Hard determinism (or metaphysical determinism) is a view on free will which holds that determinism is true, and that it is incompatible with free will, and, therefore, that free will does not exist. Although hard determinism generally refers to nomological determinism, it can also be a position taken with respect to other forms of determinism that necessitate the future in its entirety. Hard determinism is contrasted with soft determinism, which is a compatibilist form of determinism, holding that free will may exist despite determinism. It is also contrasted with metaphysical libertarianism, the other major form of incompatibilism which holds that free will exists and determinism is false.
In ancient Greece, Socrates initiated the rationalistic teaching that any agent is obliged to pursue the chief good conceived by his or her mind. The peripatetic naturalist Strato of Lampsacus speculated that an unconscious divine power acts in the world and causes the origin, growth, and breakdown of things. Diodorus Cronus asserted the identity of the possible and the necessary and inferred that future events are as determined as the past ones. Chrysippus refuted the "idle argument" invented to discredit determinism as if human efforts were futile in a preordained world; he explained that fated events occur with the engagement of conscious agents. In the 17th century, both Locke and Spinoza argued for strict causality of volitional acts. In the age of enlightenment, Baron d’Holbach promulgated the naturalistic interpretation of mental events. Schopenhauer observed that everyone regards himself free a priori; however, a posteriori he must discover that he had been obliged to make the decisions he actually made. Nietzsche noticed that free decisions are graded as causa sui, emerging from non-existence. Recently Daniel Wegner stressed the limitations of free will on grounds of experimental evidence for unconscious choice and action. To prove determinism, the following putative experiment was proposed: all principal differences between the features of an artificial zygote and that developing naturally can be avoided.
Meeting a challenge, agents make decisions in conformity to the inherited character, life history, and current stimuli. The field of acute attention is limited, and motives partly remain unconscious. From the first person's perspective, we have an intuitive commitment that many options are available. However, if the total of the mental content is considered from the third person's perspective, only a single decision deemed by the agent as the most favorable at the moment turns out real. The validity of causation for any mental event becomes apparent taking into account their neurophysiological correlates. Different causal descriptions correspond to the mental and physical domain. Laws of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics govern the latter. Admitting downright mental causation of physiological impulses would mean surplus determination. The surmise that under identical conditions, alternative decisions and actions are possible is disproved by naturalists as an illusion. Hard determinism is not taken to refer merely to a determinism on earth, but in all of reality (e.g. involving the effects of light from other galaxies, etc.); not just during a certain deterministic period of time, but for all time. This also means that the relation of necessity will be bi-directional. Just as the initial conditions of the universe presumably determine all future states, so too does the present necessitate the past. In other words, one could not change any one fact without affecting the entire timeline. Because hard determinists often support this eternalist view of time, they do not believe that there are genuine chances or possibilities, only the idea that events are 100% likely.
Unlike "law fundamentalists", some philosophers are "law pluralists": they question what it means to have a law of physics. One example is the "Best Standards Analysis", which says that the laws are only useful ways to summarize all past events, rather than there being metaphysically "pushy" entities (this route still brings one into conflict with the idea of free will). Some law pluralists further believe there are simply no laws of physics. The mathematical universe hypothesis suggests that there are other universes in which the laws of physics and fundamental constants are different. Andreas Albrecht of Imperial College in London called it a "provocative" solution to one of the central problems facing physics. Although he "wouldn't dare" go so far as to say he believes it, he noted that "it's actually quite difficult to construct a theory where everything we see is all there is".
The feasibility of testing determinism is always challenged by what we know, or think we can know, about the idea of a final, all-encompassing, theory of everything. Some physicists challenge the likelihood of determinism on the grounds that certain interpretations of quantum mechanics stipulate that the universe is fundamentally indeterministic, such as the Copenhagen interpretation; whereas other interpretations are deterministic, for example, the De Broglie-Bohm Theory and the many-worlds interpretation. Chaos theory describes how a deterministic system can exhibit perplexing behavior that is difficult to predict: as in the butterfly effect, minor variations between the starting conditions of two systems can result in major differences. Yet chaos theory is a wholly deterministic thesis; it merely demonstrates the potential for vastly different consequences from very similar initial conditions. Properly understood, then, it enlightens and reinforces the deterministic claim.
