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William James Pragmatic View on Human Emotions

A Thesis
Presented to the
Faculty of Philosophy
College of the Holy Spirit of Tarlac
Tarlac City

In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirement for the
Subject Philosophy

Mr. Charlie O. Bautista

Subject Teacher

Lorwin Marie S. Baculanta


October 2016

1.1 Background of the Study
Like other animals, we have primitive instincts, such as fear, some desires, and certain
forms of sympathy, which do not require being taught them or consciously focusing on ends.
However, we also have emotions that are learned behavior and do involve such a focusfor
example, a fear of failure and the desire for an academic degree. Instincts and emotions thus
overlap, the latter tending to cover a broader range of objects than the former. We tend to assume
that perceptions trigger emotional responses, eventuating in bodily expressionsthat we
suddenly see a bear, become frightened, and then tremble and run away. But James thinks the
actual sequence is perception, followed by bodily expressions, followed by emotional feeling
that we see the bear, tremble and run away, then feel those physical events as what we call fear.
The idea that emotions ultimately have physical causes emphasizes the intimate relationship
between our bodies and our mental life.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This study focuses on Williams pragmatism towards the view of human emotions.
Throughout the study, the discussion of the research problem will be given answers by the
1. What is William James' pragmatic view of human emotions?
2. What are the different human emotions?
3. Why are our human emotions important?
1.3 Methodology
In order to answer the questions in the statement of the problem, the researcher will use
the expository method where every details and information will be presented in an organized
manner. The researcher will acquire variety of information from different sources that tackles
about William James and his contributions and concepts to the field of human emotions.
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The study aims to determine William James pragmatic view of human emotions. It is the
researchers aim to ascertain the different human emotions and why are they important.

1.5 Scope and Limitation

The researcher would like to determine the human emotions that William James has view
on. William James view is so broad for it covers many field related to human emotions. This
research is made so that every reader would have a broad understanding of human emotions and
for them to be able to know how this kind of emotion can determine and understand each other.
The researcher is limited within the philosophers justification and understanding of freedom.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study is essential for the readers and the people. It is because they can understand
and know more about each other. Avoiding misunderstandings is another good point of this
research. They can empathize more rather than resulting to apathy.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Pragmatism - an approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in
terms of the success of their practical application.
Human Emotions - a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances,
mood, or relationships with others.
2. Pragmatism: View on Human Emotions
Pragmatism was designed as a method, through which the embroidery of metaphysical
speculation would be unravelled. The achievement of this purpose was to be reached by
inquiring about the consequences of practical actions that might be deduced from such

For James, the human organism is interested and active, creating its own

circumstances out of adaptive necessity. James is concerned with the evolution of human action,
not with the evolution of emergent things such as neural systems or cortex. Such a view of
mind, as actively one could say pragmatically projecting from present experience into the
future, is typically Jamesian. From this perspective, mind is not a passive imprint of past
experience, but a selective and interested agent in the creation of it own future.

2.1 Different types of Human Emotions

The discussion of Jamess theory of emotion in the relevant literature has been wholly
occupied with the question of whether physical sensation necessarily precedes emotional feeling
or not. But for James, this was never the issue. His intention in grounding emotional feeling in
bodily sensation was to insist that emotions are embodied, that they emanate from the physical
self and not from some spiritual source outside a persons experience of self. Thus, James, in
effect, opposes culturalist or social constructionist accounts of emotion. These latter disregard
the physical being of the emoting self and suppose that external cultural rules and conventions
animate an emotional subject. Jamess critics have assumed that his somatic theory turns emotion
into an epiphenomenon, into froth: it is a consequence of sensation, not a cause of behavior.
2.2 Importance of Human Emotion
Human Emotion can define humans more humane. It is what makes us humans.
Emotions can play an important role in how we think and behave. The emotions we feel each day
can compel us to take action and influence the decisions we make about our lives, both large and

Online Sources
2004 Sage Publications: London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi
Wayne P. Pomerleau, Gonzaga University, U. S. A.