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william james

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    What William James Got Right About Consciousness

    Is consciousness an instinct? When feeling at sea about definitions and meanings in the mind/brain business, it is always rewarding to dial up William James once again. More than 125 years ago, James wrote a landmark article simply titled “What Is an Instinct?” He wastes no time in defining the concept: Instinct is usually defined […]

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    You Can Have Emotions You Don’t Feel

    What does it mean to have an emotion? It seems obvious that having one means feeling it. If you’re happy but don’t know it, in what sense could you actually be happy? Such reasoning seemed sound to William James. Conscious feeling, he thought, was precisely what distinguished the emotions from other mental states, like desire. […]