I was reading about eminent psychologists and I came across William James and a book that he has written: The Principles of Psychology. However, Wikipedia states this book is outdated:

Philosopher Helmut R. Wagner writes that most of the book's contents are now outdated, but that it still contains insights of interest.

The article referenced is the following:

Wagner, Helmut R. (1983). Phenomenology of Consciousness and Sociology of the Life-world: An Introductory Study. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-88864-032-3.

Is this true or is it still worth reading?


closed as primarily opinion-based by Robin Kramer, mrt, Seanny123, AliceD, Arnon Weinberg Dec 15 '16 at 5:44

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Now that you have incorporated the context you are basing yourself on (the Wikipedia reference), it becomes even more clear your question is primarily opinion-based, or at a minimum, unclear. Wikipedia does not even state it is not worth reading ... Why does the opinion stated on wikipedia not answer your question? "but that it still contains insights of interest." Have you looked up the referenced paper, which might in fact answer your question? In case you are interested in something more specific, you need to make your question more specific as well. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Dec 15 '16 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't mean to make this question complicated.simply I asked about your opinions about this book. It is opinion-based. I wanted to read this book but as soon as I saw It's 1400 pages I decided to have your opinion about whether this book is outdated or this is a good introductory book to read. $\endgroup$ – Masih K Dec 15 '16 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ That is understandable. :) However, that is the reason this question was put on hold. I recommend you to read the faq to find out more about why such questions are discouraged on Stack Exchange sites. $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Dec 15 '16 at 19:52

See this review Reference "Joseph C. Hager, Ph.D." Amazon Review -

Why would anyone want to read a book about psychology that was first published 113 years ago? One answer is the rationale for reading any psychology book: that it provides insights into psychological issues not available elsewhere. Although many psychologists of the late 19th and early 20th century probably started their career by reading this book, it is not appropriate today as an introduction to psychology. Too many of James's viewpoints are antiquated, and his facts, outdated or incorrect. Neither is it the book to read if you are looking for contemporary psychological views or a compilation of psychological knowledge. Recent textbooks are better for these purposes. Yet, the word most frequently used to describe James's Principles of Psychology is probably 'monumental' and rightly so because not only is this a lengthy work (~1400pgs), but it also is the culmination of a long line of philosophical thinking about the Soul, Self, Mind, Matter, and related topics that began with the pre-Socratic Greeks and continued through the 19th century, when positivist philosophers and experimentalists began to explore psychologically relevant philosophical questions in more concrete terms, invoking a scientific method and rejecting metaphysics. At the end of the 19th century, a seeming riot of discussion about the meaning of life, the nature of consciousness, mind, ego, evolution, and related subjects dominated the scientific and popular culture. At this point in history, William James, an American trained as a physician and employed as a Harvard professor, examines the various philosophies of the previous two millenia, picking out those aspects relevant to psychology, comparing and sorting them to reveal their value as unambiguous theories that might be tested by research, and reflecting on how the evidence stacks up in their favor. He also advances his own, original conceptions on various issues. His work is not the first to collect speculation and evidence into a coherent psychology, and there are many previous works with "Psychology" in their titles, but James's efforts would galvanize an American discipline of psychological science that would eventually become a dominant intellectual force. James defines psychology as the "Science of Mental Life" and describes the stream of consciousness as "the ultimate fact for psychology." Out of his viewpoint, the school of functionalism in psychology developed, where the mind is conceived as a useful organ that evolves according to natural selection and grows according to discoverable rules. His orientation towards physiological and behavioral data eventually diminished the then dominant psychological method of introspection that James himself uses so frequently with great effect. Subsequent viewpoints in psychology, such as behaviorism, though taking part of their inspiration from functionalism, reject James's definition of psychology, so that by the end of the 20th century, most psychologists with an empirical orientation may call themselves "behavioral scientists," but certainly not "mental scientists." Reading this book can be disconcerting, perhaps because of his period style or Victorian sensibilities, or the frequent, unglossed short quotes and phrases in German, French, and Latin because he assumes the reader has at least these minimal language skills. Perhaps also, it is because James is not only conversant with the giants of philosophy and experimental technique who preceeded him, but seemingly, with virtually every published sentence to date bearing on the subjects of concern, and in veritable fractal detail, producing a tour de force in erudition. His is not the style of current psychology journals and textbooks, but fortunately he does translate into English many long passages he quotes from their original sources. Yet possibly the most disconcerting aspects are the subjects that James raises in this book. The new mainstream psychology after James rejects many topics as unsuitable - even for discussion - that figure prominently in the intellectual history of philosophy and psychology. James's view that the concept of Soul should be eliminated in scientific works is one point on which later psychologists heartily agree, but they also, to a large extent, throw out other concepts of central concern to James, such as mind, emotion, will, and feeling. Rare pleas by scholars with varying backgrounds (e.g., Ornstein, Tomkins) urge students of psychology to revisit issues discussed by James and address the larger questions contained therein, but such exhorations echo mostly in halls of learning emptied by Vita enhancement pressures. Renewal of interest reappears lately for some of the suppressed topics, cast into such areas as cognitive psychology or emotion theory, but James's idea that the mind is a core concept remains foreign to virtually all contemporary psychologists, and much of his emphasis seems uncomfortable from today's viewpoint. The reluctance among psychologists to embrace such philosophical and scientific issues concerning the mind is remarkably not shared by some physicists, mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists, and other scientists who in recent works have implied that psychologists may be irrelevant to elucidating such issues, if not muddle-headed, scientific dwarfs. This twist is ironic because psychologists restrict their vocabulary and investigations partly to ape their conception of these "hard-core" sciences. It is not clear whether psychology will survive the choices that psychologists have made about their subject matter, or whether psychology departments will inevitably be diced and parsed into their appropriate slots in departments of computer science, biology, medicine, statistics, and physics, but certainly, the end of psychology is nearer if tomorrow's students of psychology fail to study James's Principles of Psychology. James's work is the jumping off point for much of what forms 20th century psychology: habit, association, attention, memory, imagination, object and space perception, etc. His thoughts about emotion, feelings, the self, consciousness, and other topics remain important for today's theoretical views. On the other hand, this work predates psychoanalysis and does not include an organized account of abnormal psychology, human communication, and other topics raised in most elementary surveys of psychology. The context in which James puts scientific psychology is probably the most important lesson of this book. The Dover edition is unabridged, the only form of this work that should be considered by the serious reader.


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