisition on higher education, and a fascinating 1910 essay on war that might raise some modern eyebrows for its exhortation to substitute war between men for "warfare against nature." (Publishers Weekly 2010-07-01)

Editor Richardson provides a perceptive introduction to the material, as well as separate insights into each selection. (Leon H. Brody Library Journal 2010-07-22)

William James, brother of the--in some quarters--more famous Henry, was that rarest of beings, a philosopher who wrote clear, elegant, and exciting prose. In The Heart of William James, James's biographer Robert Richardson has put together a dazzling selection of this great thinker's work, with perfectly judged short pieces to usher in each of the selections. (John Banville The Guardian 2010-11-27)

It is difficult for any selection to do justice to the thought of William James, and difficult as well for a reviewer to do justice to the seventeen fine essays collected in The Heart of William James. He is fortunate to have Robert Richardson as his biographer, editor and interpreter, a kindred spirit whose admiration for James is thoroughly compounded with his enjoyment of him. He makes the great man accessible as if he were presenting an honored friend, ready to step out of the way and allow a wonderful conversation to begin. And James is indeed a remarkable acquaintance, full of the pleasures of fine prose and humorous insight, and demanding all the same. (Marilynne Robinson The Nation 2010-11-23)

James seeks to instruct his readers in how they can achieve their best selves, how they can retain and expand and nourish their individuality. As this collection makes clear, he has good reason to fear that that individuality is being squandered. In fact, the subtext of all the essays in this collection might very well be: Americans are in perennial danger of surrendering their Americanness, and I will do my best to stop them...It was, and is, the role of William James, the articulator if not the keeper of the faith, to remind us of who we are and who we were meant to be. (Peter Savodnik Commentary 2011-01-01)

So fresh is William James's thought and so unbuttoned and irreverent his character that he is always contemporary; it comes as something of a shock, therefore, to recall that he was born as long ago as 1842...James is a philosopher--practical and romantic, down-to-earth and ecstatic, accommodating and specific--whom we need ever more urgently in our own times. In Robert Richardson, whose biography of James is, along with his lives of Thoreau and Emerson, one of the glories of contemporary American literature, the philosopher has found a tireless champion and a perceptive editor. Richardson is that increasingly rare phenomenon among academics, an enthusiast, even a lover, of his subjects. In this book, no less than in the biography, he brings to life this great thinker and rare human being. (John Banville New York Review of Books 2011-10-27)

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of William James (1842 -- 1910), Robert Richardson prepared and edited "The Heart of William James", this collection of seventeen essays by the great American philosopher. Richardson is an independent scholar who wrote a celebrated biography of James in 2006 "William James:in the Maelstrom of American Modernism", William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism together with earlier biographies of Emerson and Thoreau. In this anthology, Richardson offers a brief introductory essay to James and his thought. Richardson also offers short perceptive comments introducing each individual essay,a chronology of James' life, and a basic bibliography. Readers new to James might well read "The Heart of William James" together with Richardson's biography.

The novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson has written a recent review of Richardson's anthology and of James' thought in "The Nation." I was interested in tracing James' influence on Robinson. She has written a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "Gilead" Gilead: A Novel which focuses on religion and its role in American life. Robinson has also written about the relationship between religion and science in a collection of lectures, in "Absence of Mind" Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (The Terry Lectures Series). James' influence is strong in both the novel and the essays.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Connie C Price on February 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kudos once more to Professor Richardson, for his persistent and creative work with the great American philosophers of the 19th into 20th centuries! This new William James collection was much-needed for scholars, general readers, and especially classroom use. It is a treasure: well edited, with a balanced and complete inclusion. Before, the primary essays were difficult to obtain without intensive research and high costs, which is absurd for research on a philosopher whose name is household knowledge, world-wide. James is becoming more central in philosophical circles, after being out of fashion for fifty years or more. The late 20th century revival of Bergson, Bateson, Whitehead, Peirce, Dewey, Freud, Langer, Arendt, Tillich, et alia, by Deleuze, Mullarkey, Lawlor, Ansell-Pearson, Thacker, Haraway, Esposito, and other contemporary thinkers in philosophy, cinema, psychoanalytic theory, cultural studies, peace studies, theology, ethics, feminism, and biopolitics, will contribute to a vast increase of James readership, as well. The topics of (1) reciprocity between James and Bergson, and (2) James' powerful presence in American pragmatism and transcendentalism, deserve the attention they will be receiving in the near future. "The Heart of William James" is a perfect first step for these new beginnings for philosophy, after the many destitute years of positivistic and analytic hegemony in the discipline. This writer recently retired from a career of teaching philosophy, so the volume is both a treasured reference and a good "read" from the shelf. It is an excellent gift, as well, for graduations and birthdays: seize the day for those few youngsters who read ANYTHING in this Era of Illiteracy, not to mention philosophy!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JoAnne Feldstein on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donna Leone's whodunits about Venice had wife often reading William James. So I started. Takes rereading easily.Now I have several of his works. Iwish we still talked English the way he writes.
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