Inspiration and wisdom from divine felines

372 Inspiring Quotes by William James

  • Last updated Jul 27 2021

Welcome to our collection of quotes by William James.

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.

Texas buildings

Earnestness means willingness to live with energy, though energy bring pain.

--William James

brown rocky mountain under blue sky during daytime

To change one's life: start immediately, Do it flamboyantly, no exceptions, no excuses.

--William James

blue and white abstract painting

Experience, as we know, has a way of boiling over, and making us correct our present formulas.

--William James



three clear glass cups

When you have broken the reality into concepts you never can reconstruct it in its wholeness.

--William James

green trees beside body of water during daytime

The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.

--William James

silhouette photography of mountains

A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.

--William James

river in the middle of green and yellow mountains

With mere good intentions hell is proverbially paved.

--William James

silhouette of woman hugging mna under starry night sky

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.

--William James


white desk lamp beside green plant

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.

--William James




blue and white light digital wallpaper

The unrest which keeps the never stopping clock of metaphysics going is the thought that the nonexistence of this world is just as possible as its existence.

--William James

stars across the sky view at the desert

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.

--William James



blue and white abstract painting

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.

--William James

assorted books on wooden table

We don't laugh because we're happy -- we're happy because we laugh.

--William James

rock formation under starry skies

I don't see how an epigram, being a bolt from the blue, with no introduction or cue, ever gets itself writ.

--William James

black fawn pug playing with plush toy

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

--William James

Arizona landscape rain

No reception without reaction, no impression without correlative expression, -this is the great maxim which the teacher ought never to forget.

--William James

white and blue building under clear sky

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.

--William James



body of water during daytime

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

person wearing red running shoe

An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation.

--William James


flying blue and green hummingbird

Let everything you do be done as if it makes a difference.

--William James

green leafed vegetable on brown wooden surface

The study a posteriori of the distribution of consciousness shows it to be exactly such as we might expect in an organ added for the sake of steering a nervous system grown too complex to regulate itself.

--William James


woman wearing black top standing near yellow wall

The simplest rudiment of mystical experience would seem to be that deepened sense of the significance of a maxim or formula which occasionally sweeps over one.

--William James

person walking on snowfield

It seems the natural thing for us to listen whilst the Europeans talk.

--William James

blue sky

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.

--William James

blue, yellow, and brown wall decor

My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing, and I can only do one thing at a time.

--William James


Arizona landscape

'Facts' are the bounds of human knowledge, set for it, not by it.

--William James

silhouette of man and woman during sunset

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

girl and boy figurines

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.

--William James

foggy mountains

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise-although the philosophers generally call it recognition'!

--William James


coconut tree near body of water

The thinker philosophizes as the lover loves. Even were the consequences not only useless but harmful, he must obey his impulse.

--William James


gray and white concrete floor

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.

--William James





Blue to purple gradient

Most men have a good memory for facts connected with their own pursuits.

--William James

yellow sunflower in bloom plantation

We are doomed to cling to a life even while we find it unendurable.

--William James

white and black satellite dish on brown field during night time

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

--William James

person standing on rock beside body of water between green trees

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

--William James

sunset

The first lecture in psychology that I ever heard was the first I ever gave.

--William James



brown and black butterfly on pink flower

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.

--William James

red and white led lighted heart decor

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.

--William James

None

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.

--William James

Longer Version:

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.



rock formation surrounding by body of water

I myself believe that the evidence for God lies primarily in inner personal experiences.

--William James

blue sky with white clouds

We must not just patch and tinker with life. We must keep renewing it. Embrace novelty and uniqueness.

--William James


yellow green leaf

To be conscious means not simply to be, but to be reported, known, to have awareness of one's being added to that being.

--William James


close-up photography of building

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.

--William James




sunset

He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he had failed.

--William James

lion on green grass during golden hour

We have nothing to do but to receive, resting absolutely upon the merit, power, and love of our Redeemer.

--William James

Texas buildings

Our ideas must agree with realities, be such realities concrete or abstract.

--William James

purple flowered hedge plants

Humanism ... is not a single hypothesis or theorem, and it dwells on no new facts. It is rather a slow shifting in the philosophic perspective, making things appear as from a new centre of interest or point of sight.

--William James



purple flowered hedge plants

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

ice berg

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.

--William James


close up photo of tree

Footnotes -- little dogs yapping at the heels of the text.

--William James

white and blue ice on water

Evil is a disease; and worry over disease is itself an additional form of disease, which only adds to the original complaint.

--William James


raging waves through shores

Be willing to have it so. Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.

--William James

brown sands

The desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are our chief breeders of cowardice and propagators of corruption.

--William James






woman singing on stage

The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly.

--William James

Longer Version:

The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance.


multicolored abstract painting

No bell in us tolls to let us know for certain when truth is in our grasp.

