william james quotes

Looking for William James Quotes?

William James(1842—1910) is considered by many to be the most insightful and stimulating of American philosophers, as well as the second of the three great pragmatists (the middle link between Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey). As a professor of psychology and of philosophy at Harvard University, he became the most famous living American psychologist and later the most famous living American philosopher of his time. Avoiding the logically tight systems typical of European rationalists, such as the German idealists, he cobbled together a psychology rich in philosophical implications and a philosophy enriched by his psychological expertise. More specifically, his theory of the self and his view of human belief as oriented towards conscious action raised issues that required him to turn to philosophy. There he developed his pragmatic epistemology, which considers the meaning of ideas and the truth of beliefs not abstractly, but in terms of the practical difference they can make in people’s lives. He explored the implications of this theory in areas of religious belief, metaphysics, human freedom and moral values, and social philosophy. His contributions in these areas included critiques of long-standing philosophical positions on such issues as freedom vs. determinism, correspondence vs. coherence, and dualism vs. materialism, as well as a thorough analysis of a phenomenological understanding of the self and consciousness, a “forward-looking” conception of truth (based on validation and revisable experience), a thorough-going metaphysical pluralism, and a commitment to a full view of agency in connection with communal and social concerns. Thus he created one of the last great philosophical systems in Western thought, even if he did not live quite long enough to complete every aspect of it. The combination of his provocative ideas and his engaging writing style has contributed to the enduring impact of his work.
He was a man with unique way of playing with words. His word are source of inspiration for his followers. We have collected a list of Powerful and Inspirational William James Quotes for you yo understand his idea of life in a better way.
Hope you will enjoy reading them.

Powerful William James Quotes about life.

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”

“The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.”

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”

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

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”

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

“Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.”

“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.”

William James Quotes

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”
“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”
“We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.”
“I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.”

“To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds,”
“Anything you may hold firmly in your imagination can be yours.”


“Our view of the world is truly shaped by what we decide to hear.”
“Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.”

“Begin to be now what you will be hereafter. ”

“There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.”
“Beyond the very extremity of fatigue distress, amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength habitually not taxed at all, because habitually we never push through the obstruction”
“Good-humor is a philosophic state of mind; it seems to say to Nature that we take her no more seriously than she takes us. I maintain that one should always talk of philosophy with a smile.”

“Human beings are born into this little span of life of which the best thing is its friendships and intimacies … and yet they leave their friendships and intimacies with no cultivation, to grow as they will by the roadside, expecting them to “keep” by force of mere inertia.”

“If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.”
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.”


“Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.”
“We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition”

“We forget that every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort. We postpone and postpone until those smiling possibilities are dead… By neglecting the necessary concrete labor, by sparing ourselves the little daily tax, we are positively digging the graves of our higher possibilities.”

“I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather I fear to lose truth by the pretension to possess it already wholly.”
“The aim of a college education is to teach you to know a good man when you see one.”
“Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.”
“This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it.”
“There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.”
“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.”

“A man with no philosophy in him is the most inauspicious and unprofitable of all possible social mates.”
“It would probably astound each of us beyond measure to be let into his neighbors mind and to find how different the scenery was there from that of his own.”
“we have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood”


“It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.”
“A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups.”
“Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
“There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.”
“Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them.”
“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.”

 william james quotes

“Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain”
“Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed verbal formulation.”
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers.”
“None of us are ever who we were yesterday.”
“There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.”
“Wisdom is seeing something in a non-habitual manner.”
“So you see that the process of education, taken in a large way, may be described as nothing but the process of acquiring ideas or conceptions, the best educated mind being the mind which has the largest stock of them, ready to meet the largest possible variety of the emergencies of life. The lack of education means only the failure to have acquired them, and the consequent liability to be ‘floored’ and ‘rattled’ in the vicissitudes of experience.”

“My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing.”

“In order to disprove the assertion that all crows are black, one white crow is sufficient.”

“Whatever is beyond this narrow rational consciousness we mistake for our only consciousness.”

“I will act as if what i do makes a difference.”
“Everyone knows what attention is. It is taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seems several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration of consciousness are of its essence. It implies a withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others.”
“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second”
“The opposition between the men who have and the men who are is immemorial.”

Which of the above listed William James Quotes is your favorite? Please share your favorite quote in the comments section below.

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