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William James
Full name William James
Born January 11, 1842(1842-01-11)
New York City, New York
Died August 26, 1910 (aged 68)
Chocorua, New Hampshire
Era 19th/20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy and Psychology
School Pragmatism
Main interests Pragmatism, Psychology, Philosophy of Religion, Epistemology, Meaning
Notable ideas The Will to Believe Doctrine, the pragmatic theory of truth, radical empiricism, James-Lange theory of emotion, psychologist's fallacy
This article is about the USA born psychologist and philosopher. For other people named William James see William James (disambiguation)

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a medical doctor. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James.

William James was born at the Astor House in New York City. He was the son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.

James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, his godson William James Sidis, as well as Charles Peirce, Josiah Royce, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, Jr., Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud.

Contents

Early years

William James, with his younger brother Henry James (who became a prominent novelist) and sister Alice James (who is known for her posthumously published diary), received an eclectic trans-Atlantic education, developing fluency in both German and French languages along with a cosmopolitan character. His family made two trips to Europe while he was still a child, setting a pattern that resulted in thirteen more European journeys during his life. His early artistic bent led to an apprenticeship in the studio of William Morris Hunt in Newport, Rhode Island, but he switched in 1861 to scientific studies at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University.

In his early adulthood, James suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including those of the eyes, back, stomach, and skin. He was also tone deaf.[3] He was subject to variety of psychological symptoms which were diagnosed at the time as neurasthenia, and which included periods of depression during which he contemplated suicide for months on end. Two younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) and Robertson (Bob), fought in the Civil War. The other three siblings (William, Henry, and Alice) all suffered from periods of invalidism.

James took up medical studies at Harvard Medical School in 1864. At Harvard he was inspired to study theology. He took a break in the spring of 1865 to join naturalist Louis Agassiz on a scientific expedition up the Amazon River, but aborted his trip after eight months, as he suffered bouts of severe seasickness and mild smallpox. His studies were interrupted once again due to illness in April 1867. He traveled to Germany in search of a cure and remained until November 1868. (During this period he began to publish, with reviews appearing in literary periodicals like the North American Review.) He finally earned his M.D. degree in June 1869, but never practiced medicine. What he called his "soul-sickness" would only be resolved in 1872, after an extended period of philosophical searching. He married Alice Gibbens in 1878.

James's time in Germany proved intellectually fertile, helping him find that his true interests lay not in medicine but in philosophy and psychology. Later, in 1902 he would write: "I originally studied medicine in order to be a physiologist, but I drifted into psychology and philosophy from a sort of fatality. I never had any philosophic instruction, the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave".[4]

Career

James spent almost his entire academic career at Harvard. He was appointed instructor in physiology for the spring 1873 term, instructor in anatomy and physiology in 1873, assistant professor of psychology in 1876, assistant professor of philosophy in 1881, full professor in 1885, endowed chair in psychology in 1889, return to philosophy in 1897, and emeritus professor of philosophy in 1907.

James studied medicine, physiology, and biology, and began to teach in those subjects, but was drawn to the scientific study of the human mind at a time when psychology was constituting itself as a science. James's acquaintance with the work of figures like Hermann Helmholtz in Germany and Pierre Janet in France facilitated his introduction of courses in scientific psychology at Harvard University. He taught his first experimental psychology course at Harvard in the 1875-1876 academic year.[5]

During his Harvard years, James joined in philosophical discussions with Charles Peirce, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Chauncey Wright that evolved into a lively group known as The Metaphysical Club in 1872. Louis Menand speculates that the Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come.

Among James's students at Harvard were such luminaries as Boris Sidis, Theodore Roosevelt, George Santayana, W. E. B. Du Bois, G. Stanley Hall, Ralph Barton Perry, Gertrude Stein, Horace Kallen, Morris Raphael Cohen, Walter Lippmann, Alain Locke, C. I. Lewis, and Mary Calkins.

Following his January, 1907 retirement from Harvard, James continued to write and lecture, publishing Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, and The Meaning of Truth. James was increasingly afflicted with cardiac pain during his last years. It worsened in 1909 while he worked on a philosophy text (unfinished but posthumously published as Some Problems in Philosophy). He sailed to Europe in the spring of 1910 to take experimental treatments which proved unsuccessful, and returned home on August 18. His heart failed him on August 26, 1910 at his home in Chocorua, New Hampshire. He was buried in the family plot in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He was one of the strongest proponents of the school of functionalism in psychology and of pragmatism in philosophy. He was a founder of the American Society for Psychical Research, as well as a champion of alternative approaches to healing. He challenged his professional colleagues not to let a narrow mindset prevent an honest appraisal of those phenomena.

In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al. using six criteria such as citations and recognition, James was found to be the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century.[6]

Writings

William James wrote voluminously throughout his life. A non-exhaustive bibliography of his writings, compiled by John McDermott, is 47 pages long.[7] (See below for a list of his major writings and additional collections)

He gained widespread recognition with his monumental Principles of Psychology (1890), totaling twelve hundred pages in two volumes, which took twelve years to complete. Psychology: The Briefer Course, was an 1892 abridgement designed as a less rigorous introduction to the field. These works criticized both the English associationist school and the Hegelianism of his day as competing dogmatisms of little explanatory value, and sought to re-conceive the human mind as inherently purposive and selective.

Epistemology

James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer. His pragmatic theory of truth was a synthesis of correspondence theory of truth and coherence theory of truth, with an added dimension. Truth is verifiable to the extent that thoughts and statements correspond with actual things, as well as the extent to which they "hang together," or cohere, as pieces of a puzzle might fit together; these are in turn verified by the observed results of the application of an idea to actual practice [8][9].

"The most ancient parts of truth . . . also once were plastic. They also were called true for human reasons. They also mediated between still earlier truths and what in those days were novel observations. Purely objective truth, truth in whose establishment the function of giving human satisfaction in marrying previous parts of experience with newer parts played no role whatsoever, is nowhere to be found. The reasons why we call things true is the reason why they are true, for 'to be true' means only to perform this marriage-function," he wrote.[10]

James held a world view in line with pragmatism, declaring that the value of any truth was utterly dependent upon its use to the person who held it. Additional tenets of James's pragmatism include the view that the world is a mosaic of diverse experiences that can only be properly interpreted and understood through an application of "radical empiricism." Radical empiricism, not related to the everyday scientific empiricism, asserts that the world and experience can never be halted for an entirely objective analysis, if nothing else the mind of the observer and simple act of observation will affect the outcome of any empirical approach to truth as the mind and its experiences, and nature are inseparable. James's emphasis on diversity as the default human condition — over and against duality, especially Hegelian dialectical duality — has maintained a strong influence in American culture, especially among liberals (see Richard Rorty). James's description of the mind-world connection, which he described in terms of a "stream of consciousness (psychology)," had a direct and significant impact on avant-garde and modernist literature and art.

In What Pragmatism Means, James writes that the central point of his own doctrine of truth is, in brief, that "Truths emerge from facts, but they dip forward into facts again and add to them; which facts again create or reveal new truth (the word is indifferent) and so on indefinitely. The 'facts' themselves meanwhile are not true. They simply are. Truth is the function of the beliefs that start and terminate among them." Richard Rorty claims that James did not mean to give a theory of truth with this statement and that we should not regard it as such. However, other pragmatism scholars such as Susan Haack and Howard Mounce do not share Rorty's instrumentalist interpretation of James. [11]

In The Meaning of Truth, James seems to speak of truth in relativistic terms: "The critic's [sc., the critic of pragmatism] trouble...seems to come from his taking the word 'true' irrelatively, whereas the pragmatist always means 'true for him who experiences the workings.' "[12] However, James responded to critics accusing him of relativism, scepticism or agnosticism, and of believing only in relative truths. To the contrary, he supported an epistemological realism position [13].

Cash Value

From the introduction to William James's Pragmatism by Bruce Kuklick, p.xiv.