--William James


person standing on top of mountain

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

--William James

close-up photograph of black dreadnought acoustic guitar

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

--William James

lighted candle in dark room

Each of us is in fact what he is almost exclusively by virtue of his imitative-ness.

--William James

Arizona landscape

An act has no ethical quality whatever unless it be chosen out of several all equally possible.

--William James

blue and black abstract painting

Equality is attainable as long as you are part of the majority.

--William James

None

Neither moral relations nor the moral law can swing in vacuo. Their only habitat can be a mind which feels them; and no world composed of merely physical facts can possibly be a world to which ethical propositions apply.

--William James

mountain summit during sunset

The instinct of ownership is fundamental in man's nature.

--William James



None

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.

--William James


rainbow desert

In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important a function as recollecting.

--William James

None

Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?

--William James

None

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.

--William James

bird's eye view of desert

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.

--William James

silhouette photo of mountain during night time

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.

--William James



yellow and white painted wall

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.

--William James


blue and white striped textile

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

cloudy sky

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

--William James


silhouette of stones during golden hour

Every sort of energy and endurance, of courage and capacity for handling life's evils, is set free in those who have religious faith.

--William James


green leafed trees

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

--William James

turned on desk lamp beside pile of books

Individuality is founded in feeling.

--William James

calm ocean

It makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accepts the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation to necessity, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints.

--William James

Bryce Canyon National Park Sunrise Point at Utah

True is the name for whatever idea starts the verification process, useful is the name for its completed function in experience.

--William James


pink and teal striped textile

The one who thinks over his experiences most, and weaves them into systematic relations with each other, will be the one with the best memory.

--William James

person on road at sunset

It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than
anything else, will affect It's successful outcome.

--William James

assorted books on wooden table

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

--William James


None

The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substitution of conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes.

--William James

lights pattern swirls

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

--William James


time lapse photography body of water

Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture.

--William James

gray and white concrete floor

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


None

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

silhouette of praying man

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.

--William James

silhouette of off-road car

The path to cheerfulness is to sit cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.

--William James


crescent moon above mountain

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

silhouette of woman hugging mna under starry night sky

Smitten as we are with the vision of social righteousness, a God indifferent to everything but adulation, and full of partiality for his individual favorites, lacks an essential element of largeness.

--William James


Arizona landscape rocks

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.

--William James

sunset

Modern man ... has not ceased to be credulous ... the need to believe haunts him.

--William James

person holding sunflower

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.

--William James


group of elephant on brown field under white clouds during daytime

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.

--William James

pink and white clouds

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.

--William James

close-up photography of heart shaped fairy lite on brown sand

Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

--William James

blue and red bird during daytime

Pessimism leads to weakness. Optimism leads to power.

--William James


None

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.

--William James

grey cliff near body of water

Once you accept an idea, it's an idea whose time has come.

--William James


Texas buildings

The ultimate test of what a truth means is the conduct it dictates or inspires.

--William James

person in blue denim jeans and brown leather boots

Truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and co-ordinate with it.

--William James

person in blue denim jeans and brown leather boots

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

--William James

yellow sunflower under blue sky during daytime

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.

--William James



time lapse photography of fire

The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party.

--William James

brown mountain at nighttime

Once a decision is reached, stop worrying and start working.

--William James

None

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

woman singing on stage

All our scientific and philosophic ideals are altars to unknown gods.

--William James



None

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.

--William James

white and blue floral textile

I am the same personal being who in old times upon the Earth had those experiences.

--William James

sunset

When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the outcome.

--William James


forest at sunset

Common sense is better for one sphere of life, science for another, philosophic criticism for a third; but whether either be truer absolutely, heaven only knows.

--William James

woman singing on stage

Strength is a facade for the proud, weakness is a mask for the lazy.

--William James

white wall paint with white wall paint

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.

--William James

silhouette of pine trees photo

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.

--William James

Longer Version:

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.


tilt shift lens pink fetal flowers

Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.

--William James

green grass field

Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being.

--William James



sun

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.

--William James


selective focus photography of woman taking selfie

There is an organic affinity between joyousness and tenderness, and their companionship in the saintly life need in no way occasion surprise.

--William James

withered tree surrounded with snow during daytime

Truth for us is simply a collective name for verification processes.

--William James

man in black bubble hoodie looking at the stars

To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal.

--William James

silver round analog wall clock

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.

--William James

sliced lemon on pink surface

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

--William James

white and pink plastic bottles

The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.

--William James

pink flower

The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments.

--William James

macro shot photography of two votive candles

As long as there are postmen, life will have zest.

--William James


man and woman kissing

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

--William James



photo of fogs during nighttime

Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity.

--William James

Longer Version:

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.


man smiling while facing other person

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

--William James

brown wooden board

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

A white stripe pattern made up of concrete facade ribs

In its broadest term, religion says that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in rightful relations to it.