Hard determinists reject free will. Critics often suggest that, in so doing, the hard determinist also rejects ethics. The key to this argument rests on the idea that holding a person morally responsible requires them to make a choice between two, or more, truly possible alternatives. If choice is indeed impossible, then it would be incorrect to hold anyone morally responsible for his or her actions. If this argument holds, hard determinists are restricted to moral nihilism. This feature, however, is tenable only as far as hard determinists discard responsibility. In a necessitarian world, recourse to merit and blameworthiness is toned down while adherence to ethical and legal values is not ruined. Persons may be appreciated as carriers, executors, and defenders of morality. Alternatively, the choice to be regretful of past misdeeds becomes unreasonable. Nevertheless, one can admonish oneself for one's lapses and resolve to avoid similar behavior in the future. Those hard determinists who defend ethical realism would object to the premise that contra-causal free will is necessary for ethics. Those who are also ethically naturalistic may also point out that there are good reasons to punish criminals: it is a chance to modify their behaviour, or their punishment can act as a deterrent for others who would otherwise act in the same manner. The hard determinist could even argue that this understanding of the true and various causes of a psychopath's behaviour, for instance, allow them to respond even more reasonably or compassionately.
Hard determinists acknowledge that humans do, in some sense, "choose", or deliberate – although in a way that obeys natural laws. For example, a hard determinist might see humans as a sort of thinking machines, but believe it is inaccurate to say they "came to a decision" or "chose". Generalization of event causation should circumvent overstatement of external impulses. Autotelic personalities show a high rate of activities all by themselves. The capacity to resist psychological assault is impressive evidence of autarkic resources. Determinists even admit that with corresponding knowledge, changes in the genetic depository and consequently behavior are possible.
Up to now, the concepts and terminology of legal affairs follow the pre-reflexive belief in alternative possibilities. As scientific insight advances, the juridical attitude becomes increasingly "external": there should be fewer emotions about offender's will and more concern about the effects of offenses on society. The retributive function of punishment should be rejected as irrational and unjustified. "Lex talionis" is discarded already because of deficient correlation between crime and penalty. If the inveterate notion of "mens rea" is used at all, then only to distinguish intentional actions from inadvertent ones and not to designate an autonomous undertaking of the lawbreaker. At the same time, it is justified to require the perpetrator to critically reconsider his intentions and character, to demand apology and compensation in victims' favor. The rehabilitation service should be used to train the risky circle for keeping the norms of social life.
Some behavioral anomalies have been observed in persons cultivating the habit of causal awareness. Increased aggressiveness, excessive compliance, and reduced helpfulness are reported. Critical assessment of one's own former conduct appeared abated.
William James was an American pragmatist philosopher who coined the terms "soft determinist" and "hard determinist" in an influential essay titled "The Dilemma of Determinism". He argued against determinism, holding that the important issue is not personal responsibility, but hope. He believed that thorough-going determinism leads either to a bleak pessimism or to a degenerate subjectivism in moral judgment. He proposed the way to escape the dilemma is to allow a role for chance. James was careful to explain that he would rather "debate about objects than words,” which indicates he did not insist on saying that replacing determinism with a model including chance had to mean we had "free will.”
The determinist would counter-argue that there is still reason for hope. Whether or not the universe is determined does not change the fact that the future is unknown, and might very well always be. From a naturalist point of view, a person's actions still play a role in the shape of that future. Founder and director of the Center of Naturalism, Thomas W. Clark, explains that humans are not merely the playthings of patterned, natural forces in the universe –but rather we are ourselves examples of those forces. The deterministic view aligns our representations with the faculties and possibilities we actually possess but it should avoid misleading introspection. Admitting agents’ dependence on a drastic background can enhance insight, moderate severity and spare unproductive suffering. In so far as the mind comprehends universal necessity, the power of emotions is diminished.
