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Quotes of the day: William James

Published Monday, August 25, 2014 @ 8:08 PM EDT
Aug 25 2014

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States, James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labelled him the "Father of American psychology." (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A difference which makes no difference is no difference at all.

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

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

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

Democracy is still upon its trial. The civic genius of our people is its only bulwark.

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

In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which the ultimate mystery of things works sadly.

Instinct leads, intelligence does but follow.

It is an odd circumstance that neither the old nor the new, by itself, is interesting; the absolutely old is insipid; the absolutely new makes no appeal at all. The old in the new is what claims the attention,- the old with a slightly new turn.

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

No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one's sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one's character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.

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

Real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and disdain- under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly upon the human core.

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

Take the happiest man, the one most envied by the world, and in nine cases out of ten his inmost consciousness is one of failure. Either his ideals in the line of his achievements are pitched far higher than the achievements themselves, or else he has secret ideals of which the world knows nothing, and in regard to which he inwardly knows himself to be found wanting.

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.

The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders

The essence of genius is knowing what to overlook.

The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another

The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind.

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

The hell to be endured hereafter, of which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioning our characters in the wrong way.

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 most any one can do is to confess as candidly as he can the grounds for the faith that is in him, and leave his example to work on others as it may.

There is but one unconditional commandment, which is that we should seek incessantly, with fear and trembling, so to vote and to act as to bring about the very largest total universe of good which we can see.

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

There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it.

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

Thinking is what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.

Truth is what works.

We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.

We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar.

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.

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

(August 25 is also the birthday of Ben Bradlee.)

Categories: Quotes of the day, William James


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