James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth. He would seek the meaning of 'true' by examining how the idea functioned in our lives. A belief was true, he said, if in the long run it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world. James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their "Cash Value" was, what consequences they led to. A belief was not a mental entity which somehow mysteriously corresponded to an external reality if the belief were true. Beliefs were ways of acting with reference to a precarious environment, and to say they were true was to say they guided us satisfactorily in this environment. In this sense the pragmatic theory of truth applied Darwinian ideas in philosophy; it made survival the test of intellectual as well as biological fitness. If what was true was what worked, we can scientifically investigate religion's claim to truth in the same manner. The enduring quality of religious beliefs throughout recorded history and in all cultures gave indirect support for the view that such beliefs worked. James also argued directly that such beliefs were satisfying — they enabled us to lead fuller, richer lives and were more viable than their alternatives. Religious beliefs were expedient in human existence, just as scientific beliefs were.

Will to Believe Doctrine

In William James's lecture of 1897 titled "The Will to Believe," James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. Although this doctrine is often seen as a way for William James to justify religious beliefs, his philosophy of pragmatism allows him to use the results of his hypothetical venturing as evidence to support the hypothesis' truth. Therefore, this doctrine allows one to assume belief in God and prove its existence by what the belief brings to one's life.

Free Will

In The Will to Believe, James simply asserted that his will was free. As his first act of freedom, he said, he chose to believe his will was free. He was encouraged to do this by reading Charles Renouvier, whose work convinced James to convert from monism to pluralism. In his diary entry of April 30, 1870, James wrote,

"I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier's second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — 'the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts' — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will."[14]

In 1884 James set the terms for all future discussions of determinism and compatibilism in the free will debates with his lecture to Harvard Divinity School students published as "The Dilemma of Determinism." In this talk he defined the common terms "hard determinism' and "soft determinism" (now more commonly called "compatibilism").

"Old-fashioned determinism was what we may call hard determinism. It did not shrink from such words as fatality, bondage of the will, necessitation, and the like. Nowadays, we have a soft determinism which abhors harsh words, and, repudiating fatality, necessity, and even predetermination, says that its real name is freedom; for freedom is only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom."[15]

James called compatibilism a "quagmire of evasion,"[16] just as the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume that free will was simply freedom from external coercion were called a "wretched subterfuge" by Immanuel Kant.

James described chance as neither hard nor soft determinism, but "indeterminism". He said

"The stronghold of the determinist argument is the antipathy to the idea of chance...This notion of alternative possibility, this admission that any one of several things may come to pass is, after all, only a roundabout name for chance." [17]

James asked the students to consider his choice for walking home from Lowell Lecture Hall after his talk.

"What is meant by saying that my choice of which way to walk home after the lecture is ambiguous and matter of chance?...It means that both Divinity Avenue and Oxford Street are called but only one, and that one either one, shall be chosen."[18]

With this simple example, James was the first thinker to enunciate clearly a two-stage decision process (others include Henri Poincaré , Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper, and Daniel Dennett), with chance in a present time of random alternatives, leading to a choice which grants consent to one possibility and transforms an equivocal ambiguous future into an unalterable and simple past. There is a temporal sequence of undetermined alternative possibilities followed by adequately determined choices.

James’ two-stage model effectively separates chance (the indeterministic free element) from choice (an arguably determinate decision that follows causally from one’s character, values, and especially feelings and desires at the moment of decision).

Philosophy of religion

James did important work in philosophy of religion. In his Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh he provided a wide-ranging account of The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and interpreted them according to his pragmatic leanings. Some of the important claims he makes in this regard:

  • Religious genius (experience) should be the primary topic in the study of religion, rather than religious institutions—since institutions are merely the social descendant of genius.
  • The intense, even pathological varieties of experience (religious or otherwise) should be sought by psychologists, because they represent the closest thing to a microscope of the mind—that is, they show us in drastically enlarged form the normal processes of things.
  • In order usefully to interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain "over-beliefs" in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.

The investigation of mystical experience was constant throughout the life of James, leading him to experiment with chloral hydrate (1870), amyl nitrite (1875), nitrous oxide (1882), and even peyote (1896). James claimed that it was only when he was under the influence of nitrous oxide that he was able to understand Hegel.[19] He concluded that while the revelations of the mystic hold true, they hold true only for the mystic; for others, they are certainly ideas to be considered, but can hold no claim to truth without personal experience of such.

Theory of emotion

James is one of the two namesakes of the James-Lange theory of emotion, which he formulated independently of Carl Lange in the 1880s. The theory holds that emotion is the mind's perception of physiological conditions that result from some stimulus. In James's oft-cited example; it is not that we see a bear, fear it, and run. We see a bear and run, consequently we fear the bear. Our mind's perception of the higher adrenaline level, heartbeat, etc., is the emotion.

This way of thinking about emotion has great consequences for the philosophy of aesthetics. Here is a passage from his great work, Principles of Psychology, that spells out those consequences.

[W]e must immediately insist that aesthetic emotion, pure and simple, the pleasure given us by certain lines and masses, and combinations of colors and sounds, is an absolutely sensational experience, an optical or auricular feeling that is primary, and not due to the repercussion backwards of other sensations elsewhere consecutively aroused. To this simple primary and immediate pleasure in certain pure sensations and harmonious combinations of them, there may, it is true, be added secondary pleasures; and in the practical enjoyment of works of art by the masses of mankind these secondary pleasures play a great part. The more classic one's taste is, however, the less relatively important are the secondary pleasures felt to be, in comparison with those of the primary sensation as it comes in. Classicism and romanticism have their battles over this point. Complex suggestiveness, the awakening of vistas of memory and association, and the stirring of our flesh with picturesque mystery and gloom, make a work of art romantic. The classic taste brands these effects as coarse and tawdry, and prefers the naked beauty of the optical and auditory sensations, unadorned with frippery or foliage. To the romantic mind, on the contrary, the immediate beauty of these sensations seems dry and thin. I am of course not discussing which view is right, but only showing that the discrimination between the primary feeling of beauty, as a pure incoming sensible quality, and the secondary emotions which are grafted thereupon, is one that must be made.

William James's bear

From Joseph LeDoux's description of William James's Emotion [20]

Why do we run away if we notice that we are in danger? Because we are afraid of what will happen if we don't. This obvious (and incorrect) answer to a seemingly trivial question has been the central concern of a century-old debate about the nature of our emotions.
It all began in 1884 when William James published an article titled "What Is an Emotion?"[21] The article appeared in a philosophy journal called Mind, as there were no psychology journals yet. It was important, not because it definitively answered the question it raised, but because of the way in which James phrased his response. He conceived of an emotion in terms of a sequence of events that starts with the occurrence of an arousing stimulus {the sympathetic nervous system or the parasympathetic nervous system}; and ends with a passionate feeling, a conscious emotional experience. A major goal of emotion research is still to elucidate this stimulus-to-feeling sequence—to figure out what processes come between the stimulus and the feeling.
James set out to answer his question by asking another: do we run from a bear because we are afraid or are we afraid because we run? He proposed that the obvious answer, that we run because we are afraid, was wrong, and instead argued that we are afraid because we run:
Our natural way of thinking about... emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion (called 'feeling' by Damasio).
The essence of James's proposal was simple. It was premised on the fact that emotions are often accompanied by bodily responses (racing heart, tight stomach, sweaty palms, tense muscles, and so on; sympathetic nervous system) and that we can sense what is going on inside our body much the same as we can sense what is going on in the outside world. According to James, emotions feel different from other states of mind because they have these bodily responses that give rise to internal sensations, and different emotions feel different from one another because they are accompanied by different bodily responses and sensations. For example, when we see James's bear, we run away. During this act of escape, the body goes through a physiological upheaval: blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, pupils dilate, palms sweat, muscles contract in certain ways (evolutionary, innate defense mechanisms). Other kinds of emotional situations will result in different bodily upheavals. In each case, the physiological responses return to the brain in the form of bodily sensations, and the unique pattern of sensory feedback gives each emotion its unique quality. Fear feels different from anger or love because it has a different physiological signature {the parasympathetic nervous system for love}. The mental aspect of emotion, the feeling, is a slave to its physiology, not vice versa: we do not tremble because we are afraid or cry because we feel sad; we are afraid because we tremble and are sad because we cry.

