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Word for the Wise January 11, 2007 Broadcast Topic: William James

Philosopher, psychologist, and writer William James, who was born on this date in 1842, is admired by wordlovers for his well-turned phrasing. In a 1906 letter to H.G. Wells, today's birthday boy bemoaned (and we quote) "the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That," he went on to say, "—with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success—is our national disease." (来源:英语麦当劳www.EnglishCN.com)

Those are not the only powerful words attributed to William James. The fellow who helped push psychology into the scientific realm made plenty of pithy remarks on the human experience. He believed "There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision" and went on to muse that "Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way."

William James studied history, too, and he left us other thoughts to ponder. "The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes;" he said; "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."

 
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