The Greatest Discovery of My Generation Is That Human Beings Can Alter Their Lives By Altering Their Attitudes of Mind

William James? Harry Granison Hill? Joseph Fort Newton? Norman Vincent Peale? E. Stanley Jones? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: One’s attitude toward life has an enormous effect on one’s experiences in life. Here are two statements on this theme:

(1) The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.

(2) The greatest revolution in my generation was the discovery that human beings by changing their inner attitudes of mind can alter the outer aspects of their lives.

Both of these remarks have been attributed to the prominent U.S. philosopher and psychologist William James, but I have been unable to find any solid citations. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that William James wrote or said either of these sentences. QI conjectures that the statements evolved over time from ideas espoused in the New Thought movement and the Positive Thinking philosophy. The words were attributed to James many years after his death in 1910.

William James did contend that the beliefs of an individual were a crucial determinant of well-being. For example, in May 1895 he delivered a speech on the theme “Is Life Worth Living?” which he published in the “International Journal of Ethics” in October 1895. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

These, then, are my last words to you: Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

A separate article about the quotation immediately above is available here.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Greatest Discovery of My Generation Is That Human Beings Can Alter Their Lives By Altering Their Attitudes of Mind

Notes:

  1. 1895 October, International Journal of Ethics, Volume 6, Number 1, Is Life Worth Living? by William James, Start Page 1, Quote Page 24, Published by International Journal of Ethics, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (JSTOR) link

Some People Are Troubled by the Things in the Bible They Can’t Understand. The Things That Trouble Me Are the Things I Can Understand

Mark Twain? Hugh Elmer Brown? Joseph Fort Newton? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Could you please help me to trace the following quotation credited to Mark Twain:

It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

The earliest citation I’ve seen is from the 1970s, but Twain died in 1910. Hence, I suspect that the ascription is inaccurate.

Quote Investigator: This quotation is difficult to research because it can be expressed in many different ways. At this time, QI has found no solid evidence that Mark Twain made this remark. No match was found during a search of the important “Twain Quotes” website edited by Barbara Schmidt. 1 Also, no match was found in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger. 2

The earliest citation located by QI occurred in the “Watertown Daily Times” of Watertown, New York in 1915. The freestanding quotation appeared in a box. Emphasis added to excerpts: 3

Mark Twain.
Some people are troubled by the things in the Bible they can’t understand.
The things that trouble me are the things I can understand.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Some People Are Troubled by the Things in the Bible They Can’t Understand. The Things That Trouble Me Are the Things I Can Understand

Notes:

  1. Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched September 22, 2017)
  2. 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1915 February 6, Watertown Daily Times, The Quiet Hour, (Freestanding quotation in a box), Quote Page 12, Column 6, Watertown, New York. (GenealogyBank)