William James wrestled with what has been called the “great problem of dualism.” Wrapped up in James’ struggles were questions on the nature of consciousness: whether there was something more than the purely physical; if so, what the “something more” was; and whether there is such a thing as free will, or if everything that happens in one’s life is determined by one’s personality and life experiences. The purpose of this essay is (1) to lay out the younger James’ changing position(s) on the issue of free will vs. determinism, (2) to describe some of the influences on his views, including the intellectual atmosphere of his day (the “Zeitgeist”) and his own personal life, and (3) to present your own views.
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