Philosophy of history

One of the long-standing schisms in the philosophy of history concerns the role of individuals in social change.

One faction sees individuals (as seen in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution, A History) as the motive power of history, and the broader society as the page on which they write their acts. The other sees society as moving according to holistic principles or laws, and sees individuals as its more-or-less willing pawns. In 1880, James waded into this controversy with "Great Men and Their Environment," an essay published in the Atlantic Monthly. He took Carlyle's side, but without Carlyle's one-sided emphasis on the political/military sphere, upon heroes as the founders or overthrowers of states and empires.

For James, the great men of history manipulate the thoughts of society. "Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." He continues, "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."

View on Spiritualism and Associationism

James studied closely the schools of thought known as associationism and spiritualism. The view of an associationist is that each experience that one has leads to another, creating a chain of events. The association does not tie together two ideas, but rather physical objects[22]. This association occurs on an atomic level. Small physical changes occur in the brain which eventually form complex ideas or associations. Thoughts are formed as these complex ideas work together and lead to new experiences. Isaac Newton and David Hartley both were precursors to this school of thought, proposing such ideas as “physical vibrations in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves are the basis of all sensations, all ideas, and all motions...”[23] James disagreed with associationism in that he believed it to be too simple. He referred to associationism as “psychology without a soul”[24] because there is nothing from within creating ideas; they just arise by associating objects with one another.


On the other hand, a spiritualist believes that mental events are attributed to the soul. Whereas in associationism, ideas and behaviors are separate, in spiritualism, they are connected. Spiritualism encompasses the term innatism, which suggests that ideas cause behavior. Ideas of past behavior influence the way a person will act in the future; these ideas are all tied together by the soul. Therefore, an inner soul causes one to have a thought, which leads them to perform a behavior, and memory of past behaviors determine how one will act in the future.[25]


These two schools of thought are very different, and yet James had a strong opinion about the two. He was, by nature, a pragmatist, and therefore believed that one should use whatever parts of theories make the most sense and can be proven.[26] Therefore, he recommended breaking apart spiritualism and associationism and using the parts of them that make the most sense. James believed that each person has a soul, which exists in a spiritual universe, and leads a person to perform the behaviors they do in the physical world.[27] James was influenced by Emmanuel Swedenborg, who first introduced him to this idea. James states that, although it does appear that humans use associations to move from one event to the next, this cannot be done without this soul tying everything together. For, after an association has been made, it is the person who decides which part of it to focus on, and therefore determines in which direction following associations will lead.[28] Associationism is too simple in that it does not account for decision-making of future behaviors, and memory of what worked well and what did not. Spiritualism, however, does not demonstrate actual physical representations for how associations occur. James therefore chose to combine the views of spiritualism and associationism to create his own way of thinking that he believed to make the most sense.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "William James, of Harvard, was among the first foreigners to take cognizance of Thought and Reality, already in 1873...", Lettres inédites de African Spir au professeur Penjon (Unpublished Letters of African Spir to professor Penjon), Neuchâtel, 1948, p. 231, n. 7.
  2. ^ Myers (1986) p.414
  3. ^ Sachs, Oliver; Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition; p. xiii; ISBN 1400033535
  4. ^ Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, vol. 1, (1935), 1996 edition: ISBN 0-8265-1279-8, p. 228.
  5. ^ Duane P Shultz, A History of Modern Psychology, Wadsworth/Thompson Press, 2004, p. 179.
  6. ^ Haggbloom, S.J. et al. (2002). The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century. Review of General Psychology. Vol. 6, No. 2, 139–15. Haggbloom et al. combined 3 quantitative variables: citations in professional journals, citations in textbooks, and nominations in a survey given to members of the Association for Psychological Science, with 3 qualitative variables (converted to quantitative scores): National Academy of Science (NAS) membership, American Psychological Association (APA) President and/or recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and surname used as an eponym. Then the list was rank ordered.
  7. ^ John J. McDermott, The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, University of Chicago Press, 1977 revised edition, ISBN 0-226-39188-4, pp. 812–58.
  8. ^ James, William, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking Lect. 6, "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth," (1907)
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol.6, "Pragmatic Theory of Truth", p427-428 (Macmillan, 1969)
  10. ^ William James. "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth". Lecture 6 in Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. New York: Longman Green and Co (1907): p. 83. online edition
  11. ^ MOUNCE, Howard O.. The Two Pragmatisms. Londres. Routledge. 1997.
  12. ^ p. 177, The Meaning of Truth, Longmans, Green, & Co., New York, 1909.
  13. ^ See his Defense of a Pragmatic Notion of Truth, written to counter criticisms of his Pragmatism's Conception of Truth 1907 lecture
  14. ^ Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, vol.1, p.323; Letters of William James, vol. I, p.147
  15. ^ The Dilemma of Determinism, republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, 1956, p.149
  16. ^ ibid, p.149
  17. ^ ibid, p.153
  18. ^ ibid, p.155
  19. ^ William James, "Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide"
  20. ^ Joseph E. LeDoux, (1996) The Emotional Brain: the Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life, ISBN 0-684-83659-9, p. 43.
  21. ^ "What is an Emotion?" Mind, vol. 9, 1884, p. 188-205
  22. ^ James, (1892)
  23. ^ Richardson, (2006)
  24. ^ James, (1890).
  25. ^ James, (1890)
  26. ^ Richardson (2006)
  27. ^ Richardson (2006)
  28. ^ James, (1892)

Bibliography

Works by James

  • The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols. (1890) Dover Publications 1950, vol. 1: ISBN 0-486-20381-6, vol. 2: ISBN 0-486-20382-4
  • Psychology (Briefer Course) (1892) University of Notre Dame Press 1985: ISBN 0-268-01557-0, Dover Publications 2001: ISBN 0-486-41604-6
  • The Will to Believe, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897)
  • Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (the Ingersoll Lecture, 1897)
    • The Will to Believe, Human Immortality (1956) Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-20291-7
  • Talks to Teachers on Psychology: and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals (1899), Dover Publications 2001: ISBN 0-486-41964-9, IndyPublish.com 2005: ISBN 1-4219-5806-6
  • The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902), ISBN 0-14-039034-0
  • Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907), Hackett Publishing 1981: ISBN 0-915145-05-7, Dover 1995: ISBN 0-486-28270-8
  • A Pluralistic Universe (1909), Hibbert Lectures, University of Nebraska Press 1996: ISBN 0-8032-7591-9
  • The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to "Pragmatism" (1909) Prometheus Books, 1997: ISBN 1-57392-138-6
  • Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (1911), University of Nebraska Press 1996: ISBN 0-8032-7587-0
  • Memories and Studies (1911) Reprint Services Corp: 1992: ISBN 0-7812-3481-6
  • Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912) Dover Publications 2003, ISBN 0-486-43094-4
    • critical edition, Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers, editors. Harvard University Press 1976: ISBN 0-674-26717-6 (includes commentary, notes, enumerated emendations, appendices with English translation of "La Notion de Conscience")
  • Letters of William James, 2 vols. (1920)
  • Collected Essays and Reviews (1920)
  • Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, 2 vols. (1935) Vanderbilt University Press 1996 reprint: ISBN 0-8265-1279-8 (contains some 500 letters by William James not found in the earlier edition of the Letters of William James)
  • William James on Psychical Research (1960)
  • The Correspondence of William James, 12 vols. (1992-2004) University of Virginia Press, ISBN 0-8139-2318-2

Works by others

  • Essays Philosophical and Psychological in Honor of William James, by his Colleagues at Columbia University (London, 1908)
  • Flournoy, La Philosophie de William James (Saint-Blaise, 1911)
  • Josiah Royce, William James and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Life (New York, 1911)
  • Ménard, Analyse et critique des principes de la psychologie de W. James (Paris, 1911)
  • K. A. Busch, William James als Religionsphilosoph (Göttingen, 1911)
  • Boutroux, William James (New York, 1912)
  • R. B. Perry, Present Philosophical Tendencies (New York, 1912)
  • James Huneker, "A Philosophy for Philistines" in his The Pathos of Distance (New York, 1913)
  • Werner Bloch, Der Pragmatismus von James und Schiller nebst Exkursen über Weltanschauung und über die Hypothese (Leipzig, 1913)
  • H. V. Knox, Philosophy of William James (London, 1914)
  • Henry James's A Small Boy and Others (1913) and Notes of a Son and Brother (1914)
  • Richardson, Robert (2006). William James: In the maelstrom of American modernism. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, pp. 205-206.

