chapter  7
55 Pages

William James and Functionalism

ByBrian D. Cox

William James the psychologist was the grandson of William James of Albany, who emigrated from Ireland around the time of the Revolutionary War with little money. James first made the argument of how consciousness could have evolved bodily or materially and then claimed that the mind would also operate in a Darwinian manner. James’s goal for his psychology was to provide a description of the mind in process without any assumptions. His reason for founding the society was to subject the claims of mediums, clairvoyants and other so-called spiritualists to scientific investigation. In The Varieties, James was concerned first to describe the subjective nature of religious experiences and then to argue for the usefulness of such experiences, even if we would never be able to conclusively prove that God or a supernatural realm existed. Functionalism, unlike E. B. Titchener’s structuralism, was a broad, diffuse and inclusive psychology. It also was a practical and pragmatic psychology.