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Famous quotes By William James on religion, consciousness, nature, life and other things.

99 Famous Quotes By William James That Give A New Perspective To Life

Quick Facts

Famous As
Philosopher, Psychologist

Born On

Died On

Born In
New York City, New York

Founder / Co Founder
American Society for Psychical Research

Died At Age

American psychology owes a lot to this man - William James, Father of American Psychology. William James was the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. Trained as an American philosopher, psychologist and physician, James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century, which made him the most influential philosopher of United States. He was one of the major figures associated with the philosophical school of pragmatism, and was also one of the founders of functional psychology. James was responsible for the development of the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. His work influenced a lot of intellectuals including prominent statesmen, leaders, writers and even President Jimmy Carter. A prolific writer, James in his lifetime penned variedly on a wide range of topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. His most famous work, ‘The Principles of Psychology’ is counted amongst his most influential books. It contains ground-breaking work from him in the field of psychology, radical empiricism, philosophy and religion. A leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism and of the psychological movement of functionalism, James work constitutes of several quotes that reflect his ideology and give a new outlook to situations and life. Browse through this section and find out some famous quotes by William James.

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.

- William James

The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.

- William James

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

- William James

We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.

- William James

To change one’s life: 1. Start immediately. 2. Do it flamboyantly. 3. No exceptions.

- William James

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.

- William James

Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.

- William James

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

- The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, William James

If you can change your mind, you can change your life.

- William James

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.

- William James

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

- William James

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

- William James

Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.

- William James

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.

- William James

We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.

- William James

Anything you may hold firmly in your imagination can be yours.

- William James

Our view of the world is truly shaped by what we decide to hear.

- William James

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,

- William James

Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.

- William James

There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.

- William James

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

- William James

Good-humor is a philosophic state of mind; it seems to say to Nature that we take her no more seriously than she takes us. I maintain that one should always talk of philosophy with a smile.

- The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

If merely 'feeling good' could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience.

- William James

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.

- William James

Procrastination is attitude's natural assassin. There's nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task

- William James

We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.

- William James

If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities, it becomes sick.

- William James

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.

- The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, William James

Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.

- The Writings of William James, William James

Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.

- The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That - with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word 'success' - is our national disease.

- William James

My experience is what I agree to attend to.

- William James

...do every day or two something for no other reason that 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.

- Habit, William James

Belief creates the actual fact.

- William James

I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather I fear to lose truth by the pretension to possess it already wholly.

- The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

Philosophy is "an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly.

- William James

Religion is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism.

- William James

There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.

- The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

The aim of a college education is to teach you to know a good man when you see one.

- William James

A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.

- William James

This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it.

- William James

A man with no philosophy in him is the most inauspicious and unprofitable of all possible social mates.

- William James

We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood

- William James

When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.

- William James

The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal.

- William James

It would probably astound each of us beyond measure to be let into his neighbors mind and to find how different the scenery was there from that of his own.

- William James

It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.

- William James

The strenuous life tastes better

- William James

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.

- William James

I don't sing because I'm happy. I'm happy because I sing.

- William James

A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups.

- William James

The prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers.

- William James

Damn the Absolute!

- William James

The lunatic's visions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilization is founded on the shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony.

- The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

Whilst part of what we perceive comes through our senses from the object before us, another part (and it may be the larger part) always comes out of our own mind.

- The Principles of Psychology, William James

Most people, probably, are in doubt about certain matters ascribed to their past. They may have seen them, may have said them, done them, or they may only have dreamed or imagined they did so.

- William James

As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.

- William James

Why may we not be in the universe, as our dogs and cats are in our drawingrooms and libraries?

- The Correspondence of William James: 1885-1889, William James

The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual; the impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.

- William James

Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them.

- William James

Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.

- William James

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.

- William James

All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.

- William James

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.

- William James

Wisdom is seeing something in a non-habitual manner.

- William James

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives

- William James

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)

- William James

Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed verbal formulation.

- William James

None of us are ever who we were yesterday.

- William James

Invention, using the term most broadly, and imitation, are the two legs, so to call them, on which the human race historically has walked.

- Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals, William James

All religions and spiritual traditions begin with the cry "Help!

- William James

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

- William James

There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers.

- William James

There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.

- William James

In order to disprove the assertion that all crows are black, one white crow is sufficient.

- William James

Our colleges ought to have lit up in us a lasting relish for a better kind of man, a loss of appetite for mediocrities.

- William James

The exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess sucess is our national disease

- William James

Our experience is what we attend to

- William James

The means have murdered the end.

- William James

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.

- The Principles of Psychology, William James

Whatever is beyond this narrow rational consciousness we mistake for our only consciousness.

- William James

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

- The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

Psychology is the science of mental life

- William James

My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing.

- William James

We know the meaning so long as no one asks us to define it.

- William James

We need only in cold blood ACT as if the thing in question were real, and keep acting as if it were real, and it will infallibly end by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real.

- William James

These then are my last words to you. Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

- William James

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.

- William James

I will act as if what i do makes a difference.

- William James

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.

- A Pluralistic Universe, William James

An outree explanation, violating all our preconceptions, would never pass for a true account of a novelty. We should scratch round industriously till we found something less excentric.

- Pragmatism and Other Writings, William James

A stream of ideal tendency embedded in the external structure of the world.

- William James

We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but, and a feeling of by, quite as readily as we say a feeling of blue or a feeling of cold.

- William James

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!

- William James

...the faith state...is the psychic correlate of a biological growth reducing contending-desires to one direction... [p.272]

- William James

There is something almost shocking in the notion of so chaste a function carrying this Kantian hurlyburly in her womb.

- The Principles of Psychology, William James

A man's Self is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house.

- The Principles of Psychology, William James

In truths dependent on our personal action, then, faith based on desire is certainly a lawful and possibly an indispensable thing.

- The Will to Believe, William James

It's turtles all the way down.

- William James