chapter  3
18 Pages

Metatheory in Psychology and a Psychology of Metatheory: The Case of William James

WithJohn B. Conway

This chapter considers how some of the personal experiences and personal qualities of William James may be seen as having had their influence on James' philosophical views on the nature of psychology. Many psychologists are perhaps happy enough to abandon the contemplations of metaphysicians to the nether world of the irrational and psycho-logical. Psychology is not philosophy, it is science. As a science, psychology is an unambiguous and exact pursuit of causal and cumulative knowledge, an impersonal and value-free pursuit. James' metatheoretical views about psychology may be regarded as somewhat more humanistic than scientific. James' cognitive style may be regarded as favoring ways of processing information more holistic than analytic. The story of James' struggles with the conflicting voices of his father, his prolonged indecision over his vocation, and his neuraesthenic suffering during his "pessimistic" crisis is one that has figured importantly in biographical and psychobiographical accounts.