It’s still a question, whether Eng had to die that night. They had an agreement, he and Chang, and theirs was a bond that would not break easily. They were linked physically from birth; they depended on each other come what may. If Chang drank, Eng got drunk. If Chang loved, Eng found love, too. When Chang suffered a stroke that left the otherwise healthy Eng dragging about an invalid, doom was in the air. No one was sure how the cards would play out, but they both knew the backup plan. Not long before, during one of Chang’s frequent drunken rages, he pointed a knife at his dear brother and promised, “I’m going to cut your gut out!” after which Eng pulled Chang to the doctor and insisted they be cut apart at once. The doctor refused, but assured the twins he would perform an emergency operation when one… More…

August 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of William James, a giant in American intellectual history. James was a founder of pragmatic philosophy and of modern psychology. His two greatest works, The Principles of Psychology (1890) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), are towering achievements, still relevant today in providing insights into why we behave as we do and why we believe what we do.

 

For years, I had little knowledge of William James and was instead an enthusiast of his younger brother Henry. It still mystifies me how two such extraordinary minds could have come from the same family. I first read Henry James in college and was soon a fan of his late work. I loved his complex style and subtle if wrong-headed heroines (with whom I identified).

Only much later did I… More…