Quotes by William James
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Wikipedia Summary for William James
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States.
James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the "Father of American psychology".\n\nAlong with Charles Sanders Peirce, James established the philosophical school known as pragmatism, and is also cited as one of the founders of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology analysis, published in 2002, ranked James as the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century.
A survey published in American Psychologist in 1991 ranked James's reputation in second place,
after Wilhelm Wundt, who is widely regarded as the founder of experimental psychology.
James also developed the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. James's work has influenced philosophers and academics such as Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty, and Marilynne Robinson.
Born into a wealthy family, James was the son of the Swedenborgian theologian Henry James Sr. and the brother of both the prominent novelist Henry James and the diarist Alice James. James trained as a physician and taught anatomy at Harvard, but never practiced medicine. Instead he pursued his interests in psychology and then philosophy. James wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are The Principles of Psychology, a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology; Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy; and The Varieties of Religious Experience, an investigation of different forms of religious experience, including theories on mind-cure.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
Effort is a measure of a Man.
The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.
A man of sense is never discouraged by difficulties; he redoubles his industry and his diligence, he perseveres and infallibly prevails at last.
The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." "This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it." "Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
Man lives for science as well as bread.
Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.
Belief creates the actual fact.
Most people never run far enough on the first wind to find out they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got, and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.
What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise-although the philosophers generally call it recognition'!
The discovery of the power of our thoughts will prove to be the most important discovery of our time.
The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature.
The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour.
The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.
The real ground for supposing free-will is indeed pragmatic, but it has nothing to do with this contemptible right to punish.
The path to cheerfulness is to sit cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.
It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than
anything else, will affect It's successful outcome.
Immortality is one of the great spiritual needs of man. The churches have constituted themselves the official guardians of the need, with the result that some of them actually pretend to accord or to withhold it from the individual by their conventional sacraments.
The truth remains that, after adolescence has begun, words, words, words, must constitute a large part, and an always larger part as life advances, of what the human being has to learn.
Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain.
An unlearned carpenter of my acquaintance once said in my hearing: There is very little difference between one man and another; but what little there is, is very important. This distinction seems to me to go to the root of the matter.
Truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and co-ordinate with it.
All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.
One hears of the mechanical equivalent of heat. What we now need to discover in the social realm is the moral equivalent of war: something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible.
The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist.
The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also; and that although in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in.
The belief in free-will is not in the least incompatible with the belief in Providence, provided you do not restrict the Providence to fulminating nothing but fatal decrees.
If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn't seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white.
'Pure experience' is the name I gave to the immediate flux of life which furnishes the material to our later reflection with its conceptual categories.
We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and as carefully guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous.
A great idea goes through three stages on its way to acceptance: 1) it is dismissed as nonsense, 2) it is acknowledged as true, but insignificant, 3) finally, it is seen to be important, but not really anything new.
A rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those truths were really there, would be an irrational rule.
The attempt at introspective analysis... is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see the darkness.
A winner's attitude: it may be difficult, but it's possible. A loser's attitude: It may be possible, but it's too difficult.
If any one phrase could gather its (religion's) universal message, that phrase would be, -- All is not vanity in this Universe, whatever the appearances may suggest.
Life feels like a real fight -- as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.
One of the greatest discoveries of our time is that a man can alter the state of their life by altering the state of their mind.
The university most worthy of rational admiration is that one in which your lonely thinker can feel himself lonely, most positively furthered, and most richly fed.
In any project the important factor is your belief. Without belief, there can be no successful outcome.
Man, biologically considered ... is simply the most formidable of all beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own kind.
The teacher's prime concern should be to ingrain into the pupil that assortment of habits that shall be most useful to him throughout life. Education is for behavior, and habits are the stuff of which behavior consists.
If WE claim only reasonable probability, it will be as much as men who love the truth can ever at any given moment hope to have within their grasp.
If I should now utter piercing shrieks and act like a maniac on this platform, it would make many of you revise your ideas as to the probable worth of my philosophy.
Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is still theoretically possible ... faith is the readiness to act in a cause the prosperous issue of which is not certified to us in advance.
Our colleges ought to have lit up in us a lasting relish for a better kind of man, a loss of appetite for mediocrities.
In modern eyes, precious though wars may be they must not be waged solely for the sake of the ideal harvest. Only when forced upon one, is a war now thought permissible.
A man with no philosophy in him is the most inauspicious and unprofitable of all possible social mates.
Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.
Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits. It works in the minutest crannies and it opens outthe widest vistas. It 'bakes no bread', as has been said, but it can inspire our souls with courage.
