Philosophy Index

William James

William James was an American psychologist and philosopher who contributed to the fields of epistemology and the philosophy of religion.

In the study of Epistemology, William James strongly promoted pragmatism, which he developed from the work of Charles S. Peirce. He believed that knowledge, or truth, is dependant upon its use to the person who held it. Truths are true if they are useful to be true — they must conform to a coherent body of truth that people must agree upon as usefully true. The excessive doubt of the rationalist is not useful, so we must accept empirical truths. On James' account, knowledge need not be absolute, but just good enough to be useful.

William James wrote a very large number of books and essays throughout his life on a variety of topics within philosophy and psychology.

Selected Works


Name: William James
Born: January 11, 1842, New York City
Died: August 26, 1910
Degrees: M.D. (Harvard, 1869)