What are William James four descriptive accounts?

I know they are Ineffable, noetic, transient, and passive but what do they mean? Give me examples! Thanks

1 Answer

  • pj
    Lv 7
    7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Its helpful for this type of assignment to turn to reference material in the library (or on the library Website in databases).

    I've started with the Gale Biography in Context database and searched his name. One of the reference sources provided is the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Here is a brief excerpt:

    "If the Principles is to be regarded as primarily a descriptive work, one must be clear about what is involved in description as James understood it. He was convinced that pure description in the manner of phenomenology is impossible. Description cannot be other than conceptual; concepts, in turn, are tools of classification that have inexpugnable conventional and theoretical elements. Concepts do not passively mirror; they select according to human interests and purposes. Assumptions, James maintained, have a way of establishing themselves "in our very descriptions of the phenomenal facts" (Principles, Vol. I, p. 145). "

    Source: Earle, William. "William James." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Gale, 2006. Biography In Context. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.

    It also helps to know the terms. For example, I don't use the word "ineffable" a whole lot. I had an idea about what it meant, but turned to the dictionary anyway to confirm my understanding.


    The descriptive chapter is the "Stream of Thought".

    Another database common to many college libraries is the Gale Virtual Reference Library. In it you will find sources like this:

    "Functional psychology. In its basic assumptions concerning the mind The Principles opposed the elementalism of the then current German psychology. James decried the practice of chopping consciousness into “single ideas” with which the investigator could not hope to have immediate acquaintance. Chains, trains, or other compoundings of bits seemed to him inadequate as models. Consciousness is nothing jointed, he argued; it flows. Thus, he preferred such metaphors as “river” or “stream.” Every conscious state, he claimed, is a function of the entire psychophysical context. Mind is cumulative, and experience produces alterations in its structure. The psychophysical context must necessarily change over time, precluding exact recurrence. This denial that a mental state can ever recur in a form identical with a past state anticipated one thesis of gestalt psychology."

    Source: "James, William." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. David L. Sills. Vol. 8. New York: Macmillan, 1968. 227-234. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.

    To learn James you will have to read and re-read his work and pull out examples for yourself. I do think it helps with subjects like philosophy and literature to have a solid background, which is why I recommend subject encyclopedias that focus on the people and topics you are studying. That way you can "attack" the reading with more confidence in your understanding and ability to articulate the concepts.

    If you need further assistance, check out the library Website. Many now offer help through chat services - some are available 24/7!





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