Tag Archives: William James


“America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or diploma is stamped upon him”

—William James, “The PhD Octopus” (1903)


In 1903, William James began the process of trying to decide whether to retire from Harvard. His diary for the fall of 1905 reads:

October 26, “Resign!”; October 28, “Resign!!!”; November 4, “Resign?”; November 7, “Resign!”; November 8, “Don’t resign”; November 9, “Resign!”; November 16, “Don’t resign!”; November 23, “Resign”; December 7, “Don’t resign”; December 9, “Teach here next year.”

He eventually retired in 1907.

Source: Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club