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Functionalism

Interest in functions of the mind rather than its structure.

"How" rather than "what" questions.

Emphasis on the developmental, adaptive, and dynamic features of experience.

Associated with process-oriented philosophies and empiricism rather than being-oriented philosophies and rationalism.

William James (1842-1910)

Key figure in founding and development of American functionalism.

Training in physiology & medicine, fame as philosopher and psychologist

Famous works include Principles of Psychology and The Varieties of Religious Experience.

William James: General Characteristics of His Thought

Individualism—reality can be studied only through the experiences of individuals

Pluralism—multiple realities; fosters use of multiple methodologies & analysis from various perspectives

Radical empiricism—study all aspects of experience

Pragmatism—as method, theory of truth, & way of thinking about the world; "cash value" of ideas & beliefs

Free will—personal epiphany; free will possible (no biography can be written in advance) but not easy

William James: Psychology

Def: "the science of mental life, both of its phenomena and of their conditions"

Habit: principles of learning

Self: material, social, & spiritual selves

Emotions: cannot exist apart from physiological responses to events ("James-Lange theory of emotion")

William James: Psychology

Stream of Thought (Stream of Consciousness)—one of James’ major contributions

Consciousness is marked by continuities, relations, & complexities (vs. simple sensations)

Characteristics: personal, constantly changing, continuous, cognitive of outer reality, attention directed by interest