Collections

  • William James: Writings 1878-1899, (1992). Library of America, 1212 p., ISBN 978-0-94045072-1
Psychology: Briefer Course (rev. and condensed Principles of Psychology), The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, Talks to Teachers and Students, Essays (nine others)
  • William James: Writings 1902-1910, (1987). Library of America, 1379 p., ISBN 978-0-94045038-7
The Varieties of Religious Experience, Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, The Meaning of Truth, Some Problems of Philosophy, Essays
  • The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, (1978). University of Chicago Press, 912 p., ISBN 0-226-39188-4
Pragmatism, Essays in Radical Empiricism, and A Pluralistic Universe complete; plus selections from other works
  • In 1975, Harvard University Press began publication of a standard edition of The Works of William James.

Secondary works

  • Jacques Barzun. A Stroll with William James (1983). Harper and Row: ISBN 0-226-03869-6
  • Deborah Blum. Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (2006). Penguin Press, ISBN 1-59420-090-4
  • Wesley Cooper. The Unity of William James's Thought (2002). Vanderbilt University Press, ISBN 0-8265-1387-5
  • Howard M. Feinstein. Becoming William James (1984). Cornell University Press, ISBN 978-0801486425
  • Louis Menand. The Metaphysical Club (2001). Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-52849-7. analyzes the lives and relationship between James, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Pierce, and John Dewey.
  • Gerald E. Myers. William James: His Life and Thought (1986). Yale University Press 2001 paperback: ISBN 0-300-08917-1. focuses on his psychology, includes 230 pages of notes.
  • Robert D. Richardson. William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism (2006). Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-618-43325-2
  • Linda Simon. Genuine Reality: A Life of William James (1998). Harcourt Brace & Company, ISBN 0-226-75859-1

Fiction

  • Richard Liebmann-Smith. The James Boys: A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers (2008) posits Jesse and Frank are noms de outlaw used by William and Henry James's two younger brothers who went West and fought in the Civil War. Written somewhat in the style of Henry James.

External links

Full texts of James's works


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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

William James (1842-01-111910-08-26) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, the psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism.

Contents

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All our scientific and philosophic ideals are altars to unknown gods.
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.
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.
  • What interest, zest, or excitement can there be in achieving the right way, unless we are enabled to feel that the wrong way is also a possible and a natural way, — nay, more, a menacing and an imminent way? And what sense can there be in condemning ourselves for taking the wrong way, unless we need have done nothing of the sort, unless the right way was open to us as well? I cannot understand the willingness to act, no matter how we feel, without the belief that acts are really good and bad.
    • "The Dilemma of Determinism" (1884)
  • 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.
    • "The Dilemma of Determinism" (1884)
  • 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.
  • Wherever you are it is your own friends who make your world.
    • As quoted in The Thought and Character of William James (1899) by Ralph Barton Perry, Vol. II, ch. 91
  • Tell him to live by yes and no — yes to everything good, no to everything bad.
    • As quoted in The Thought and Character of William James (1899) by Ralph Barton Perry, Vol. II, ch. 91
  • 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.
  • The "through-and-through" universe seems to suffocate me with its infallible impeccable all-pervasiveness. Its necessity, with no possibilities; its relations, with no subjects, make me feel as if I had entered into a contract with no reserved rights ... It seems too buttoned-up and white-chokered and clean-shaven a thing to speak for the vast slow-breathing unconscious Kosmos with its dread abysses and its unknown tides.
  • Romeo wants Juliet as the filings want the magnet; and if no obstacles intervene he moves towards her by as straight a line as they. But Romeo and Juliet, if a wall be built between them, do not remain idiotically pressing their faces against its opposite sides like the magnet and the filings with the card. Romeo soon finds a circuitous way, by scaling the wall or otherwise, of touching Juliet's lips directly. With the filings the path is fixed; whether it reaches the end depends on accidents. With the lover it is the end which is fixed, the path may be modified indefinitely.

The Sentiment of Rationality (1882)

  • Every way of classifying a thing is but a way of handling it for some particular purpose.
  • The necessity of faith as an ingredient in our mental attitude is strongly insisted on by the scientific philosophers of the present day; but by a singularly arbitrary caprice they say that it is only legitimate when used in the interests of one particular proposition, — the proposition, namely, that the course of nature is uniform. That nature will follow to-morrow the same laws that she follows to-day is, they all admit, a truth which no man can know; but in the interests of cognition as well as of action we must postulate or assume it.
  • Pretend what we may, the whole man within us is at work when we form our philosophical opinions. Intellect, will, taste, and passion co-operate just as they do in practical affairs; and lucky it is if the passion be not something as petty as a love of personal conquest over the philosopher across the way.
  • The concrete man has but one interest — to be right. That to him is the art of all arts, and all means are fair which help him to it.

Principles of Psychology (1890)

We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone...
  • 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, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.
    • Ch. 4
  • There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.
    • Ch. 4
  • 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. So with the man who has daily inured himself to habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial in unnecessary things. He will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him, and when his softer fellow-mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast.
    • Ch. 4
  • 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.
    • Ch. 4
  • 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. ...Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out.
    • Ch. 4
  • The total possible consciousness may be split into parts which co-exist but mutually ignore each other.
    • Ch. 8
  • Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits...A 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.
    • Ch. 9
  • As we take, in fact, a general view of the wonderful stream of our consciousness, what strikes us first is this different pace of its parts. Like a bird's life, it seems to be made of an alternation of flights and perchings.
    • Ch. 9
  • 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.
    • Ch. 9
  • The last peculiarity of consciousness to which attention is to be drawn in this first rough description of its stream is that it is always interested more in one part of its object than in another, and welcomes and rejects, or chooses, all the while it thinks.
    • Ch. 9
Creatures extremely low in the intellectual scale may have conception. All that is required is that they should recognize the same experience again...
  • An act has no ethical quality whatever unless it be chosen out of several all equally possible.
    • Ch. 9
  • In its widest possible sense, however, a man's Self is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank-account. All these things give him the same emotions. If they wax and prosper, he feels triumphant; if they dwindle and die away, he feels cast down.
    • Ch. 10
  • Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognise him.
    • Ch.10
  • So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do.
    • Ch. 10
  • Creatures extremely low in the intellectual scale may have conception. All that is required is that they should recognize the same experience again. A polyp would be a conceptual thinker if a feeling of 'Hello! thingumbob again!' ever flitted through its mind.
    • Ch. 12
The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
  • Let any one try, I will not say to arrest, but to notice or attend to, the present moment of time. One of the most baffling experiences occurs. Where is it, this present? It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.
    • Ch. 15
  • Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.
    • Ch. 19
  • The impulse to take life strivingly is indestructible in the race.
    • Ch. 21
  • My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing.
    • Sometimes paraphrased as "Thinking is for doing", perhaps originally by S.T. Fiske (1992)
    • Ch. 22
  • The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
    • Ch. 22
  • The more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry 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. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth.
    • Ch. 25
  • A purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity.
    • Ch. 25
  • A thing is important if anyone think it important.
    • Ch. 28, Note 35

The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897)

