Article ID: CBB508923001

William James and the Heidelberg Fiasco (2018)

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Urged on by his father to become a physician instead of a painter, William James pursued 3 evasion stratagems. First, to avoid becoming a practitioner, he declared that he wanted to specialize in physiology. Based upon this premise, he left for Germany in the spring of 1867. The second step was giving up general physiology and announcing that he would specialize in the nervous system and psychology. Based upon this premise, he declared that he would go to Heidelberg and study with Helmholtz and Wundt. However, he then deferred going there. When, at last, he was urged by an influential friend of his father’s to accompany him to Heidelberg, he employed his default stratagem: He simply fled. He returned home after 3 terms in Europe without enrolling at a single university. There is no evidence that he had learned anything there about psychology or experimental psychology, except, possibly, by reading books. James’s “Heidelberg fiasco” was the apogee of his evasion of his father’s directive. A dense fog of misinformation surrounds his stay in Heidelberg to this day. By analyzing circumstances and context, this article examines the fiasco and places it in the pattern of his behavior during his stay in Europe. Nevertheless, experiencing this fiasco potentially shaped James’s ambivalent attitude toward experimental psychology on a long-term basis. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved) (Source: journal abstract)

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Authors & Contributors
Viney, Wayne
Seigfried, Charlene Haddock
Woodward, William R.
King, D. Brett
Taylor, Eugene
Ferreri, Antonio M.
Journals
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Review of Metaphysics
JBSP. The Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
History of Psychology
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
American Journal of Theology and Philosophy
Publishers
McGill-Queen's University Press
American Psychological Association
Praeger
Cambridge University Press
University of Virginia Press
Reaktion Books
Concepts
Psychology
Biographies
Philosophy
Discipline formation
Pragmatism; instrumentalism
Cognitive science
People
James, William
Freud, Sigmund
Wundt, Wilhelm Max
Watson, John Broadus
Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
Piaget, Jean
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
Places
United States
North America: United States; Canada
Europe
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