The William James Lectures

The William James Lectures were a series of invited lectureships at Harvard University sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, who alternated in the selection of speakers. The series was created in honor of the American Pragmatist philosopher William James, a former faculty member. It was endowed through a 1929 bequest from Edgar Pierce, a Harvard Alumnus, who also funded the prestigious Edgar Pierce Chair in Philosophy and Psychology.

Below is a list of in-print works in this collection, presented in series order or publication order as applicable.

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Cover: Unified Theories of Cognition

Unified Theories of Cognition

Newell, Allen

After reviewing foundational concepts of cognitive science Newell introduces Soar, an architecture for general cognition. A pioneer system in artificial intelligence, Soar is the first problem-solver to create its own subgoals and learn continuously from its own experience. Soar’s ability to operate within the real-time constraints of intelligent behavior illustrates important characteristics of the human cognitive structure.

Cover: The Logical Basis of Metaphysics

The Logical Basis of Metaphysics

Dummett, Michael

Dummett regards the construction of a satisfactory theory of meaning as the most pressing task of contemporary analytical philosophy. He believes that the successful completion of this difficult assignment will lead to a resolution of problems before which philosophy has been stalled, in some instances for centuries.

Cover: The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea

The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea

Lovejoy, Arthur O.

From later antiquity to the close of the 18th century, most educated men accepted without question a traditional view of the plan and structure of the world. In this volume, Lovejoy copiously illustrates the influence of this conception, and of the ideas out of which it was compounded, upon the imagination and feelings as expressed in literature.

Cover: How to Do Things with Words: Second Edition

How to Do Things with Words: Second Edition

Austin, J. L.
Urmson, J. O.
Sbisà, Marina

John L. Austin was one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century. The William James Lectures presented Austin’s conclusions in the field to which he directed his main efforts on a wide variety of philosophical problems. These talks became the classic How to Do Things with Words.

To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America, by Felicia Angeja Viator, from Harvard University Press

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Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.