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

Famous As: Philosopher, Psychologist
Born On: January 11, 1842
Died On: August 26, 1910
Born In: New York City, New York, United States
Founder / Co Founder: American Society for Psychical Research
Died At Age: 68

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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,

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

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.

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

William James
Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.

Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

William James
My experience is what I agree to attend to.

My experience is what I agree to attend to.

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.

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
...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.

...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.

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.

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

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

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

William James
Belief creates the actual fact.

Belief creates the actual fact.

William James
Philosophy is

Philosophy is "an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly.

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

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.

A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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
The strenuous life tastes better

The strenuous life tastes better

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

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

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.

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
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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

William James
Damn the Absolute!

Damn the Absolute!

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.

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
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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William James
Wisdom is seeing something in a non-habitual manner.

Wisdom is seeing something in a non-habitual manner.

William James
None of us are ever who we were yesterday.

None of us are ever who we were yesterday.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

William James
All religions and spiritual traditions begin with the cry

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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.

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

William James
Our experience is what we attend to

Our experience is what we attend to

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

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.

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

William James
The means have murdered the end.

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 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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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
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.

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.

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

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

William James
Psychology is the science of mental life

Psychology is the science of mental life

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

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

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.

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
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!

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
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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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
It's turtles all the way down.

It's turtles all the way down.

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

...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.

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

William James