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William James: Consciousness

William James conceived consciousness as a continuous stream of thought that may or may not be based on sensations. Consider a scenario in which you come home from work and are too tired to do anything. You sit down on the couch and turn the TV on, but for a while you are simply staring at the TV screen without paying attention to what is being played on TV; you realize that you are hungry and should try to find something to eat. According to James' conception, were you conscious during that period when you were blankly staring at the TV screen?

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This one will require a quote from James' Stream of Consciousness (1892), a part of his larger work, Psychology:

"When we take a general view of the wonderful stream of our consciousness, what strikes us first is the different pace of its parts. Like a bird's life, it seems to be an alternation of flights and perchings. The rhythm of language expresses this, where every thought is expressed in a sentence, and every sentence closed by a period. The resting-places are usually occupied by sensorial imaginations of some sort, whose peculiarity is that they can be held before the mind for an indefinite time, and contemplated without changing; the places of flight are filled with thoughts of relations, static or dynamic, that for the most part obtain between the matters contemplated in the periods of comparative rest (James, 1892: 160)."

This quotation from James strongly suggests that blankly starting at a TV ...

Solution Summary

The expert examines consciousness for William James. The stream of consciousness in psychology is examined