William James


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His Life and Thought

Gerald E. Myers

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This magisterial book is the first comprehensive interpretive and critical study of one of America’s foremost philosophers and psychologists. Gerald Myers traces James’s life and career and then uses this fresh biographical information to illuminate his writings and ideas.

Gerald E. Myers is professor of philosophy at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. 

"An impressive study of William James in a fully Jamesian spirit. It brings a sensitive, philosophical learning to psychological problems and psychological learning to philosophical problems. It is comprehensive and constructively critical in chiseling out the questions that matter most. Essential reading for a responsible understanding of pragmatism in current thought."—Abraham Edel, Research Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania























"Myers's weaving of the life, writings, activities, and private and public thought of Jame is extraordinarily well done. His work on James will take its place of the premier study, superseding its only worthy predecessor, the Pulitzer Prize volumes of Ralph Barton Perry in 1935."—John J. McDermott, Texas A & M University 

"This is a remarkable and exciting achievement:  Myers brings to life William James, not only in the fine biographical representation but even more in the thorough and imaginative exposition of his thought. Psychologists and intellectuals more generally will find page after page full of refreshing insights into James the man and into the nature of human psychology as filtered through the wonderful intellect of America's greatest psychologist. Now that psychologists are rediscovering concepts of consciousness, the thought stream, emotion and the self, William James' ideas shine through as if they represented new contributions to the field rather than ideas set forth a century ago."—Jerome L. Singer, Director, Clinical Psychology Training Program, Yale University

"Drawing on hitherto unavailable documents, Gerald Myers has produced the fullest account yet of the rich life and personality of America's most eminent philosopher, and of the subtle complexities of his opinions. It is a monumental work, beautifully written, with great accuracy, deep insights, and swarming with information not in any previous study. Happily, the book comes at a time when interest in William James is rising as rapidly as interest in his supposed successor, John Dewey, is subsiding. Myers's achievement is unlikely to be surpassed for a long time to come."—Martin Gardner, author of The Whys Of A Philosophical Scrivener

"A truly monumental work. No other book on William James is so complete in its treatment of every aspect of his philosophy, or more lucid and authoritative in the interpretation of his thought. Our understanding of James's intellectual development is filled out and expanded by the new material Myers has incorporated from the James Papers at Harvard as well as by his mastery of the extensive literature about James since his death in 1910. In each of 13 chapters the author treats of a leading theme or concept of James's philosophy and by means of this focus, provides and analysis in depth of the ideas as well as intimate contact with the workings of a highly original mind. All in all this book comes as close to being definitive as any work can hope to be on William James."—Frederick Burkhardt, General Editor, The Works Of William James

"A masterful exploration of the vivid and wonderful mind of America's greatest philosopher."—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"The scholarship that Gerald Myers brings to this study is awesome. . . . [Myers] has succeeded in producing a study which supersedes Perry's as the most valuable study of James' thought ever published. . . . Myers' monumental study is now the most authoritative, and because it is critical as well as expository, it is of more philosophical importance than Perry's study."—Peter H. Hare, editor of Transactions Of The Charles S. Pierce Society: A Quarterly Journal In American Philosophy

"The first critical study of his thought in its entire and amazing range. . . . [Myers] leaves the reader impressed anew with the complexity and originality of this most notable of American thinkers."—Publishers Weekly

"Myers has written what will quickly be recognized as the definitive life study of William James, perhaps the greatest of American philosophers and psychologists. . . . Myers has written a masterful study, balanced and perceptive."—Booklist

"The fullest account yet of James' life, along with a comprehensive critical analysis of his theories."—Robert Merritt, Richmond Times-Dispatch

"The most informed study of William James' life and thought to appear in the last 50 years."—Morton White, New Republic

"Without a doubt the book is the fullest and most sympathetic philosophical commentary yet to appear, and the author has been excellently served by the Yale Press. It is a fine book."—Peter Jones, Glasglow Herald

"An impressive work of scholarship."—Choice

"A masterful job of analysis that should become a classic study in American philosophy."—David Warren Bowen, Magill's Literary Annual 1987

"Myers has accorded William James the rare honor of taking him seriously. This is the least sentimental and most stirring of the recent flurry of books about this country's best-loved philosopher. It is also the most comprehensive, thorough, and convincing critique of James's thought ever written."—James Hoopes, ISIS

"This is an intellectual guide to William James's philosophy that will clarify James's important place in American philosophy and psychology."—Aaron A. Rhodes, New York Times Book Review

"It takes its place among the very best of Jamesian scholarship. . . . Myers has produced a historically informed, conceptually sophisticated reconstruction and critique of the various aspects of James's thought."—David E. Leary, American Scientist

"A splendid example of the history of ideas genre. . . . An intellectual tour de force; the most exhaustive exposition and profound interpretation of James's psychological and philosophical system that has yet appeared."—Hannah Lavi Jaher and Frederic Cople Jaher, Reviews in American History

"There are few figures in the history of American thought as important as William James, or as intriguing. Since his death in 1910, there has been a steady stream of scholarship analysing his work, his character and the complex inter-relations between them. Gerald E. Myers's monumental examination of James's life and thought is a major contribution to this literature, and destined to become the definitive treatment for decades."—Stephen P. Stich, Times Literary Supplement

"Myer's summary of James' life and thought is both comprehensive and marvelously readable."—Barry Magid, M.D., Dynamic Psychotherapy

"A masterful, mainstream account."—William James Earle, Canadian Philosophical

"[An] impressive and recondite evaluation of his life and thought."—George Cotkin, Canadian Review of American Studies

"The first full-scale study of the complete range of James's philosophy."—Thomas H. Leahey, Contemporary Psychology

IN: 0pt; mso-hyphenate: none""With Myers's book James scholarship reaches a new plateau. James's writings are being treated systematically, rather than piecemeal, at great length rather than sketchily, in regard to his whole output rather than as a monograph on a single topic, and with attention to the letters and unpublished manuscripts as well as the published works."—Charlene Haddock Seigfried, Journal of Speculative Philosophy

"Myers's achievement cannot be overemphasized; his book is intellectually rewarding and stimulating.."—Edward H. Madden, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

"The most comprehensive and rigorously analytical recent study of the thought of William James. . . . Any reader of Myers' book should admire his careful research, his rigorous theoretical reasoning, and his thorough coverage of James' many writings. A monument to the place of James' thought in twentieth-century philosophy."—Paul Jerome Croce, Journal of American Academy of Religion

"Myers's book on the life and thought of William James is a masterpiece. Almost unbelievably, it surpasses Ralph Barton Perry's landmark study., The Thought And Character Of William James, as the most scholarly and comprehensive exposition and criticism of James's psychology and philosophy."—John J. Stuhr, Philosophy and Literature

"Of all the excellent books currently available on James, Myers volume is by far the most thorough and complete."—Rand B. Evans, American Journal of Psychology

"A truly intellectual biography, therefore; one which does its distinguished subject full justice and of which, it may be surmised, he would have approved."—Psychological Medicine

"Gerald E. Myers's William James: His Life And Thought may well become one of the standard works on 'the other James'. It offers a rich, splendidly elucidatory study of nearly six hundred pages which sets out both the life and contours of William James's intellectual interests with greatest distinction. As a guide to James as thinker, psychologist, and philosophic pragmatist this will take some bettering."—English Association 
ISBN: 9780300089172
Publication Date: March 11, 2001
672 pages, 6 x 9