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William James (1842–1910), widely regarded as one of America’s most original and versatile thinkers, was influential in philosophy, psychology, and, to a lesser degree, education. His thought was broad, diverse, and very capable of absorbing ambiguity and even at times contradictory truths. As a founder of pragmatism, the first genuinely American school of philosophical thought, James’s epistemology and theory of truth greatly influenced John Dewey’s thinking. Although an empiricist of sorts, his pluralism helped pave the way for the acceptance of postmodern thinking. Often referred to as the father of American psychology, James combated the reductive tendencies of the advancing positivist and behaviorist psychologies of his time.

Born in 1842, James spent the bulk of his professional life on the faculty at Harvard as a professor ...

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