--William James

red textile on brown wooden table

Since belief is measured by action, he who forbids us to believe religion to be true, necessarily also forbids us to act as we should if we did believe it to be true.

--William James

full-moon above snow-capped mountain painting

Materialism means simply the denial that the moral order is eternal, and the cutting off of ultimate hopes; spiritualism means theaffirmation of an eternal moral order and the letting loose of hope.

--William James


Arizona landscape snow

Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.

--William James

sunflowers

In business for yourself, not by yourself.

--William James



brown ceramic teacup

Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive.

--William James

Arizona landscape pines

Spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.

--William James

brown wooden board

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.

--William James

Longer Version:

Habit is thus the enormous flywheel 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.



body of water surrounded with plants under cloudy sky

Religion must be considered vindicated in a certain way from the attacks of her critics.

--William James

person in blue denim jeans and brown leather boots

The general law is that no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied or followed by a bodily change.

--William James

aerial photography of beach

It is your friends who make your world.

--William James

forest and body of water

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

--William James



gray concrete surface

Religion ... shall mean for us the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude.

--William James

brown and red paint brushes

The impulse to take life strivingly is indestructible in the race.

--William James

rainbow desert

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

--William James


yellow and black striped background

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


snow-capped mountain at the horizon viewed from lake dock

It is as important to cultivate your silence power as your word power.

--William James

flowers beside yellow wall

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

--William James

fawn pug eating food

Belief creates the actual fact.

--William James


withered tree surrounded with snow during daytime

Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise.

--William James

man in black jacket and pants jumping on white rock

Psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical help.

--William James

black, purple, and orange basketball court beside concrete buildings at daytime

In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important as remembering.

--William James


grayscale photography of pug

Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice.

--William James


None

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

--William James

photography of starry sky

Touch is the alpha and omega of affection.

--William James



adobe wall

All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.

--William James

women's black and pink monokini

There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man's lack of faith in his true self.

--William James

green trees in between gray concrete road

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

--William James

pink umbrella

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

--William James

white and blue sky during daytime

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

blue sky with stars during night time

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.

--William James

None

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.

--William James


closeup photo of bird beside purple petal flowers

The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as the sculptor works on his block of stone.

--William James

body of water photo

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.

--William James

blue and white striped textile

The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons.

--William James

brown mountain

I wished by treating Psychology like a natural science, to help her become one.

--William James

sunset

Effort is a measure of a Man.

--William James



blue sky with stars during night time

The ideas gained by men before they are twenty-five are practically the only ideas they shall have in their lives.

--William James

black and white bird on seashore

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

photo of giraffe

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.

--William James

silhouette of person standing beside bare tree under stary sky

Focus on increasing service. Becoming great where you are. Pile in the wood. The heat will follow.

--William James



low angle photography of purple sky

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.

--William James

white wall paint beside white wall

A good hypothesis in science must have other properties than those of the phenomenon it is immediately invoked to explain, otherwise it is not prolific enough.

--William James

sunflower field during daytime

What the whole community comes to believe in grasps the individual as in a vise.

--William James

silhouette photo of mountain during night time

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.

--William James

white sand

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!

--William James

green trees beside body of water during daytime

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

--William James


brown and black butterfly on pink flower

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

calm body of water during golden hour

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.

--William James

None

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

--William James

black and white bird on seashore

The function of ignoring, of inattention, is as vital a factor in mental progress as the function of attention itself.

--William James


landscape photography of waves and clouds

Real servants don't try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.

--William James

sunset

The lunatic's visions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact.

--William James


selective focus photography of black and white bird on stem

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.

--William James

None

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.

--William James


green fern plant

History is a bath of blood.

--William James

sunset

Language is the most imperfect and expensive means yet discovered for communicating thought.

--William James

yellow and white color illustration

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

white and blue sky during daytime

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.

--William James


blue wallpaper

Tell him to live by yes and no -- yes to everything good, no to everything bad.

--William James



yellow green leaf

The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature.

--William James

Longer Version:

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.


city lights from hill

Wisdom is learning what to overlook.

--William James


two gold-colored skeleton keys

Resign your destiny to higher powers.

--William James

brown grass field near gray rocky mountain during daytime

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

brown french bulldog wearing yellow shirt

An enormous mass of experience, both of homeopathic doctors and their patients, is invoked in favor of the efficacy of these remedies and doses.

--William James


blue mountains at daytime

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

--William James

lake beside green pine trees

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

--William James

Longer Version:

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.



person holding gray leaf

Every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony.

--William James


red textile in close up photography

Where quality is the thing sought after, the thing of supreme quality is cheap, whatever the price one has to pay for it.

--William James

white brick wall planning

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.

