Since he wanted to become a painter, the family moved to Newport, Rhode Island in 1860, where William studied with the leading American portraitist, William Morris Hunt.Although he had talent, he gave up this career goal in less than a year.
But bad health eventually forced him to quit the expedition, and he returned to medical school (the James family moving from Boston to Cambridge, Massachusetts).
Again he left, this time to study physiology and medicine in Germany and to recover his health.
He had decided that it was insufficient for him to do first-rate work.
All this is indicative of three things: the family’s remarkable support for his aspirations; his own quest to achieve excellence; and his restless, indecisive difficulty in remaining committed to a career path. In response to President Lincoln’s call for volunteers, James committed himself to a short-term enlistment.
In 1872, one of James’s former chemistry professors, now Harvard’s President, offered him a job teaching physiology.
He accepted and began his career of more than a third of a century as a faculty member there.He started down the road to recovery, though the remainder of his life would be plagued by seemingly psychosomatic troubles (serious eye strain, mysterious back pains, digestive problems, and periods of exhaustion, as well as chronic mood swings, including times of brooding depression).Unfortunately, he still lacked a constructive career goal.The family frequently moved between America and Europe, the father having inherited an amount of money sufficient to allow him to enjoy the life of an intellectual.While growing up, William had a passion for drawing.There he studied chemistry and then physiology, prior to his entering Harvard’s Medical School in 1863.A couple of years later, he took a year off to join a scientific expedition to Brazil, led by Louis Agassiz.Avoiding the logically tight systems typical of European rationalists, such as the German idealists, he cobbled together a psychology rich in philosophical implications and a philosophy enriched by his psychological expertise.More specifically, his theory of the self and his view of human belief as oriented towards conscious action raised issues that required him to turn to philosophy.In a barely disguised case history in his , he tells of visiting an asylum while he was a medical student, and seeing an epileptic patient whose condition had reduced him to an idiotic state.James could not dispel the realization that if universal determinism prevails, he could likewise sink into such a state, utterly incapable of preventing it (.