The Will to Believe addresses several of the most important and perplexing problems of philosophy. In ten lucid essays James deals with such subjects as causality and free will, the definition of the good life and the Good itself, the importance of the individual in society, and the intellectual claims of scientific method. Linking all these essays, most of which were delivered as lectures to popular audiences, is James’s deep belief that philosophy does not operate in a vacuum but is influenced by our passional and volitional natures.
As Edward H. Madden points out in his substantial introduction, these essays, written over a span of seventeen years, represent not so much a fixed system of ideas as a patient searching, an organic development of James’s thought in response to his own criticism and that of others.
This is the sixth volume to be published in The Works of William James, an authoritative edition sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies.