"Two American philosophers, William James and John Dewey, developed very influential theories about how we think and learn. Both believed that truth of any idea is a function of its usefulness and that experience is central to learning.
William James (1842-1910) was a philosopher and psychologist who believed that truth is not absolute and unchangeable; rather, it is made in actual, real-life events. In a person's life, there are experiences that have meaning and truth for that person. Truth cannot be separated from experience, and in order to understand truth, we have to study experience itself. Thus, for James, human experience should be the primary subject of study, and he called upon thinkers to concentrate on experience instead of essences, abstractions, or universal laws.
James focused on what he called the stream of experience, the sequential course of events in our lives. He belived that human consciousness is a stream of thoughts and feelings, and that this stream of consciousness is always going on, whether we are awake or asleep. The stream consists of very complex waves of bodily sensations, desires and aversions, memories of past experiences, and determinations of the will. One wave dissolves into another gradually, like the ripples of water in a river.
In James's theory, thought and experience are connected. Incoming waves of thought flow in next to outgoing waves of previous experience and thus become associated with each other. An incoming thought is workable only if it is meaningful and can be associated with something already in the person's mind. James's theory supports later theories of associative learning, which assert that new learning involves activating previous learning to find hooks on which to hang new information. To be continued..."