More from and about
William James
(biographical info at bottom of page)

  

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.

   

Do every day or two something 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.
  
  
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.

      
I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of people's pride.
  
  
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
  
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.
  
  
Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
   

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.

     

To change one's life: 1. Start immediately, 2. Do it flamboyantly, 3. No exceptions.

   

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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.

   

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

   

We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who
elects to be poor in order to simplify and save one's inner life. If he or
she does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making
street, we deem that person spiritless and lacking in ambition.

   
    
William James was an original thinker in and between the disciplines of physiology, psychology and philosophy.  His twelve-hundred page masterwork, The Principles of Psychology (1890), is a rich blend of physiology, psychology, philosophy, and personal reflection that has given us such ideas as "the stream of thought" and the baby's impression of the world "as one great blooming, buzzing confusion" (PP 462).  It contains seeds of pragmatism and phenomenology, and influenced generations of thinkers in Europe and America, including Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. James studied at Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School and the School of Medicine, but his writings were from the outset as much philosophical as scientific.  "Some Remarks on Spencer's Notion of Mind as Correspondence" (1878) and "The Sentiment of Rationality" (1879, 1882) presage his future pragmatism and pluralism, and contain the first statements of his view that philosophical theories are reflections of a philosopher's temperament.

James hints at his religious concerns in his earliest essays and in The Principles, but they become more explicit in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897), Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (1898), The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and A Pluralistic Universe (1909).  James oscillated between thinking that a "study in human nature" such as Varieties could contribute to a "Science of Religion" and the belief that religious experience involves an altogether supernatural domain, somehow inaccessible to science but accessible to the individual human subject.

James made some of his most important philosophical contributions in the last decade of his life.  In a burst of writing in 1904-5 (collected in Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912)) he set out the metaphysical view most commonly known as "neutral monism," according to which there is one fundamental "stuff" that is neither material nor mental.   In "A Pluralistic Universe" he defends the mystical and anti-pragmatic view that concepts distort rather than reveal reality, and in his influential Pragmatism (1907), he presents systematically a set of views about truth, knowledge, reality, religion, and philosophy that permeate his writings from the late 1870s onwards.

  

  

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