William James (1842-1910) was a writer and philosopher, a physician and artist, beloved by students for his passion for life.
"Act as if what you do makes a difference," he advised. "It does."
Inspired by naturalist Charles Darwin, James was one of the first to treat psychology as a science with laboratory testing. With a degree in medicine, he tried to integrate his knowledge of biology with psychology. In 1884, he proposed that a reaction of the body, not mind, triggered the conscious experience of emotion.
"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices," he believed.
James coined the term "stream of consciousness." Inspired by the ideas of Charles Sanders Peirce, James further developed the philosophy of pragmatism and stated that any doctrine was true as long as it was useful and that truth is modified as discoveries are made.
"No one ever had a simple sensation by itself," he wrote in Principles of Psychology (1890). James believed the mind constantly absorbed information, even as a person was asleep.
A friend of Mark Twain, James admired Walt Whitman's writing and George Bernard Shaw's observations. "Feeling is the deeper source of religion," James said.
What part will you play today?