There is a stream, a succession of states, or waves, or fields (or whatever you please to call them), of knowledge, of feeling, of desire, of deliberation, etc., that constantly pass and repass, and that constitute our inner life.
Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void.
Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void. Not the Jews of the captivity, but those of the days of Solomon 's glory are those from whom the pessimistic utterances in our Bible come.
As Charles Lamb says, there is nothing so nice as doing good by stealth and being found out by accident, so I now say it is even nicer to make heroic decisions and to be prevented by 'circumstances beyond your control' from ever trying to execute them.
Invention, using the term most broadly, and imitation, are the two legs, so to call them, on which the human race historically has walked.
Nature in her unfathomable designs had mixed us of clay and flame, of brain and mind, that the two things hang indubitably together and determine each other's being but how or why, no mortal may ever know.
No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed.
True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify. False ideas are those that we cannot.
First... a new theory is attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it.
Evil is a disease; and worry over disease is itself an additional form of disease, which only adds to the original complaint.
Procrastination is attitude's natural assassin. There's nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task.
Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.
There is no being capable of a spiritual life who does not have within him a jungle. Where the wolf constantly HOWLS and the OBSCENE bird of night chatters endlessly.
Science must constantly be reminded that her purposes are not the only purposes and that the order of uniform causation which she has use for, and is therefore right in postulating, may be enveloped in a wider order, on which she has no claim at all.
Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?
To give the theory plenty of 'rope' and see if it hangs itself eventually is better tactics than to choke it off at the outset b abstract accusations of self-contradiction.
Our intelligence cannot wall itself up alive, like a pupa in a chrysalis. It must at any cost keep on speaking terms with the universe that engendered it.
Life is one long struggle between conclusions based on abstract ways of conceiving cases, and opposite conclusions prompted by our instinctive perception of them.
What a magnificent land and race is this Britain! Everything about them is of better quality than the corresponding thing in the U.S.... Yet I believe (or suspect) that ours is eventually the bigger destiny, if we can only succeed in living up to it.
Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of certain of our ideas. It means their agreement, as falsity means their disagreement, with reality.
Every time a resolve or a fine glow of feeling evaporates without bearing practical fruit is worse than a chance lost; it works so as positively to hinder future resolutions and emotions from taking the normal path of discharge.
Every time a resolve or a fine glow of feeling evaporates without bearing practical fruit is worse than a chance lost; it works to hinder future resolutions and emotions from taking the normal path of discharge. There is no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nerveless sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, but who never does a manly concrete deed.
The desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are our chief breeders of cowardice and propagators of corruption.
All the qualities of a man acquire dignity when he knows that the service of the collectivity that owns him needs them. If proud of the collectivity, his own pride rises in proportion. No collectivity is like an army for nourishing such pride.
Our volitional habits depend, then, first, on what the stock of ideas is which we have; and, second, on the habitual coupling of the several ideas with action or inaction respectively.
We want all our friends to tell us our bad qualities; it is only the particular ass that does so whom we can't tolerate.
Marvelous as may be the power of my dog to understand my moods, deathless as his affection and fidelity, his mental state is as unsolved a mystery to me as it was to my remotest ancestor.
I am tired of the position of the dried-up critic and doubter. The believer is the true full man. (from a biography of James by Robert D. Richardson).
I don't see how an epigram, being a bolt from the blue, with no introduction or cue, ever gets itself writ.
O my Bergson, you are a magician, and your book is a marvel, a real wonder in the history of philosophy ... In finishing it I found ... such a flavor of persistent euphony, as of a rich river that never foamed or ran thin, but steadily and firmly proceeded with its banks full to the brim.
In its broadest term, religion says that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in rightful relations to it.
An enormous mass of experience, both of homeopathic doctors and their patients, is invoked in favor of the efficacy of these remedies and doses.
For I had often said that the best argument I knew for an immortal life was the existence of a man who deserved one as well as Child did.
The function of ignoring, of inattention, is as vital a factor in mental progress as the function of attention itself.
From all these facts there emerges a very simple abstract program for the teacher to follow in keeping the attention of the child: Begin with the line of his native interests, and offer him objects that have some immediate connection with these.
Intellectualism' is the belief that our mind comes upon a world complete in itself, and has the duty of ascertaining its contents; but has no power of re-determining its character, for that is already given.
The exercise of voluntary attention in the schoolroom must therefore be counted one of the most important points of training that take place there; and the first-rate teacher, by the keenness of the remoter interests which he is able to awaken, will provide abundant opportunities for its occurrence.
