A philosophy professor and the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story gleans life lessons from the biography and teachings of William James (1842-1910), the pragmatic American philosopher and psychologist.
James stared down 'the prospect of persistent existential disillusionment,' though the warm tone of his work belies this description, and often framed experience in a Buddhist-like perspective ... Sick Souls, Healthy Minds is a new house, a more modest and specific structure than his earlier works ... I’d advise you to read Kaag’s primer ... But if you haven’t read James himself, do that first. It’s wonderful that he inspires intermediaries to bring his thought to modern-day readers, but his cogent and humane work doesn’t strictly need intermediaries.
Conceived well before the coronavirus hijacked our lives, Sick Souls, Healthy Minds offers us a lifeline at this moment ... John Kaag invites us to ask, together with America’s greatest philosopher, William James, what makes life worth living ... James would have liked this book. Kaag ties James’s ideas directly to the challenges and puzzles of his own life ... James’s ideas have rippled through the past century more powerfully than those of any other American thinker. Kaag’s little book reminds us why.
Although pithy and exacting, this study of James’s life and work is less enthralling than Mr. Kaag’s previous books ... Sick Souls feels too guarded and circumspect to engage us as personal history. Even so, any excuse to reconsider James’s ideas—which straddled psychology and philosophy and homegrown American religion—is welcome ... John Kaag, who by his own admission is 'not always entirely sold on life’s value,' writes with the fervor of one determined to hear life’s higher notes. His arguments about the power of philosophy to improve your life may not convince you, but in these anxiety-inducing times, it may be worth testing the buoyancy of James’s existential life preserver.