Quotes by William James

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Truth is what works.
The means have murdered the end.
Our faith is faith in some one else's faith.
A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.
I will act as if what i do makes a difference.
Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.
If you can change your mind, you can change your life.
We know the meaning so long as no one asks us to define it.
The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
Philosophy is an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly.
Anything you may hold firmly in your imagination can be yours.
Our view of the world is truly shaped by what we decide to hear.
Religion is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism.
My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing.
To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal.
If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities, it becomes sick.
All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.
Action may not bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
The exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess sucess is our national disease.
The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.
As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.
When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.
We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
In order to disprove the assertion that all crows are black, one white crow is sufficient.
To be a real philosopher all that is necessary is to hate some one else's type of thinking.
The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments.
Our faith is faith in someone else's faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case.
We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.
Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
The function of the nervous system is to bring each part into harmonious co-operation with every other.
There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers.
The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal.
The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.
What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise although the philosophers generally call it recognition!
Invention, using the term most broadly, and imitation, are the two legs, so to call them, on which the human race historically has walked.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When a thing is new, people say: ‘It is not true.’ Later, when its truth becomes obvious, they say: ‘It is not important.’ Finally, when its importance cannot be denied, they say: ‘Anyway, it is not new.
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.
Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, 'This is the real me,' and when you have found that attitude, follow it.
We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition.
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.
Human beings are born into this little span of life of which the best thing is its friendships and intimacies … and yet they leave their friendships and intimacies with no cultivation, to grow as they will by the roadside, expecting them to "keep" by force of mere inertia.
Pragmatism asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential terms?
Thus, when a superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce...in the same individual, we have the best possible conditions for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries. Such men do not remain mere critics and understanders with their intellect. Their ideas posses them, they inflict them, for better or worse, upon their companions or their age.
The first thing the intellect does with an object is to class it along with something else. But any object that is infinitely important to us and awakens our devotion feels to us also as if it must be sui generis and unique. Probably a crab would be filled with a sense of personal outrage if it could hear us class it without ado or apology as a crustacean, and thus dispose of it. "I am no such thing," it would say; "I am MYSELF, MYSELF alone.
So you see that the process of education, taken in a large way, may be described as nothing but the process of acquiring ideas or conceptions, the best educated mind being the mind which has the largest stock of them, ready to meet the largest possible variety of the emergencies of life. The lack of education means only the failure to have acquired them, and the consequent liability to be 'floored' and 'rattled' in the vicissitudes of experience.
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