Buridan's ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will.
It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein a donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it dies of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision between the hay and water. A common variant of the paradox substitutes two identical piles of hay for the hay and water; the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies of hunger.
The paradox is named after the 14th-century French philosopher Jean Buridan, whose philosophy of moral determinism it satirizes.
Although the illustration is named after Buridan, philosophers have discussed the concept before him, notably Aristotle who used the example of a man equally hungry and thirsty, and Al-Ghazali who used a man faced with the choice of equally good dates.A version of this situation appears as metastability in digital electronics, when a circuit must decide between two states based on an input that is in itself undefined (neither zero nor one). Metastability becomes a problem if the circuit would take longer time that it should be in this "undecided" state, which is usually set by the speed of the clock the system is running at.Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are mutually compatible and that it is possible to believe in both without being logically inconsistent. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics. They define free will as freedom to act according to one's motives without arbitrary hindrance from other individuals or institutions.Similarly, political liberty is a non-metaphysical concept. Statements of political liberty, such as the United States Bill of Rights, assume moral liberty: the ability to choose to do otherwise than one does.David Sosa
David Sosa is an American philosopher who is currently Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. He received his undergraduate degree from Brown University and a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University. His PhD dissertation, completed in 1996 under the supervision of Mark Johnston (philosopher), was titled "Representing Thoughts and Language". Before moving to Texas, Sosa was a post-doctoral fellow at U.C. Berkeley and an assistant professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College. He is the son of the philosopher Ernest Sosa.
Sosa appeared in Richard Linklater's film Waking Life, in which he performed a short monologue on the implications of discoveries in physics on the problem of free will. He explained the view, often called hard determinism, which holds that there is no place for free action in a world governed by physical laws since human beings, like everything else in the physical world, are physical things and are thus subject to these same laws.Determinism
Determinism is the philosophical belief that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse and sometimes overlapping motives and considerations. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism (otherwise called nondeterminism). Determinism is often contrasted with free will.Determinism often is taken to mean causal determinism, which in physics is known as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states. This meaning can be distinguished from other varieties of determinism mentioned below.
Other debates often concern the scope of determined systems, with some maintaining that the entire universe is a single determinate system and others identifying other more limited determinate systems (or multiverse). Numerous historical debates involve many philosophical positions and varieties of determinism. They include debates concerning determinism and free will, technically denoted as compatibilistic (allowing the two to coexist) and incompatibilistic (denying their coexistence is a possibility). Determinism should not be confused with self-determination of human actions by reasons, motives, and desires. Determinism rarely requires that perfect prediction be practically possible.Free will
Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded.Free will is closely linked to the concepts of responsibility, praise, guilt, sin, and other judgements which apply only to actions that are freely chosen. It is also connected with the concepts of advice, persuasion, deliberation, and prohibition. Traditionally, only actions that are freely willed are seen as deserving credit or blame. There are numerous different concerns about threats to the possibility of free will, varying by how exactly it is conceived, which is a matter of some debate.
Some conceive free will to be the capacity to make choices in which the outcome has not been determined by past events. Determinism suggests that only one course of events is possible, which is inconsistent with the existence of free will thus conceived. Ancient Greek philosophy identified this issue, which remains a major focus of philosophical debate. The view that conceives free will as incompatible with determinism is called incompatibilism and encompasses both metaphysical libertarianism (the claim that determinism is false and thus free will is at least possible) and hard determinism (the claim that determinism is true and thus free will is not possible). Incompatibilism also encompasses hard incompatibilism, which holds not only determinism but also its negation to be incompatible with free will and thus free will to be impossible whatever the case may be regarding determinism.
