He started down the road to recovery, though the remainder of his life would be plagued by seemingly psychosomatic troubles (serious eye strain, mysterious back pains, digestive problems, and periods of exhaustion, as well as chronic mood swings, including times of brooding depression).Unfortunately, he still lacked a constructive career goal.
There he studied chemistry and then physiology, prior to his entering Harvard’s Medical School in 1863.
A couple of years later, he took a year off to join a scientific expedition to Brazil, led by Louis Agassiz.
He failed to find a cure for his curious back pains, but returned to Harvard, passed his medical exams, and received his medical degree in 1869.
Nevertheless, he did not plan to practice medicine and seemed lost as to what to do with the rest of his life.
In a barely disguised case history in his , he tells of visiting an asylum while he was a medical student, and seeing an epileptic patient whose condition had reduced him to an idiotic state.
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James could not dispel the realization that if universal determinism prevails, he could likewise sink into such a state, utterly incapable of preventing it (.The next year, he became an instructor of anatomy and physiology.By the mid-eighteen-seventies, he was teaching psychology there, using the physiological approach he had learned in Germany and establishing the first psychology laboratory in America.Alice was adept at handling his neurotic obsessions and emotional moodiness, and they seem to have had a good marriage, living comfortably in Cambridge.The year they married, James agreed to write a psychology textbook; however, by then he was already drifting away from psychology into philosophy.His dread over the sense of life’s absolute insecurity pushed him to become a virtual invalid in his parents’ home. By the spring of 1870, when James was twenty-eight years old, he experienced a critical moment while reading a treatment of human freedom by the French neo-Kantian Charles Renouvier.He discovered the solution to his problem in the voluntaristic act of will whereby he could commit himself to believing in his own freedom despite any lack of objective evidence.By the end of that same year, James’s neurological symptoms had become worse.His training in hard science was making it impossible for him to believe in human freedom and, thus, in the value of struggling for moral ideals; the despair of materialism was leading him to the depression of determinism.Born in New York City on January 11, 1842, William James was the oldest of the five children of Henry James, Sr., and Mary Walsh James.His oldest brother, Henry James, Jr., the renowned writer of fiction, was followed by two other brothers and a sister.