Henry James, Sr.

Henry
James, Sr.
1811
1882

American Theologian and Swedenborgian, Father of William and Henry James

Author Quotes

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.

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise although the philosophers generally call it recognition!

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

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.

There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it.

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 someday seem no less imperative, and impose on the individual a hardly lighter burden.

Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an un-habitual way.

If things are ever to move upward, someone 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.

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 frogs' 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.

Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.

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.

Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

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.

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.

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.

The ideas gained by men before they are twenty-five are practically the only ideas they shall have in their lives.

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.

If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it.

Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly.

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 impulse to take life strivingly is indestructible in the race.

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

If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.

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.

Religion is the monumental chapter in the history of human egotism.

Author Picture
First Name
Henry
Last Name
James, Sr.
Birth Date
1811
Death Date
1882
Bio

American Theologian and Swedenborgian, Father of William and Henry James