In contrast, compatibilists hold that free will is compatible with determinism. Some compatibilists even hold that determinism is necessary for free will, arguing that choice involves preference for one course of action over another, requiring a sense of how choices will turn out. Compatibilists thus consider the debate between libertarians and hard determinists over free will vs determinism a false dilemma. Different compatibilists offer very different definitions of what "free will" even means and consequently find different types of constraints to be relevant to the issue. Classical compatibilists considered free will nothing more than freedom of action, considering one free of will simply if, had one counterfactually wanted to do otherwise, one could have done otherwise without physical impediment. Contemporary compatibilists instead identify free will as a psychological capacity, such as to direct one's behavior in a way responsive to reason, and there are still further different conceptions of free will, each with their own concerns, sharing only the common feature of not finding the possibility of determinism a threat to the possibility of free will.Illusionism (philosophy)
Illusionism is a metaphysical theory first propounded by professor Saul Smilansky of the University of Haifa. It holds that people have illusory beliefs about free will. Furthermore, it holds that it is both of key importance and morally right that people not be disabused of these beliefs, because the illusion has benefits both to individuals and to society. Belief in hard incompatibilism, argues Smilansky, removes an individual's basis for a sense of self-worth in his or her own achievements. It is "extremely damaging to our view of ourselves, to our sense of achievement, worth, and self-respect".Neither compatibilism nor hard determinism are the whole story, according to Smilansky, and there exists an ultimate perspective in which some parts of compatibilism are valid and some parts of hard determinism are valid. However, Smilansky asserts, the nature of what he terms the fundamental dualism between hard determinism and compatibilism is a morally undesirable one, in that both beliefs, in their absolute forms, have adverse consequences. The distinctions between choice and luck made by compatibilism are important, but wholly undermined by hard determinism. But, conversely, hard determinism undermines the morally important notions of justice and respect, leaving them nothing more than "shallow" notions.Smilansky's thesis is considered a radical one, and other philosophers disagree with it. Professor Derk Pereboom of Cornell University, for example, disagrees that hard incompatibilism necessarily does away with self-worth, because to a large extent that sense of self-worth isn't related to will at all, let alone to free will. Aspects of worthiness such as natural beauty, native physical ability, and intelligence are not voluntary.James Lenman takes a similar line, arguing that Smilansky's expression of the problems is overstated. The problems that he presents are less fundamentally metaphysical than simply practical in nature.Incompatibilism
Incompatibilism is the view that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that persons have a free will; that there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will where philosophers must choose one or the other. This view is pursued in at least three ways: libertarians deny that the universe is deterministic, the hard determinists deny that any free will exists, and pessimistic incompatibilists (hard indeterminists) deny both that the universe is determined and that free will exists.
Incompatibilism is contrasted with compatibilism, which rejects the determinism/free will dichotomy.Kevin J. Madigan
Kevin J. Madigan is a historian of Christianity at Harvard University, where he has taught for over fifteen years. A member of the Faculty of Divinity, he has also served on Harvard's Committee on the Study of Religion, the Medieval Studies Committee, and the Center for Jewish Studies. Since 2009, Madigan has been Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Harvard Divinity School, an appointment offered by then-Dean of HDS, William Graham, and officially approved by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust. He has been married for thirty years to Stephanie A. Paulsell, Swarzt Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies at HDS. They have one child, Amanda P. Madigan.Libertarian Christianity
Libertarian Christianity is a variant of Reformed Protestant political theology. This right-libertarian approach emerges from a synthesis of Neo-Calvinist systematic and biblical theology. As libertarians, they believe that all secular governments exist to protect the natural rights of individuals, and only to protect natural rights; and they believe that natural rights are necessarily defined in terms of private property, at least in the legal and political arena. While acknowledging a nominal distinction between their legal-political thought and the rest of their theology, they are suspicious of any attempt to exclude other areas of Reformed dogmatics from political discourse and wish to underscore the need for Biblically derived, Protestant theories of law and political organization.