An unlearned carpenter of my acquaintance once said in my hearing: "There is very little difference between one man and another; but what little there is, is very important." This distinction seems to me to go to the root of the matter.
  • In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which the ultimate mystery of things works sadly.
    • "Is Life Worth Living?"
  • 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.
    • "Is Life Worth Living?"
  • 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.
    • "Is Life Worth Living?"
  • This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it, from the moral point of view.
    • "Is Life Worth Living?"
  • If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight.
    • "Is Life Worth Living?"
  • Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
    • "Is Life Worth Living?"
  • Man's chief difference from the brutes lies in the exuberant excess of his subjective propensities — his preeminence over them simply and solely in the number and in the fantastic and unnecessary character of his wants, physical, moral, aesthetic, and intellectual. Had his whole life not been a quest for the superfluous, he would never have established himself as inexpugnably as he has done in the necessary.
    • "Reflex Action and Theism"
  • All the higher, more penetrating ideals are revolutionary. They present themselves far less in the guise of effects of past experience than in that of probable causes of future experience.
    • "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life"
  • 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.
    • "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life"
  • An unlearned carpenter of my acquaintance once said in my hearing: "There is very little difference between one man and another; but what little there is, is very important." This distinction seems to me to go to the root of the matter.
    • "The Importance of Individuals"
  • Everything which is demanded is by that fact a good.
    • "The Will to Believe"
  • As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.
    • "The Will to Believe"

The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)