--William James


rocky mountain under starry night

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.

--William James

woman in black tank top

There is but one indefectibly certain truth , and that is the truth that pyrrhonistic scepticism itself leaves standing, the truth that the present phenomenon of consciousness exists.

--William James

coconut tree near body of water

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.

--William James

forest at sunset

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.

--William James



3 women playing soccer on green grass field during daytime

The essence of genius is to know what to overlook.

--William James

crescent moon above mountain

If my inborn faculties are good, I am a prophet; if poor, I am a failure: nature spews me out of her mouth, and there is an end of me.

--William James

silhouette of flower during sunset

Life is one long struggle between conclusions based on abstract ways of conceiving cases, and opposite conclusions prompted by our instinctive perception of them.

--William James

black mountain under blue sky during night time

Our esteem for facts has not neutralized in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our scientific temper is devout.

--William James

pink-petaled rose flower

We are stereotyped creatures, imitators and copiers of our past selves.

--William James

sunset

My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.

--William James


silhouette photo of trees during night time

Despair lames most people, but it wakes others fully up.

--William James

Longer Version:

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.


None

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.

--William James



white clouds and blue sky

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





landscape photography of road at savannah

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

--William James

panoramic photography of mountains

A man of sense is never discouraged by difficulties; he redoubles his industry and his diligence, he perseveres and infallibly prevails at last.

--William James

person on road at sunset

Both thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the same conduct may be determined either by feeling or by thought.

--William James

sunset

Theory must mediate between all previous truths and certain new experiences.

--William James

black textile in close up photography

Psychology is a science, and teaching is an art; and sciences never generate arts directly out of themselves.

--William James

time lapse photography of fire

How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young-or slender.

--William James

green trees on brown soil

Habit simplifies our movements, makes them accurate, and diminishes fatigue.

--William James

red and black floral textile

We are not only gregarious animals, liking to be in sight of our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorably, by our kind.

--William James

fine trees waving

The amount of psychology which is necessary to all teachers need not be very great.

--William James




white and blue floral textile

Every way of classifying a thing is but a way of handling it for some particular purpose.

--William James

forest at sunset

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.

--William James


green leafed plants on forest

Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. Not through mere perversity do men run after it.

--William James

leafless tree on snow covered ground

Tension is a habit. Relaxing is a habit. Bad habits can be broken, good habits formed.

--William James

blue and white abstract painting

True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify. False ideas are those that we cannot.

--William James


bird's eye view photography of trees and body of water

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.

--William James


green leaf

Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at
different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.

--William James

red textile in close up photography

The real ground for supposing free-will is indeed pragmatic, but it has nothing to do with this contemptible right to punish.

--William James

man in black bubble hoodie looking at the stars

What was bright and exciting becomes weary, flat, and unprofitable.

--William James

fine trees waving

Man lives in only one small room of the enormous house of his consciousness.

--William James

purple flower in tilt shift lens

My experience is what I agree to attend to.

--William James

silhouette of kneeling man

We must be careful not to confuse data with the abstractions we use to analyse them.

--William James

silhouette of kneeling man

To be a real philosopher all that is necessary is to hate some one else's type of thinking.

--William James

black pug standing tiled floor

Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system.

--William James

green ceramic mug on wooden desk

Organization and method mean much, but contagious human characters mean more in a university.

--William James

white petaled flowers beside gray wall

As the brain-changes are continuous, so do all these consciousnesses melt into each other like dissolving views. Properly they are but one protracted consciousness, one unbroken stream.

--William James



white brick wall planning

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.

--William James


clear liquid on leaf

Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.

--William James

yellow, black, green, and orange digital wallpaper

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.

--William James


blue, yellow, and purple starry sky during nighttime

The more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble because we are sorry, angry, or fearful as the case may be.

--William James

brown grass field during daytime

The intellect, everywhere invasive, shows everywhere its shallowing effect.

--William James

red and black floral textile

Men are now proud of belonging to a conquering nation, and without a murmur they lay down their persons and their wealth, if by so doing they may fend off subjection.

--William James

brown and gray brick wall

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.

--William James

four orange, green, blue, and red paint rollers

If it works, it's true.

--William James

Arizona landscape pines

In any project the important factor is your belief. Without belief, there can be no successful outcome.

--William James

man running on seashore

To leap across an abyss, one is better served by faith than doubt.

--William James



fawn pug lying on gray blanket

The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.

--William James

Arizona landscape

Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void.

--William James

Longer Version:

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.



empty pathway

Instinct leads, logic does but follow.

--William James



green tree under blue sky during night time

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.

--William James


pink and green flower painting

Asceticism may be a mere expression of organic hardihood, disgusted with too much ease.

--William James

yellow flower field under clear sky

The discovery of the power of our thoughts will prove to be the most important discovery of our time.

--William James

We wish you a perfect day!