William James

William James
William James
  • Born: January 11, 1842
  • Died: August 26, 1910
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Philosopher









Quote Topics Cited
A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. Human Nature
A thing is important if anyone think it important.. Public Opinion & Polling
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. Miscellaneous
Being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. Leaders & Leadership
But when all is said and done, the fact remains that some teachers have a naturally inspiring presence and can make their exercises interesting, whilst others simply cannot. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Civic courage is the kind of valor to which the monuments of nations should most of all be reared. Memorials, Monuments, Medals, Statues & Buildings
Democracy is still upon its trial. The civic genius of our people is its only bulwark. Democracies & Republics
Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way. Miscellaneous
Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
History is a bath of blood. History
I had two days spoiled by a psychological experiment with mescal, an intoxicant used by some of our Southwestern Indians in their religious ceremonies; a sort of cactus bud, of which the U.S. Government had distributed a supply to certain medical men, including Weir Mitchell, who sent me some to try. He had himself been 'in fairyland.' It gives the most glorious visions of color--every object thought of appears in a jeweled splendor unknown to the natural world. It disturbs the stomach somewhat, but that, according to W. M., was a cheap price. I took one bud three days ago, was violently sick for twenty-four hours, and had no other symptom whatever except that and the Katzenjammer the following day. I will take the visions on trust! Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs
If merely 'feeling good' could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience. Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs
If we should remember everything we would be as worse off as if we remembered nothing. History
Not in clanging fights and desperate marches only is heroism to be looked for, but on every bridge and building that is going up to-day, on freight trains, on vessels and lumber-rafts, in mines, among the firemen and the policemen, the demand for courage is incessant and the supply never fails. Human Nature
Our American philosophy bids us test every dogma by its results -- the dogma of competition no less than any other. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Our ancestors have bred pugnacity into our bone and marrow, and thousands of years of peace won't breed it out of us. Human Nature
Our permanent enemy is the noted bellicosity of human nature.... The plain truth is that people want war.... It is a sacrament. Society would rot, they think, without the mystical blood-payment. Human Nature
Pluralism lets things really exist in the each-form or distributively. Monism thinks that the all-form or collective-unit form is the only form that is rational. Miscellaneous
The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Miscellaneous
The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. Defense & National Security
The instinct of ownership is fundamental in man’s nature. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism
The Moral Equivalent of War Energy ;Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events: its verity is in fact an event, a process: the process namely of its verifying itself... Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it. Miscellaneous
We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood. Truth ;Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
What difference would it practically make to anyone if this notion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference could be traced, then … all dispute is idle. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure, no humiliation. Leaders & Leadership
A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain. Life
A man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him.
Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. Motivation
Action may not bring happiness but there is no happiness without action. Happiness & Unhappiness
Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.
An act has no ethical quality whatever unless it be chosen out of several all equally possible.
An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation.
Be willing to have it so. Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.
Begin to be now what you will be hereafter. Motivation
Belief creates the actual fact. Inspiration
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. Life
Compared to what we ought to be, we are half awake.
Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.
Do something everyday for no other reason than you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test.
Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not.
Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice.
Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible. Religion & God
Genius... means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.
How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure. Happiness & Unhappiness
Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.
I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing.
If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities, it becomes sick.
If the grace of God miraculously operates, it probably operates through the subliminal door. Religion & God
If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system. Future
If you want a quality, act as if you already had it. Leaders & Leadership
In business for yourself, not by yourself. Business, Commerce & Finance
In the dim background of mind we know what we ought to be doing but somehow we cannot start.
Individuality is founded in feeling; and the recesses of feeling, the darker, blinder strata of character, are the only places in the world in which we catch real fact in the making, and directly perceive how events happen, and how work is actually done. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver. Life
It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true. Religion & God
It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.
It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.
It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Life
Let everything you do be done as if it makes a difference.
Man can alter his life by altering his thinking. Life
Man lives for science as well as bread. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly.
Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second. Sports & Athletics
No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one's sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one's character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
One hearty laugh together will bring enemies into a closer communion of heart than hours spent on both sides in inward wrestling with the mental demon of uncharitable feeling.
Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf.
Our esteem for facts has not neutralized in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our scientific temper is devout.
Our faith is faith in someone else's faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case. Religion & God
Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.
Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power. Power
'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. Life
Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results. Success
The best argument I know for an immortal life is the existence of a man who deserves one. Life
The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community. Sympathy
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. Nature
The god whom science recognizes must be a God of universal laws exclusively, a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business. He cannot accommodate his processes to the convenience of individuals. Religion & God ;Business, Commerce & Finance ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. Life
The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.
The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it. Life
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
The hell to be endured hereafter, of which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioned our characters in the wrong way.
The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments. History
The 'I think' which Kant said must be able to accompany all my objects, is the 'I breathe' which actually does accompany them.
The ideas gained by men before they are twenty-five are practically the only ideas they shall have in their lives.
The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.
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. Nature ;Power
The world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.
The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds. History
There is an organic affinity between joyousness and tenderness, and their companionship in the saintly life need in no way occasion surprise. Life
There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man's lack of faith in his true Self. Religion & God ;Failure
There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.
There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers.
There must be something solemn, serious, and tender about any attitude which we denominate religious. If glad, it must not grin or snicker; if sad, it must not scream or curse.
This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it. Life
Those thoughts are truth which guide us to beneficial interaction with sensible particulars as they occur, whether they copy these in advance or not. Truth
Time itself comes in drops. Time
To be a real philosopher all that is necessary is to hate some one else's type of thinking.
To be conscious means not simply to be, but to be reported, known, to have awareness of one's being added to that being.
To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced.
To change ones life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. Life
To spend life for something which outlasts it. Life
To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal.
Truth is what works. Truth
Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts and beliefs pass, so long as nothing challenges them, just as bank-notes pass so long as nobody refuses them. Truth
We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.
We are doomed to cling to a life even while we find it unendurable. Life
We don't laugh because we're happy - we're happy because we laugh.
We never fully grasp the import of any true statement until we have a clear notion of what the opposite untrue statement would be.
What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise although the philosophers generally call it recognition!
Whatever universe a professor believes in must at any rate be a universe that lends itself to lengthy discourse. A universe definable in two sentences is something for which the professorial intellect has no use. No faith in anything of that cheap kind! Religion & God
When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.
Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.
Where quality is the thing sought after, the thing of supreme quality is cheap, whatever the price one has to pay for it.
Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings. Life