William James realized that our biology interacts with our mind and thus can shape how we think about ourselves and the world

William James

From Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, original copyright 1907, Harvard University Press, 1978 edition

Lecture VII Pragmatism and Humanism

James on sensations, experience and our interaction if the Territory.

‘Truth grafts itself on previous truths, modifying it in the process, just as idiom grafts itself on previous idiom, and law on previous law.’ p 116

‘Take our sensations. That they are is undoubtedly beyond our control; but which we attend to, note, and make emphatic in our conclusions depends on our own interests; and, according as we lay the emphasis here or there, quite different formulations of truth result. We read the same facts differently. …What we say about reality thus depends on the perspective into which we throw it. The that of it is its own; but the what depends on the which; and the which depends on us. Both the sensational and the relational parts of reality are dumb; they say absolutely nothing about themselves We it is who have to speak for them.’ P. 118

‘Hence, even in the field of sensations, our minds exert a certain arbitrary choice. By our inclusions and omissions we trace the field’s extent; by our emphasis we mark its foreground and its background; by our order we read it in this direction or in that. We receive in short the block of marble, but we carve the statute ourselves.’ P. 119

‘When we talk of reality ‘independent’ of human thinking, then, it seems a thing very hard to find. It reduces to the notion of what is just entering our experience, and yet to be named, or else to some imagined aboriginal presence in experience, before any belief about the presence had arisen, before any human conception had been applied.’ P 119

‘What shall we call a thing anyhow? It seems quite arbitrary, for we carve out everything, just as we carve out constellations, to suit our human purposes.’ P 122

‘We plunge forward into the field of fresh experience with the beliefs our ancestors and we have made already; these determine what we notice; what we notice determines what we do; what we do again determines what we experience; so from one thing to another, altho the stubborn fact remains that there is a sensible flux, what is true of it seems from first to last to be largely a matter of our own creation. ‘P122