THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE
Is there left to us in this land a man so great as William James? If the list of our leaders is scanned, men eminent in philosophy, science, art or letters, in education, law, politics or business, is there a single one to be placed beside him? He excelled in so many ways, in science, in philosophy, in letters, as a teacher, as a leader in good causes and lost causes, before all as a man—kind and generous beyond measure, of remarkable individuality and distinction.
The "Principles of Psychology," published in 1890, is a scientific and literary classic. No one can foretell whether it will be permanently in the group of philosophical masterpieces, beginning with the dialogues of Plato, but there is no contemporary American work and possibly no European work since the "Origin of Species," which has an equal chance.
Wilhelm Wundt and William James are the founders of psychology, a science which in a single generation has assumed a place coordinate with the other leading sciences. Both men—like their forerunners, Lotze and von Helmholtz—had an education in medicine and the natural sciences, with strong natural interests in philosophy and metaphysics. They established laboratories of psychology at about the same time, neither of them did experimental work of consequence, both prepared treatises which to a remarkable extent established the lines of development for a science. Wundt's "Physiologische Psychologie" is more systematic than James's "Principles of Psychology"; it is more of an encyclopedia. For that reason it could be brought out in various editions, corrected and enlarged. James's "Psychology" is more of a work of art, exhibiting the subject as he left it twenty years ago.
It is truly a remarkable book, combining physiology, pathological psychology, comparative psychology, experimental psychology, introspective psychology and philosophy into one whole which has dominated the science. The author is always accurate in his scientific material and clear in his statements, but frank in his criticism and daring in his conclusions. His own contributions on the stream of thought, the perception of things and of space, the emotions, instinct, habit and in many other directions are of fundamental importance. The work has an extraordinary vitality and inviduality which make it a work of art and a classic.
In his "Talks to Teachers" and "Varieties of Religious Experience," James extended the field of psychology in two important directions. Nearly all his work was done in a somewhat opportunistic fashion. He made an engagement to give lectures, perhaps cancelled it or tried to do so, felt he could not prepare them and finally produced a masterpiece. "The Will to Believe" was a collection of addresses; the volume on "Religious Experience" was Gifford lectures, the "Pragmatism" Lowell lectures, "A Pluralistic Universe" Hibbert lectures.
Although the interest in problems of philosophy and the pluralism, pragmatism and empiricism may be traced backward to his earlier publications, they were given full and vigorous expression only in these later volumes, when James had passed the age of sixty and was already suffering from disease of the heart. It would be idle