The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature - Full text online at WIkisource
  • To plead the organic causation of a religious state of mind, then, in refutation of its claim to possess superior spiritual value, is quite illogical and arbitrary, unless one have already worked out in advance some psycho-physical theory connecting spiritual values in general with determinate sorts of physiological change. Otherwise none of our thoughts and feelings, not even our scientific doctrines, not even our dis-beliefs, could retain any value as revelations of the truth, for every one of them without exception flows from the state of their possessor's body at the time.
    • Lecture I, "Religion and Neurology"
  • There are moments of sentimental and mystical experience . . . that carry an enormous sense of inner authority and illumination with them when they come. But they come seldom, and they do not come to everyone; and the rest of life makes either no connection with them, or tends to contradict them more than it confirms them. Some persons follow more the voice of the moment in these cases, some prefer to be guided by the average results. Hence the sad discordancy of so many of the spiritual judgments of human beings; a discordancy which will be brought home to us acutely enough before these lectures end.
    • Lecture I, "Religion and Neurology"
  • Immediate luminousness, in short, philosophical reasonableness and moral helpfulness are the only available criteria. Saint Teresa might have had the nervous system of the placidest cow, and it would not now save her theology, if the trial of the theology by these other tests should show it to be contemptible. And conversely if her theology can stand these other tests, it will make no difference how hysterical or nervously off balance Saint Teresa may have been when she was with us here below.
    • Lecture I, "Religion and Neurology"
The divine shall mean for us only such a primal reality as the individual feels impelled to respond to solemnly and gravely, and neither by a curse nor a jest.
  • Who does not see that we are likely to ascertain the distinctive significance of religious melancholy and happiness, or of religious trances, far better by comparing them as conscientiously as we can with other varieties of melancholy, happiness, and trance, than by refusing to consider their place in any more general series, and treating them as if they were outside of nature's order altogether?
    • Lecture I, "Religion and Neurology"
  • Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. Since the relation may be either moral, physical, or ritual, it is evident that out of religion in the sense in which we take it, theologies, philosophies, and ecclesiastical organizations may secondarily grow.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
  • Religion...is a man's total reaction upon life.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
  • Modern transcendental idealism, Emersonianism, for instance, also seems to let God evaporate into abstract Ideality. Not a deity in concreto, not a superhuman person, but the immanent divinity in things, the essentially spiritual structure of the universe, is the object of the transcendentalist cult. In that address of the graduating class at Divinity College in 1838 which made Emerson famous, the frank expression of this worship of mere abstract laws was what made the scandal of the performance.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
  • 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. It is precisely as being solemn experiences that I wish to interest you in religious experiences. ... The divine shall mean for us only such a primal reality as the individual feels impelled to respond to solemnly and gravely, and neither by a curse nor a jest.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
The world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.
  • 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.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
  • But such a straight identification of religion with any and every form of happiness leaves the essential peculiarity of religious happiness out. The more commonplace happinesses which we get are 'reliefs,' occasioned by our momentary escapes from evils either experienced or threatened. But in its most characteristic embodiments, religious happiness is no mere feeling of escape. It cares no longer to escape. It consents to the evil outwardly as a form of sacrifice — inwardly it knows it to be permanently overcome. ... In the Louvre there is a picture, by Guido Reni, of St. Michael with his foot on Satan's neck. The richness of the picture is in large part due to the fiend's figure being there. The richness of its allegorical meaning also is due to his being there — that is, the world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
  • When all is said and done, we are in the end absolutely dependent on the universe; and into sacrifices and surrenders of some sort, deliberately looked at and accepted, we are drawn and pressed as into our only permanent positions of repose. Now in those states of mind which fall short of religion, the surrender is submitted to as an imposition of necessity, and the sacrifice is undergone at the very best without complaint. In the religious life, on the contrary, surrender and sacrifice are positively espoused: even unnecessary givings-up are added in order that the happiness may increase. Religion thus makes easy and felicitous what in any case is necessary; and if it be the only agency that can accomplish this result, its vital importance as a human faculty stands vindicated beyond dispute. It becomes an essential organ of our life, performing a function which no other portion of our nature can so successfully fulfill.
    • Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
  • We can act as if there were a God; feel as if we were free; consider Nature as if she were full of special designs; lay plans as if we were to be immortal; and we find then that these words do make a genuine difference in our moral life.
    • Lecture III, "The Reality of the Unseen"
  • The sentiment of reality can indeed attach itself so strongly to our object of belief that our whole life is polarized through and through, so to speak, by its sense of the existence of the thing believed in, and yet that thing, for the purpose of definite description, can hardly be said to be present to our mind at all.
    • Lecture III, "The Reality of the Unseen"
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.
  • Quoting an unnamed writer: "To this day," she writes, "I cannot understand dallying with religion and the commandments of God. The very instant I heard my Father's cry calling unto me, my heart bounded in recognition. I ran, I stretched forth my arms, I cried aloud, 'Here, here I am, my Father.' Oh, happy child, what should I do? 'Love me', answered my God. 'I do, I do," I cried passionately. 'Come unto me,' called my Father. 'I will,' my heart panted. Did I stop to ask a single question? Not one. It never occurred to me to ask whether I was good enough, or to hesitate over my unfitness, or to find out what I thought of his church, or . . . to wait until I should be satisfied. Had I not found my God and my Father? Did he not love me? Had he not called me? Was there not a Church into which I might enter? . . . Since then I have had direct answers to prayer — so significant as to be almost like talking with God and hearing his answer. The idea of God's reality has never left me for one moment."
    • Lecture III, "The Reality of the Unseen"
  • Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet.
    • Lectures IV and V, "The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness"
  • 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.
    • Lectures VI and VII, "The Sick Soul"
  • The normal process of life contains moments as bad as any of those which insane melancholy is filled with, moments in which radical evil gets its innings and takes its solid turn. The lunatic's visions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilization is founded on the shambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony. If you protest, my friend, wait till you arrive there yourself! ... Here on our very hearths and in our gardens the infernal cat plays with the panting mouse, or holds the hot bird fluttering in her jaws. Crocodiles and rattlesnakes and pythons are at this moment vessels of life as real as we are; their loathsome existence fills every minute of every day that drags its length along; and whenever they or other wild beasts clutch their living prey, the deadly horror which an agitated melancholiac feels is the literally right reaction on the situation.
    • Lectures VI and VII, "The Sick Soul"
  • Now in all of us, however constituted, but to a degree the greater in proportion as we are intense and sensitive and subject to diversified temptations, and to the greatest possible degree if we are decidedly psychopathic, does the normal evolution of character chiefly consist in the straightening out and unifying of the inner self. The higher and the lower feelings, the useful and the erring impulses, begin by being a comparative chaos within us — they must end by forming a stable system of functions in right subordination. Unhappiness is apt to characterize the period of order-making and struggle.
    • Lecture VIII, "The Divided Self, and the Process of its Unification"
  • Conversion is in its essence a normal adolescent phenomenon, incidental to the passage from the child's small universe to the wider intellectual and spiritual life of maturity.
    • Lecture IX, "Conversion"
  • Pray go back and recollect one of the conclusions to which I sought to lead you in my very first lecture. You may remember how I there argued against the notion that the worth of a thing can be decided by its origin. Our spiritual judgment, I said, our opinion of the significance and value of a human event or condition, must be decided on empirical grounds exclusively. If the fruits for life of the state of conversion are good, we ought to idealize and venerate it, even though it be a piece of natural psychology; if not, we ought to make short work of it, no matter what supernatural being may have infused it.
    • Lecture IX, "Conversion, concluded"
The real witness of the spirit to the second birth is to be found only in the disposition of the genuine child of God, the permanently patient heart, the love of self eradicated.
  • The believers in the non-natural character of sudden conversion have had practically to admit that there is no unmistakable class-mark distinctive of all true converts. The super-normal incidents, such as voices and visions and overpowering impressions of the meaning of suddenly presented scripture texts, the melting emotions and tumultuous affections connected with the crisis of change, may all come by way of nature, or worse still, be counterfeited by Satan. The real witness of the spirit to the second birth is to be found only in the disposition of the genuine child of God, the permanently patient heart, the love of self eradicated. And this, it has to be admitted, is also found in those who pass no crisis, and may even be found outside of Christianity altogether.
    • Lecture X, "Conversion, concluded"
This sense of clean and beautiful newness within and without one is one of the commonest entries in conversion records.
  • The characteristics of the affective experience which, to avoid ambiguity, should, I think, be called the state of assurance rather than the faith-state, can be easily enumerated, though it is probably difficult to realize their intensity, unless one has been through the experience one's self.
    The central one is the loss of all the worry, the sense that all is ultimately well with one, the peace, the harmony, the willingness to be, even though the outer conditions should remain the same. The certainty of God's 'grace,' of 'justification,' 'salvation,' is an objective belief that usually accompanies the change in Christians; but this may be entirely lacking and yet the affective peace remain the same — you will recollect the case of the Oxford graduate: and many might be given where the assurance of personal salvation was only a later result. A passion of willingness, of acquiescence, of admiration, is the glowing centre of this state of mind.
    The second feature is the sense of perceiving truths not known before. The mysteries of life become lucid, as Professor Leuba says; and often, nay usually, the solution is more or less unutterable in words. But these more intellectual phenomena may be postponed until we treat of mysticism.
    A third peculiarity of the assurance state is the objective change which the world often appears to undergo. 'An appearance of newness beautifies every object,' the precise opposite of that other sort of newness, that dreadful unreality and strangeness in the appearance of the world, which is experienced by melancholy patients, and of which you may recall my relating some examples. This sense of clean and beautiful newness within and without one is one of the commonest entries in conversion records.
    • Lecture X, "Conversion, concluded"
