Psychology: A Briefer Course by William James Review

Essay by JArias94College, UndergraduateA+, December 2014

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Psychology: A Briefer Course

By: William James

Chapter XVII: The Sense of Time

Chapter XVIII: Memory

Chapter XIX: Imagination

Summary, Modern Thought, and Verdict

Jonathan Arias

PSY 203 - EAH

Chapter XVII: The Sense of Time


William James begins by stating that our minds will never be able to truly experience the present. This is because when we go to recollect the present it has already become the past. The moments between the action of our lives and the realization that it is real are enough for us to miss the present. When someone is explaining time as 'Now' they are referring to the past and the future. This goes along with the thesis that the mind cannot experience the present.

We have no sense for empty time. James defines empty time as boredom. When the mind is experiencing boredom it will appear to last longer than time spent having fun.

This is due to our inability to perceive time continuously. James also expresses that time filled with interesting experiences goes by quicker than those filled with fewer experiences. However, when looking back at the time it seems that time filled with more experiences lasted longer than it actually did. This is because the mind has more memories built during that time.

James expresses that time can be separated into units. Time can be measured just like length can be measured by inches. However, after several units of time the mind begins to vaguely perceive it. James states, "Our only way of knowing it [time] accurately is by counting, or noticing the clock, or through some other symbolic conception." (283)

James makes the argument that, "the same space of time seems shorter as we grow older". (284) He makes the argument that the older one gets the faster...