William James Quotes

Most popular William James Quotes

History is a bath of blood.

history

Self-esteem = Success divided by Pretensions.

self-esteem

Religion ... is a man's total reaction upon life.

religion

The essence of genius is to know what to overlook.
— William James

genius small stuff

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
— William James
A thing is important if any one think it important.
— William James
Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.
— William James
The instinct of ownership is fundamental in men's nature.
— William James
I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing.
— William James
Footnotes, the little dogs yapping at the heels of the text.

footnotes

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

wisdom

We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, never to be undone.
— William James
Religion is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism.

religion

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

life

As-if principle: If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.
— William James
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
— William James
The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
— William James

appreciation human nature

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

how to live life

The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.
— William James
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
— William James

life purpose of life

Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

beliefs

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

indecision

No state of mind once gone can recur and be identical with what it was before.
— William James
Man lives by habits, indeed, but what he lives for is thrills and excitements.
— William James
Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.
— William James
Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible.
— William James

faith

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

genius

The most immutable barrier in nature is between one man's thoughts and another's.

understanding others

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

ideas

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

ideas

Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent.

habit

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second.
— William James

sports

The ultimate test for us of what a truth means is the conduct it dictates and inspires.
— William James
Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
— William James

genius

The obstinate insisting that tweedledum is not tweedledee is the bone and marrow of life.
— William James

truth

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

indecision

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

prejudice thinking

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

struggle

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

flexible thinking truth

The world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist.
— William James
Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.
— William James

crisis

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

opportunity

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

mind

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.
— William James

change

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.
— William James

attitude

A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous and then dismissed as trivial, finally, it becomes what everyone knows.
— William James
The greatest discovery of my generation is that one can alter one's life simply by altering one's attitude of mind.
— William James
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

cause

Our civilization is founded on the shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony.

death

The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion.

babies

Every Jack sees in his own particular Jill charms and perfections to the enchantment of which we stolid onlookers are stone-cold.

beauty charm

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.

character

The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it.  Truth happens to an idea.  It becomes true, is made true by events.

ideas truth

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise—although the philosophers generally call it "recognition."
— William James

praise

The moral flabbiness born of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That—with the squalid interpretation put on the word success—is our national disease.
— William James

success

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

science theory

Whenever two men meet there are really six men present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other sees him, and each man as he really is.
— William James
Man, biologically considered...is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species.

mankind man the animal

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.

happiness

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.

success

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.

character

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.

risk-taking

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.

God

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.

God

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.

alcohol

In the practical as in the theoretic life, the man whose acquisitions stick is the man who is always achieving and advancing, whilst his neighbours, spending most of their time in relearning what they once knew but have forgotten, simply hold their own.
— William James

achievement wealth

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.  With mere good intentions, hell is proverbially paved.

action

I have often thought that the best way to define a man's character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: "This is the real me!"
— William James

character

Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day.  That is, be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than 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.

asceticism

I have no doubt whatever that most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being.  They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.
— William James

potential

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. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth.
— William James

alcohol

Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens there lie other consciousness'; other forms of consciousness entirely different.  We may go through life without ever suspecting their existence but apply the requisite stimulus and in a touch, they are all there in their entirety.... They may determine our attitudes though they fail to furnish formulas.  They may open a region though they do not give a map.  At any rate, they forbid the premature closing of our accounts with reality.
— William James

consciousness