  • One mode of emotional excitability is exceedingly important in the composition of the energetic character, from its peculiarly destructive power over inhibitions. I mean what in its lower form is mere irascibility, susceptibility to wrath, the fighting temper; and what in subtler ways manifests itself as impatience, grimness, earnestness, severity of character. Earnestness means willingness to live with energy, though energy bring pain. The pain may be pain to other people or pain to one's self — it makes little difference; for when the strenuous mood is on one, the aim is to break something, no matter whose or what. Nothing annihilates an inhibition as irresistibly as anger does it; for, as Moltke says of war, destruction pure and simple is its essence.
    • Lectures XI, XII, and XIII, "Saintliness"
  • A paradise of inward tranquility seems to be faith's usual result.
    • Lectures XI, XII, and XIII, "Saintliness"
  • The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down. This abandonment of self-responsibility seems to be the fundamental act in specifically religious, as distinguished from moral practice. It antedates theologies and is independent of philosophies. Mind-cure, theosophy, stoicism, ordinary neurological hygiene, insist on it as emphatically as Christianity does, and it is capable of entering into closest marriage with every speculative creed. Christians who have it strongly live in what is called 'recollection,' and are never anxious about the future, nor worry over the outcome of the day. Of Saint Catharine of Genoa it is said that 'she took cognizance of things, only as they were presented to her in succession, moment by moment.' To her holy soul, 'the divine moment was the present moment, . . . and when the present moment was estimated in itself and in its relations, and when the duty that was involved in it was accomplished, it was permitted to pass away as if it had never been, and to give way to the facts and duties of the moment which came after.' Hinduism, mind-cure, and theosophy all lay great emphasis upon this concentration of the consciousness upon the moment at hand.
    • Lectures XI, XII, and XIII, "Saintliness"
  • 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. What I then propose to do is, briefly stated, to test saintliness by common sense, to use human standards to help us decide how far the religious life commends itself as an ideal kind of human activity . ... It is but the elimination of the humanly unfit, and the survival of the humanly fittest, applied to religious beliefs; and if we look at history candidly and without prejudice, we have to admit that no religion has ever in the long run established or proved itself in any other way. Religions have approved themselves; they have ministered to sundry vital needs which they found reigning. When they violated other needs too strongly, or when other faiths came which served the same needs better, the first religions were supplanted.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
  • Is dogmatic or scholastic theology less doubted in point of fact for claiming, as it does, to be in point of right undoubtable? And if not, what command over truth would this kind of theology really lose if, instead of absolute certainty, she only claimed reasonable probability for her conclusions? 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. Pretty surely it will be more than we could have had, if we were unconscious of our liability to err.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather do I fear to lose truth by this pretension to possess it already wholly.
  • I am well aware of how anarchic much of what I say may sound. Expressing myself thus abstractly and briefly, I may seem to despair of the very notion of truth. But I beseech you to reserve your judgment until we see it applied to the details which lie before us. I do indeed disbelieve that we or any other mortal men can attain on a given day to absolutely incorrigible and unimprovable truth about such matters of fact as those with which religions deal. But I reject this dogmatic ideal not out of a perverse delight in intellectual instability. I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather do I fear to lose truth by this pretension to possess it already wholly.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion.
  • A genuine first-hand religious experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
  • The plain fact is that men's minds are built, as has been often said, in water-tight compartments. Religious after a fashion, they yet have many other things in them beside their religion, and unholy entanglements and associations inevitably obtain. The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law in the form of an absolutely closed-in theoretic system. The ecclesiastical spirit in general is the sum of these two spirits of dominion.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
  • This practically amounts to saying that much that it is legitimate to admire in this field need nevertheless not be imitated, and that religious phenomena, like all other human phenomena, are subject to the law of the golden mean. Political reformers accomplish their successive tasks in the history of nations by being blind for the time to other causes. Great schools of art work out the effects which it is their mission to reveal, at the cost of a one-sidedness for which other schools must make amends. We accept a John Howard, a Mazzini, a Botticelli, a Michael Angelo, with a kind of indulgence. We are glad they existed to show us that way, but we are glad there are also other ways of seeing and taking life. So of many of the saints we have looked at. We are proud of a human nature that could be so passionately extreme, but we shrink from advising others to follow the example.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
If things are ever to move upward, some one must take the first step, and assume the risk of it.
  • There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
  • We must frankly confess, then, using our empirical common sense and ordinary practical prejudices, that in the world that actually is, the virtues of sympathy, charity, and non-resistance may be, and often have been, manifested in excess. ... You will agree to this in general, for in spite of the Gospel, in spite of Quakerism, in spite of Tolstoi, you believe in fighting fire with fire, in shooting down usurpers, locking up thieves, and freezing out vagabonds and swindlers.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
  • If things are ever to move upward, some one must take the first step, and assume the risk of it. No one who is not willing to try charity, to try non-resistance as the saint is always willing, can tell whether these methods will or will not succeed.
    • Lectures XIV and XV, "The Value of Saintliness"
Stoic, Christian, and Buddhist saints are practically indistinguishable in their lives. The theories which Religion generates, being thus variable, are secondary; and if you wish to grasp her essence, you must look to the feelings and the conduct as being the more constant elements.
  • 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.
    • Lecture XX, "Conclusions"
  • Both thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the same conduct may be determined either by feeling or by thought. When we survey the whole field of religion, we find a great variety in the thoughts that have prevailed there; but the feelings on the one hand and the conduct on the other are almost always the same, for Stoic, Christian, and Buddhist saints are practically indistinguishable in their lives. The theories which Religion generates, being thus variable, are secondary; and if you wish to grasp her essence, you must look to the feelings and the conduct as being the more constant elements. It is between these two elements that the short circuit exists on which she carries on her principal business, while the ideas and symbols and other institutions form loop-lines which may be perfections and improvements, and may even some day all be united into one harmonious system, but which are not to be regarded as organs with an indispensable function, necessary at all times for religious life to go on. This seems to me the first conclusion which we are entitled to draw from the phenomena we have passed in review.
    • Lecture XX, "Conclusions"
  • Religion must be considered vindicated in a certain way from the attacks of her critics. It would seem that she cannot be a mere anachronism and survival, but must exert a permanent function, whether she be with or without intellectual content, and whether, if she have any, it be true or false.
    We must next pass beyond the point of view of merely subjective utility, and make inquiry into the intellectual content itself.
    First, is there, under all the discrepancies of the creeds, a common nucleus to which they bear their testimony unanimously?
    And second, ought we to consider the testimony true?
    I will take up the first question first, and answer it immediately in the affirmative. The warring gods and formulas of the various religions do indeed cancel each other, but there is a certain uniform deliverance in which religions all appear to meet. It consists of two parts: —
    1. An uneasiness; and
    2. Its solution.
    1. The uneasiness, reduced to its simplest terms, is a sense that there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand.
    2. The solution is a sense that we are saved from the wrongness by making proper connection with the higher powers.
    • Lecture XX, "Conclusions"
  • The individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness and criticizes it, is to that extent consciously beyond it, and in at least possible touch with something higher, if anything higher exist. Along with the wrong part there is thus a better part of him, even though it may be but a most helpless germ. With which part he should identify his real being is by no means obvious at this stage; but when stage 2 (the stage of solution or salvation) arrives, the man identifies his real being with the germinal higher part of himself; and does so in the following way. He becomes conscious that this higher part is coterminous and continuous with a more of the same quality, which is operative in the universe outside of him, and which he can keep in working touch with, and in a fashion get on board of and save himself when all his lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck.
    • Lecture XX, "Conclusions"
Who knows whether the faithfulness of individuals here below to their own poor over-beliefs may not actually help God in turn to be more effectively faithful to his own greater tasks?
I feel bound to say that religious experience, as we have studied it, cannot be cited as unequivocally supporting the infinitist belief. The only thing that it unequivocally testifies to is that we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace.
  • This thoroughly 'pragmatic' view of religion has usually been taken as a matter of course by common men. They have interpolated divine miracles into the field of nature, they have built a heaven out beyond the grave. It is only transcendentalist metaphysicians who think that, without adding any concrete details to Nature, or subtracting any, but by simply calling it the expression of absolute spirit, you make it more divine just as it stands. I believe the pragmatic way of taking religion to be the deeper way. It gives it body as well as soul, it makes it claim, as everything real must claim, some characteristic realm of fact as its very own. What the more characteristically divine facts are, apart from the actual inflow of energy in the faith-state and the prayer-state, I know not. But the over-belief on which I am ready to make my personal venture is that they exist. 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. By being faithful in my poor measure to this over-belief, I seem to myself to keep more sane and true. I can, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist's attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations and scientific laws and objects may be all. But whenever I do this, I hear that inward monitor of which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word 'bosh!' Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow 'scientific' bounds. Assuredly, the real world is of a different temperament — more intricately built than physical science allows. So my objective and my subjective conscience both hold me to the over-belief which I express. Who knows whether the faithfulness of individuals here below to their own poor over-beliefs may not actually help God in turn to be more effectively faithful to his own greater tasks?
    • Lecture XX, "Conclusions"
  • The ideal power with which we feel ourselves in connection, the 'God' of ordinary men, is, both by ordinary men and by philosophers, endowed with certain of those metaphysical attributes which in the lecture on philosophy I treated with such disrespect. He is assumed as a matter of course to be 'one and only,' and to be 'infinite'; and the notion of many finite gods is one which hardly any one thinks it worth while to consider, and still less to uphold. Nevertheless, in the interests of intellectual clearness, I feel bound to say that religious experience, as we have studied it, cannot be cited as unequivocally supporting the infinitist belief. The only thing that it unequivocally testifies to is that we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace. Philosophy, with its passion for unity, and mysticism with its monoideistic bent, both 'pass to the limit' and identify the something with a unique God who is the all-inclusive soul of the world. Popular opinion, respectful to their authority, follows the example which they set.
    • Postscript

