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Is there a particular experience-type associated with the exercise of agency? This question was subject to lively philosophical debate in nineteenth-century France. William James paid close attention to these debates, and for most of his academic life argued that the answer was "no." However, in this article, I show that a few years before the end of his life, under the influence of the French spiritualist tradition, he changed his mind. I argue that this change led to a global shift in his philosophical thinking. One major consequence of this is that he modified his philosophy so that it allowed a greater role for "objective" reality, and was consequently at less risk of the charge of "solipsism" directed at him by his critics. After this shift, James's philosophy could stand on much firmer ground.