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October 2021

William James and the pathologizing of human experience

Journal/Book: J Hum Psychol. 2000; 40: 2455 Teller Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320, USA. Sage Publications Inc. 176-226.

Abstract: A sizable group of modern writers have been criticizing the prevalent practice of using pathology terms to describe human experiences. The practice of pathologizing was already prevalent more than 100 years ago when William James was a medical student at Harvard. Quotes from James's letters, publications, and lectures inform us as to how his conceptualization of experiences commonly referred to as pathological developed as he matured. By the time James wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience, his dissatisfaction with pathology terminology reached its apex. Referring to it as ''simple minded'' and ''superficial medical talk,'' James employed three principles that provide an alternative to this kind of language and three principles that neutralize the negative effects that can occur whenever pathology terms are employed by others. These six principles are examined and then applied to James's description of Leo Tolstoy's profound struggle with melancholy.

Note: Biographical-Item Rubin J, 20 E 2nd St, Corning,NY 14830 USA


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