The Moral Equivalent of War (1906)

Full text online at Wikisource
The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party.
The war-party is assuredly right in affirming and reaffirming that the martial virtues, although originally gained by the race through war, are absolute and permanent human goods.
  • The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals from the ups and downs of politics and the vicissitudes of trade.
  • 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.
    It was not thus in ancient times. The earlier men were hunting men, and to hunt a neighboring tribe, kill the males, loot the village and possess the females, was the most profitable, as well as the most exciting, way of living. Thus were the more martial tribes selected, and in chiefs and peoples a pure pugnacity and love of glory came to mingle with the more fundamental appetite for plunder.
    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. Showing war's irrationality and horror is of no effect on him. The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life; it is life in extremis; war taxes are the only ones men never hesitate to pay, as the budgets of all nations show us.
  • History is a bath of blood.
  • Alexander's career was piracy pure and simple, nothing but an orgy of power and plunder, made romantic by the character of the hero. There was no rational purpose in it, and the moment he died his generals and governors attacked one another.
  • We inherit the warlike type; and for most of the capacities of heroism that the human race is full of we have to thank this cruel history. Dead men tell no tales, and if there were any tribes of other type than this they have left no survivors. Our ancestors have bred pugnacity into our bone and marrow, and thousands of years of peace won't breed it out of us. The popular imagination fairly fattens on the thought of wars. Let public opinion once reach a certain fighting pitch, and no ruler can withstand it. In the Boer war both governments began with bluff, but they couldn't stay there; the military tension was too much for them.
  • At the present day, civilized opinion is a curious mental mixture. The military instincts and ideals are as strong as ever, but they are confronted by reflective criticisms which sorely curb their ancient freedom. Innumerable writers are showing up the bestial side of military service. Pure loot and mastery seem no longer morally allowable motives, and pretexts must be found for attributing them solely to the enemy.
  • It would seem that common sense and reason ought to find a way to reach agreement in every conflict of honest interests. I myself think it our bounden duty to believe in such international rationality as possible. But, as things stand, I see how desperately hard it is to bring the peace-party and the war-party together, and I believe that the difficulty is due to certain deficiencies in the program of pacifism which set the military imagination strongly, and to a certain extent justifiably, against it. In the whole discussion both sides are on imaginative and sentimental ground. It is but one utopia against another, and everything one says must be abstract and hypothetical.
  • The militarily-patriotic and the romantic-minded everywhere, and especially the professional military class, refuse to admit for a moment that war may be a transitory phenomenon in social evolution. The notion of a sheep's paradise like that revolts, they say, our higher imagination. Where then would be the steeps of life? If war had ever stopped, we should have to re-invent it, on this view, to redeem life from flat degeneration.
    Reflective apologists for war at the present day all take it religiously. It is a sort of sacrament. It's profits are to the vanquished as well as to the victor; and quite apart from any question of profit, it is an absolute good, we are told, for it is human nature at its highest dynamic.
  • Without risks or prizes for the darer, history would be insipid indeed; and there is a type of military character which every one feels that the race should never cease to breed, for everyone is sensitive to its superiority. The duty is incumbent on mankind, of keeping military character in stock — if keeping them, if not for use, then as ends in themselves and as pure pieces of perfection, — so that Roosevelt's weaklings and mollycoddles may not end by making everything else disappear from the face of nature.
  • Pacifists ought to enter more deeply into the aesthetical and ethical point of view of their opponents. ... So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war's disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation. And as a rule they do fail. The duties, penalties, and sanctions pictured in the utopias they paint are all too weak and tame to touch the military-minded.
  • Inferiority is always with us, and merciless scorn of it is the keynote of the military temper.
  • I will now confess my own utopia. I devoutly believe in the reign of peace and in the gradual advent of some sort of socialistic equilibrium. The fatalistic view of the war function is to me nonsense, for I know that war-making is due to definite motives and subject to prudential checks and reasonable criticisms, just like any other form of enterprise. And when whole nations are the armies, and the science of destruction vies in intellectual refinement with the science of production, I see that war becomes absurd and impossible from its own monstrosity. Extravagant ambitions will have to be replaced by reasonable claims, and nations must make common cause against them.
  • I look forward to a future when acts of war shall be formally outlawed as between civilized peoples.
    All these beliefs of mine put me firmly into the anti-military party. But I do not believe that peace either ought to be or will be permanent on this globe, unless the states, pacifically organized, preserve some of the old elements of army-discipline. A permanently successful peace-economy cannot be a simple pleasure-economy. In the more or less socialistic future toward which mankind seems drifting we must still subject ourselves collectively to those severities which answer to our real position upon this only partly hospitable globe. We must make new energies and hardihoods continue the manliness to which the military mind so faithfully clings.
The war-function has grasped us so far; but the constructive interests may some day seem no less imperative, and impose on the individual a hardly lighter burden.
  • The war-party is assuredly right in affirming and reaffirming that the martial virtues, although originally gained by the race through war, are absolute and permanent human goods. Patriotic pride and ambition in their military form are, after all, only specifications of a more general competitive passion. They are its first form, but that is no reason for supposing them to be its last form. 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. But who can be sure that other aspects of one's country may not, with time and education and suggestion enough, come to be regarded with similarly effective feelings of pride and shame? Why should men not some day feel that is it worth a blood-tax to belong to a collectivity superior in any respect? Why should they not blush with indignant shame if the community that owns them is vile in any way whatsoever? Individuals, daily more numerous, now feel this civic passion. It is only a question of blowing on the spark until the whole population gets incandescent, and on the ruins of the old morals of military honor, a stable system of morals of civic honor builds itself up. What the whole community comes to believe in grasps the individual as in a vise. The war-function has grasped us so far; but the constructive interests may some day seem no less imperative, and impose on the individual a hardly lighter burden.
  • There is nothing to make one indignant in the mere fact that life is hard, that men should toil and suffer pain. The planetary conditions once for all are such, and we can stand it. But that so many men, by mere accidents of birth and opportunity, should have a life of nothing else but toil and pain and hardness and inferiority imposed upon them, should have no vacation, while others natively no more deserving never get any taste of this campaigning life at all, — this is capable of arousing indignation in reflective minds. It may end by seeming shameful to all of us that some of us have nothing but campaigning, and others nothing but unmanly ease. If now — and this is my idea — there were, instead of military conscription, a conscription of the whole youthful population to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted against Nature, the injustice would tend to be evened out, and numerous other goods to the commonwealth would remain blind as the luxurious classes now are blind, to man's relations to the globe he lives on, and to the permanently sour and hard foundations of his higher life.
  • Such a conscription, with the state of public opinion that would have required it, and the many moral fruits it would bear, would preserve in the midst of a pacific civilization the manly virtues which the military party is so afraid of seeing disappear in peace. We should get toughness without callousness, authority with as little criminal cruelty as possible, and painful work done cheerily because the duty is temporary, and threatens not, as now, to degrade the whole remainder of one's life. I spoke of the "moral equivalent" of war. So far, war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community, and until and equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way. But I have no serious doubt that the ordinary prides and shames of social man, once developed to a certain intensity, are capable of organizing such a moral equivalent as I have sketched, or some other just as effective for preserving manliness of type. It is but a question of time, of skilful propogandism, and of opinion-making men seizing historic opportunities.

Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907)

Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking - Full text online at Wikisource
First, you know, 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.
  • For the philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos.
    • Lecture I, The Present Dilemma in Philosophy
  • No particular results then, so far, but only an attitude of orientation, is what the pragmatic method means. The attitude of looking away from first things, principles, 'categories,' supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts.
    • Lecture II, What Pragmatism Means
  • I myself believe that the evidence for God lies primarily in inner personal experiences.
    • Lecture III, Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered
  • Our minds thus grow in spots; and like grease-spots, the spots spread. But we let them spread as little as possible: we keep unaltered as much of our old knowledge, as many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we can. We patch and tinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks in; it stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by what absorbs it.
    • Lecture V, Pragmatism and Common Sense
  • Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process: the process namely of its verifying itself, its veri-fication. Its validity is the process of its valid-ation.
    • Lecture VI, Pragmatism's Conception of Truth
  • First, you know, 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.
    • Lecture VI, Pragmatism's Conception of Truth

Memories and Studies (1911)

  • What we really need the poet's and orator's I help to keep alive in us is not, then, the common and gregarious courage which Robert Shaw showed when he marched with you, men of the Seventh Regiment. It is that more lonely courage which he showed when he dropped his warm commission in the glorious Second to head your dubious fortunes, negroes of the Fifty-fourth. That lonely kind of courage (civic courage as we call it in times of peace) is the kind of valor to which the monuments of nations should most of all be reared.
  • The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks.
    • Robert Gould Shaw: Oration upon the Unveiling of the Shaw Monument
  • Democracy is still upon its trial. The civic genius of our people is its only bulwark.
    • Robert Gould Shaw: Oration upon the Unveiling of the Shaw Monument
  • So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war's disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation.
  • Our colleges ought to have lit up in us a lasting relish for the better kind of man, a loss of appetite for mediocrities, and a disgust for cheapjacks. We ought to smell, as it were, the difference of quality in men and their proposals when we enter the world of affairs about us.
  • Real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and disdain — under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly upon the human core.
    • The Social Value of the College-Bred

Collected Essays and Reviews (1920)

The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal.
  • The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal.
    • Ch. 11 - Clifford's Lectures and Essays" (1879)
  • I wished, by treating Psychology like a natural science, to help her to become one.
    • A Plea for Psychology as a Natural Science (1892)

The Letters of William James (1920)

Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being.
  • 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!"
    • To his wife, Alice Gibbons James (1878)
  • Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
  • The difference between the first- and second-best things in art absolutely seems to escape verbal definition — it is a matter of a hair, a shade, an inward quiver of some kind — yet what miles away in the point of preciousness!
  • 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. Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.
  • 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.
  • I saw a moving sight the other morning before breakfast in a little hotel where I slept in the dusty fields. The young man of the house shot a little wolf called coyote in the early morning. The little heroic animal lay on the ground, with his big furry ears, and his clean white teeth, and his little cheerful body, but his little brave life was gone. It made me think how brave all living things are. Here little coyote was, without any clothes or house or books or anything, with nothing to pay his way with, and risking his life so cheerfully — and losing it — just to see if he could pick up a meal near the hotel. He was doing his coyote-business like a hero, and you must do your boy-business, and I my man-business bravely, too, or else we won't be worth as much as a little coyote.
    • To his young son from the Yosemite Valley on (1989-08-28)

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William James (1842-1910) was an original thinker in and between the disciplines of physiology, psychology and philosophy. His major work was a twelve-hundred page book, The Principles of Psychology (1890), which gave us such ideas as the "stream of thought".[1]

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