Libertarian Christians seek to distinguish themselves from both secular libertarians and non-Reformed Christian libertarians. They claim to be distinct from secular libertarians by deriving a formally voluntaryist legal and political philosophy strictly from the text of the Bible, rather than from secular sources or non-Calvinistic philosophy, and from Christian libertarians by deriving a Bible-based legal regime according to biblical hermeneutics at odds with those used by other libertarians professing Christian faith.Despite their claim to be methodologically distinct from secular libertarians and Christian libertarians, libertarian Christians readily acknowledge large areas of basic agreement with other types of libertarians in regard to legal and political concerns, and they readily work in concert with people from these other schools. More specifically, they make common cause with right-libertarians and market anarchists who generally espouse private property and natural rights. These include Rothbardian anarcho-capitalists, Nozickian minarchists, Hoppean paleolibertarians, and more mainstream Christian libertarians.Mechanism (philosophy)
Mechanism is the belief that natural wholes (principally living things) are like complicated machines or artefacts, composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts or an external influence on the parts.The doctrine of mechanism in philosophy comes in two different flavors. They are both doctrines of metaphysics, but they are different in scope and ambitions: the first is a global doctrine about nature; the second is a local doctrine about humans and their minds, which is hotly contested. For clarity, we might distinguish these two doctrines as universal mechanism and anthropic mechanism.
There is no constant meaning in the history of philosophy for the word Mechanism. Originally, the term meant that cosmological theory which ascribes the motion and changes of the world to some external force. In this view material things are purely passive, while according to the opposite theory (i. e., Dynamism), they possess certain internal sources of energy which account for the activity of each and for its influence on the course of events; These meanings, however, soon underwent modification. The question as to whether motion is an inherent property of bodies, or has been communicated to them by some external agency, was very often ignored. With a large number of cosmologists the essential feature of Mechanism is the attempt to reduce all the qualities and activities of bodies to quantitative realities, i. e. to mass and motion. But a further modification soon followed. Living bodies, as is well known, present at first sight certain characteristic properties which have no counterpart in lifeless matter. Mechanism aims to go beyond these appearances. It seeks to explain all "vital" phenomena as physical and chemical facts; whether or not these facts are in turn reducible to mass and motion becomes a secondary question, although Mechanists are generally inclined to favour such reduction. The theory opposed to this biological mechanism is no longer Dynamism, but Vitalism or Neo-vitalism, which maintains that vital activities cannot be explained, and never will be explained, by the laws which govern lifeless matter.Media ecology
Media ecology theory is the study of media, technology, and communication and how they affect human environments. The theoretical concepts were proposed by Marshall McLuhan in 1964, while the term media ecology was first formally introduced by Neil Postman in 1968.Ecology in this context refers to the environment in which the medium is used – what they are and how they affect society. Neil Postman states, "if in biology a 'medium' is something in which a bacterial culture grows (as in a Petri dish), in media ecology, the medium is 'a technology within which a [human] culture grows.'" In other words, "Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival. The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people. An environment is, after all, a complex message system which imposes on human beings certain ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving."Media ecology argues that media act as extensions of the human senses in each era, and communication technology is the primary cause of social change. McLuhan is famous for coining the phrase, "the medium is the message", which is an often-debated phrase believed to mean that the medium chosen to relay a message is just as important (if not more so) than the message itself. McLuhan proposed that media influence the progression of society, and that significant periods of time and growth can be categorized by the rise of a specific technology during that period.
Additionally, scholars have compared media broadly to a system of infrastructure that connect the nature and culture of a society with media ecology being the study of "traffic" between the two.Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics (ta meta ta phusika, 'after the Physics ', another of Aristotle's works).Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and fully general manner, the questions:
What is there?
What is it like?Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.Moral responsibility
In philosophy, moral responsibility is the status of morally deserving praise, blame, reward, or punishment for an act or omission performed or neglected in accordance with one's moral obligations.
Deciding what (if anything) counts as "morally obligatory" is a principal concern of ethics.
