William James

Jeremy Carrette

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780195170214
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892150 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

William James

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  • Sociology of Religion
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William James's 1884 theory of emotion is perhaps the most well known of all his psychological ideas, particularly as it forms a key historical landmark in the history of the concept. His notion of “religious emotion” is perhaps one of the most important in shaping the subject in the twentieth century. The complex history of James's theory of emotion begins when he and the Danish physician Karl Georg Lange established a post-Darwinian, organic theory of emotions, in what became known as the James-Lange theory. This view of emotion went against the grain of contemporary theories of emotion in the new psychology, particularly that put forward by Wilhelm Wundt, who argued for a theory of “apperception”—the process by which a state of mind (the affect or emotion) produces bodily effects. This article examines James's theory of emotion and religious emotion, focusing on his views about mind and body. It also discusses three theories of emotion, namely, organic theory, cognitive theory, and social theory. Finally, it considers pluralism, mystical emotions, metaphysical emotions, and the reflex circuit of emotion.

Keywords: William James; pluralism; religious emotion; Karl Georg Lange; Wilhelm Wundt; organic theory; social theory; cognitive theory; mind; body

Article.  8379 words. 

Subjects: Sociology of Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Religious Studies

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