William James was about the only philosopher who didn’t end up a pettifogging nit-picker or overbearing egomaniac with delusions of genius. So says New Humanist’s Jonathan Rée. Wittgenstein said of James that what made him such a good philosopher was “he was a good human being.” James died a 100 years ago but Rée calls for a return to his humane example. He was generous, witty, honest, modest, flexible, “and more interested in promoting productive conversations than hogging the last word.” A brilliant phrase-maker, James invented terms including “subliminal consciousness”, the “divided self” and the “sick soul”, of “mental states”, and the “stream of consciousness”.
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