I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds.
The thinker philosophizes as the lover loves. Even were the consequences not only useless but harmful, he must obey his impulse.
The self-same atoms which, chaotically dispersed, made the nebula, now, jammed and temporarily caught in peculiar positions, form our brains; and the 'evolution' of brains, if understood, would be simply the account of how the atoms came to be so caught and jammed.
We can act as if there were a God; feel as if we were free; consider Nature as if she were full of special designs; lay plans as if we were to be immortal; and we find then that these words do make a genuine difference in our moral life.
In the acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible.
Science, like life, feeds on its own decay. New facts burst old rules; then newly divined conceptions bind old and new together into a reconciling law.
My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing, and I can only do one thing at a time.
A little cooling down of animal excitability and instinct, a little loss of animal toughness, a little irritable weakness and descent of the pain-threshold, will bring the worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight into full view, and turn us into melancholy metaphysicians.
Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. Not through mere perversity do men run after it.
The pragmatist turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns toward concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action, and towards power.
The philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos.
We have nothing to do but to receive, resting absolutely upon the merit, power, and love of our Redeemer.
The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons.
As a rule reading fiction is as hard to me as trying to hit a target by hurling feathers at it. I need resistance to celebrate!
I have often thought the best way to define a man's character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it comes upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: This is the real me!
The old question of whether there is design is idle. The real question is what is the world, whether or not it have a designer -- and that can be revealed only by the study of all nature's particulars.
Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet.
The difference between the first and second-best things in art absolutely seems to escape verbal definition -- it is a matter of a hair, a shade, an inward quiver of some kind -- yet what miles away in the point of preciousness!
Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being.
The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as the sculptor works on his block of stone.
Great indeed is Fear; but it is not, as our military enthusiasts believe and try to make us believe, the only stimulus known for awakening the higher ranges of men's spiritual energy.
Spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.
The general law is that no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied or followed by a bodily change.
Plasticity, then, in the wide sense of the word, means the possession of a structure weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once. Each relatively stable phase of equilibrium in such a structure is marked by what we may call a new set of habits.
If an unusual necessity forces us onward, a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain point, when, gradually or suddenly, it passes away and we are fresher than before!
We hear the words we have spoken, feel our own blow as we give it, or read in the bystander's eyes the success or failure of our conduct.
Ingenuity in meeting and pursuing the pupil, that tact for the concrete situation, though they are the alpha and omega of the teacher's art, are things to which psychology cannot help us in the least.
The worst thing that can happen to a good teacher is to get a bad conscience about her profession because she feels herself hopeless as a psychologist.
Both thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the same conduct may be determined either by feeling or by thought.
Men's activities are occupied into ways -- in grappling with external circumstances and in striving to set things at one in their own topsy-turvy mind.
There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.
All the daily routine of life, our dressing and undressing, the coming and going from our work or carrying through of its various operations, is utterly without mental reference to pleasure and pain, except under rarely realized conditions.
From the Vedas we learn a practical art of surgery, medicine, music, house building under which mechanized art is included. They are encyclopedia of every aspect of life, culture, religion, science, ethics, law, cosmology and meteorology.
If things are ever to move upward, some one must take the first step, and assume the risk of it. No one who is not willing to try charity, to try non-resistance as the saint is always willing, can tell whether these methods will or will not succeed.
Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again.
All the higher, more penetrating ideals are revolutionary. They present themselves far less in the guise of effects of past experience than in that of probable causes of future experience, factors to which the environment and the lessons it has so far taught us must learn to bend.
The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own particular ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours.
Few people have definitely articulated philosophies of their own. But almost everyone has his own peculiar sense of a certain total character in the universe, and of the inadequacy of fully to match it to the peculiar systems that he knows.
The bottom of being is left logically opaque to us, a datum in the strict sense of the word, something we simply come upon and find, and about which (if we wish to act) we should pause and wonder as little as possible. In this confession lies the lasting truth of empiricism.
We must not just patch and tinker with life. We must keep renewing it. Embrace novelty and uniqueness.
Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.
Our acts of voluntary attending, as brief and fitful as they are, are nevertheless momentous and critical, determining us, as they do, to higher or lower destinies.
These healers...my intellect has been unable to assimilate their theories....But their facts are patent and startling; and anything that interferes with the multiplication of such facts, and with our freest opportunity of observing and studying them, will, I believe, be a public calamity.
Modern war is so expensive that we feel trade to be a better avenue to plunder; but modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love of glory of his ancestors.
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