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William James



Pragmatism asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential terms?

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William James
Viewed on April 10, 2008
Contribution #446


[Pragmatism's] only test of probable truth is what works best in the way of leading us, what fits every part of life best and combines with the collectivity of experience's demands, nothing being omitted.

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William James
Viewed on April 10, 2008
Contribution #447


Act in earnest and you will become earnest in all you do.

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William James
Viewed on April 14, 2008
Contribution #708


the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook

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the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook

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As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use. A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices.

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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.

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Many persons nowadays seem to think that any conclusion must be very scientific if the arguments in favor of it are derived from twitching of frog’s legs- especially if the frogs are decapitated- and that- on the other hand- any doctrine chiefly vouched for by the feelings of human beings- with heads on their shoulders- must be benighted and superstitious.

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Divinity lies all around us, but society remains too hidebound to accept that fact…The mother sea and the fountain-head of all religions lies in the mystical experiences of the individual.

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“But to find religion is only one out of many ways of reaching unity; and the process of remedying inner incompleteness and reducing inner discord is a general psychological process, which may take place with any sort of mental material, and need not necessarily assume the religious form…For example, the new birth may be away from religion into incredulity; or it may be from moral scrupulosity into freedom and license; or it may be produced by the irruption into the individual’s life of some new stimulus or passion, such as love, ambition, cupidity, revenge, or patriotic devotion. In all these instances, we have precisely the same psychological form of event,- a firmness, stability, and equilibrium succeeding a period of storm and stress and inconsistency.”

“But to find religion is only one out of many ways of reaching unity; and the process of remedying inner incompleteness and reducing inner discord is a general psychological process, which may take place with any sort of mental material, and need not necessarily assume the religious form…For example, the new birth may be away from religion into incredulity; or it may be from moral scrupulosity into freedom and license; or it may be produced by the irruption into the individual’s life of some new stimulus or passion, such as love, ambition, cupidity, revenge, or patriotic devotion. In all these instances, we have precisely the same psychological form of event,- a firmness, stability, and equilibrium succeeding a period of storm and stress and inconsistency.”

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