Maarten Maartensz

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The Principles of Psychology
William James

First issued in 1890

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This html-edition of "The Principles of Psychology" was prepared by Maarten Maartensz in June 2006 from two sources

  • The fine html-edition of the same by Christopher D. Green, for Classics in the History of Psychology
  • My edition of the same text in one volume (the original and the edition of it in Dover Paperbacks are in two volumes) in 'Great Books of the Western World'

It is my intention to add my own notes to the text, and to read it once more through while doing so, but at present I have not done this.

Although the html-edition I have used indeed is fine, it seems to have been made by a scanner, and it contains some errors, such as "iel" for "he" at some places, and mistakes in some proper names. If in doubt, I use my own paper edition, and I advice my readers to do the same, and indeed to buy the work if they like it at all. The Dover Paperbacks edition is probably excellent, and will not cost much. My reasons to advice you to buy it is that it is a work that taught me most about psychology (in which I hold an excellent M.A.); that it is extra-ordinarily well-written; that more modern introductions to psychology can hardly teach you more about the subject, and usually teach their readers much less, in much worse prose; and that Christopher D. Green's edition, which is the basis of mine, follows that paper edition.

The texts that follow have many links, and come all with a group of three or four arrows at the beginning and the end of each text, that look thus:


These have in general the following effect when clicked:

- previous file
- Table of Contents
- Notes or Text associated with the file
- next file

Apart from my correction of typos and links to such notes of my own as I have inserted this text follows that of Green's, which follows William James's, except in the following respects:

  • In Chapter 17 the notes from [19] onwards are numbered one lower in mine, note [18] being absent, and the order of the notes corresponding to the paper edition I use.
  • The formatting I use follows that of my site, and at various places I have used different kinds of indentations etc.
  • I have repaired such typos as I saw.

It is also well to remark upon the various kinds of notes in and annotations to James's text. There are in fact four, in four styles, all between square brackets:

  • In the paper edition I use, the footnotes are numbered per page, starting anew on a new page; in Christopher D. Green's edition the notes are numbered per chapter, and I followed that rule, and also have all of James's notes for a chapter at the end of the chapter

  • All James's footnotes are between square brackets with an underlining that marks it as a hyperlink; clicking the lick moves the reader to the note (and Backspace or Alt-Left arrow backwards to the text at the place of the note).

  • Mr Green also inserted the original pagination between square brackets without underlinings, and I have retained these for the reader's convenience (for the reader may well have the Dover edition that mr Green followed)

  • My own notes to James's text are between square brackets with an "m" preceded, and as superscript, thus: Example[m1]. These notes, when underlined, link to the proper place in the file of Notes of mine that belong to the chapter, but is always a file on its own, so as not to confuse it with James's text.

  • There are at present no notes of mine to James's text.

  • At some places notes marked with a [*] or more are used.

It is also worth noting that James's footnotes are as well worth reading as his text, that I found better reading in psychology than any other text in psychology I have read (and I write this as a psychologist).

Finally, since I am also a philosopher, and since I have placed James's text in my selection of important texts of philosophy (that I either commented myself already, or intend to comment), it is well to state why I did so:

First, because many of James's concerns in the Principles concern philosophical issues, that James discusses very sensibly, also often accompanied by excellent and copious quotations from others; second, because anyone interested in philosophy, and especially epistemology, should have the sort of knowledge about the human mind that James outlines in the Principles (which most modern philosophers palpably lack, as it happens); and third, because I fundamentally agree (with a few caveats that don't matter here, that mostly have to do with James's pragmatism) with James's realistic, naturalistic and scientific approach of psychology.

Maarten Maartensz
Jun 3 2008

last update: 17-Nov-2009  

Chapter 1. The Scope of Psychology
Chapter 2. The Functions of the Brain
Chapter 3. On Some General Conditions of Brain Activity
Chapter 4. Habit

Chapter 5. The Automaton Theory
Chapter 6. The Mind-Stuff Theory
Chapter 7. The Methods and Snares of Psychology
Chapter 8. The Relations of Minds to Other Things

Chapter 9. The Stream of Thought
Chapter 10. The Consciousness of Self
Chapter 11. Attention
Chapter 12. Conception

Chapter 13. Discrimination and Comparison
Chapter 14. Association
Chapter 15. The Perception of Time
Chapter 16. Memory

Volume 2

Chapter 17. Sensation
Chapter 18. Imagination
Chapter 19. The Perception of 'Things'
Chapter 20. The Perception of Space

Chapter 21. The Perception of Reality
Chapter 22. Reasoning
Chapter 23. The Production of Movement
Chapter 24. Instinct

Chapter 25. The Emotions
Chapter 26. Will
Chapter 27. Hypnotism
Chapter 28. Necessary Truths and the Effects of Experience