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JAMES, William.

The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy.

New York: Longmans Green and Co, 1897 Stock Code: 144966
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Presentation copy to George Herbert Palmer

First edition, first printing, presentation copy from the author to his fellow Harvard University professor George Herbert Palmer, inscribed on the front free endpaper "George H. Palmer with best regards of W.J. March 6. 1897".

An excellent association - Palmer led the philosophy department at Harvard, and under his long-term chair it became the best in the United States, with the department having among its faculty, alongside James and Palmer, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, and Hugo Münsterberg, an extraordinary concentration of talent. "Although Palmer and James felt affection for one another, they recognized irreconcilable differences in personality and outlook that prevented their becoming close friends. James thought Palmer too cautious, too bound by his background as a Congregational minister. Yet he remarked about Palmer, 'for a non-original man, he seems to me the ablest I know'". Palmer in turn recalled the ferocity of opinions in the faculty and clashes between the members: "In our lectures we were accustomed to attack each other by name, James forever exposing the follies of the idealists, particularly of Royce and me" (Simon, William James Remembered, 1996, pp. 28-29). Palmer's lectures in contrast were known more for their moderation and serenity.

Loosely inserted in the book is a letter from James's widow Alice Howard James to Palmer, 26 September 1920: "I have been reading with the most grateful heart your article in the Harvard Graduates Magazine on William James. It is so faithful a portrait, so individual and so living that I catch my breath with a certain surprise. How he would remind me of his telling me that he had asked me to be his survivor. Where is he, where are they our dear departed, not for us to know, but with patience we must wait - with thanks for the beautiful paper I am yours always sincerely Alice H. James".

The Will to Believe is the first publication in book form of ten essays by James, in which he presents some of his most developed contributions to psychology, including his understanding of determinism, compatibilism, morality, and pragmatism. Each was first published in journal form but the works truly became popular when they were published in this collection, which was reprinted twice in 1897. James wrote and presented these papers between 1879-96 to a variety of societies, institutes, and university clubs. He later admitted that the controversial eponymous essay, The Will to Believe, should have been called "the right to believe," to indicate his intent to justify holding certain beliefs in certain circumstances, not to imply that belief is justified simply by an act of will.

With Palmer's booklabel to front pastedown above a mounted portrait of James, and a clipping of one of Palmer's articles on James loosely inserted.

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Octavo. Original green cloth, paper label to spine lettered in black and ruled in red, top edge gilt, others uncut.


Pencilled note to p. 31; old bookseller's description of different book tipped-in to rear pastedown. Paper label darkened and rubbed, light marking to cloth, contents clean. A very good copy.


McDermott 1897-3.


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