Philosophers refer to people who have moral responsibility for an action as moral agents. Agents have the capability to reflect upon their situation, to form intentions about how they will act, and then to carry out that action. The notion of free will has become an important issue in the debate on whether individuals are ever morally responsible for their actions and, if so, in what sense. Incompatibilists regard determinism as at odds with free will, whereas compatibilists think the two can coexist.
Moral responsibility does not necessarily equate to legal responsibility. A person is legally responsible for an event when a legal system is liable to penalise that person for that event. Although it may often be the case that when a person is morally responsible for an act, they are also legally responsible for it, the two states do not always coincide.Necessitarianism
Necessitarianism is a metaphysical principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be.
It is the strongest member of a family of principles, including hard determinism, each of which deny libertarian free will, reasoning that human actions are predetermined by external or internal antecedents. Necessitarianism is stronger than hard determinism, because even the hard determinist would grant that the causal chain constituting the world might have been different as a whole, even though each member of that series could not have been different, given its antecedent causes.Anthony Collins was the foremost defender of Necessitarianism. His brief Inquiry Concerning Human Liberty (1715) was a key statement of the determinist standpoint.
The Century Dictionary defined it in 1889–91 as belief that the will is not free, but instead subject to external antecedent causes or natural laws of cause and effect.Outline of metaphysics
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to metaphysics:
Metaphysics – traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
What is ultimately there?
What is it like?Pre-established harmony
Gottfried Leibniz's theory of pre-established harmony (French: harmonie préétablie) is a philosophical theory about causation under which every "substance" affects only itself, but all the substances (both bodies and minds) in the world nevertheless seem to causally interact with each other because they have been programmed by God in advance to "harmonize" with each other. Leibniz's term for these substances was "monads" which he described in a popular work (Monadology §7) as "windowless".Technological determinism
Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that assumes that a society's technology determines the development of its social structure and cultural values. Technological determinism tries to understand how technology has had an impact on human action and thought. Changes in technology are the primary source for changes in society. The term is believed to have originated from Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), an American sociologist and economist. The most radical technological determinist in the United States in the 20th century was most likely Clarence Ayres who was a follower of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. William Ogburn was also known for his radical technological determinism.
The first major elaboration of a technological determinist view of socioeconomic development came from the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, who argued that changes in technology, and specifically productive technology, are the primary influence on human social relations and organizational structure, and that social relations and cultural practices ultimately revolve around the technological and economic base of a given society. Marx's position has become embedded in contemporary society, where the idea that fast-changing technologies alter human lives is all-pervasive.
Although many authors attribute a technologically determined view of human history to Marx's insights, not all Marxists are technological determinists, and some authors question the extent to which Marx himself was a determinist. Furthermore, there are multiple forms of technological determinism.Theological determinism
Theological determinism is a form of predeterminism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or/and predestined to happen, by a God/gods, or that they are destined to occur given its omniscience. Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including Jainism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is also supported by proponents of Classical pantheism such as the Stoics and Baruch Spinoza.William James
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 27, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James was a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential U.S. philosophers, and has been labelled the "Father of American psychology".Along with Charles Sanders Peirce, James established the philosophical school known as pragmatism, and is also cited as one of the founders of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology analysis, published in 2002, ranked James as the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century. A survey published in American Psychologist in 1991 ranked James's reputation in second place, after Wilhelm Wundt, who is widely regarded as the founder of experimental psychology. James also developed the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. James' work has influenced intellectuals such as Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty, and has even influenced former US President Jimmy Carter.
Born into a wealthy family, James was the son of the Swedenborgian theologian Henry James Sr. and the brother of both the prominent novelist Henry James and the diarist Alice James. James trained as a physician and taught anatomy at Harvard, but never practiced medicine. Instead he pursued his interests in psychology and then philosophy. James wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are The Principles of Psychology, a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology; Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy; and The Varieties of Religious Experience, an investigation of different forms of religious experience, including theories on mind-cure.