With all due respect to Chris Green, the passage he quotes
(I've placed it at the bottom of this post), reminds of what
Henry James did when attempting to ask where he was
while driving in a car with Edith Wharton.  Wharton wrote
down the exchange James had with a village local in the
British countryside and an excerpt is provided below:

His most famous utterance was recorded by his friend
and fellow novelist Edith Wharton, who often took him

Mrs. Wharton and her motorcar-he was fond of both of
them-exhausted the aging James, who called her an
"angel of devastation."  Once he wrote of a visit::
"Her powers of devastation are ineffable, her repudiation
of repose absolutely tragic, and she was never more
brilliant and able and interesting. "

On another occasion she remembered him asking directions
in the town of Windsor, England.

While I was hesitating and peering out into the darkness
James spied an ancient doddering man who had stopped
in the rain to gaze at us. "Wait a moment, my dear-I'll ask
him where we are"; and leaning out he signaled to the

"My good man, if you'll be good enough to come here, please;
a little nearer-so," and as the old man came up: "My friend,
to put it to you in two words, this lady and I have just arrived
here from Slough; that is to say, to be more strictly accurate,
we have recently passed through Slough on our way here, having
actually motored to Windsor from Rye, which was our point
of departure; and the darkness having overtaken us, we should
be much obliged if you would tell us where we now are in relation,
say, to the High Street, which, as you of course know, leads to
the Castle, after leaving on the left hand the turn down to the
railway station.

I was not surpassed to have this extraordinary appeal met by
silence, and a dazed expression on the old wrinkled face at the
window; nor to have James go on: "In short" (his invanable
prelude to a fresh series of explanatory ramifications). "in short
my good man, that I want to put to you in a word is this: supposing
we have already (as I have reason to think we have) driven past
the turn down to the railway station (which in that, by the way,
would probably not have been on our left hand, but on our right)
where are we now in relation to. . . "

"Oh, please" I interrupted, feeling myself utterly unable to sit
through another parenthesis, "do ask him where the Kind's
Road is."

"Ah-? The King's Road? Just so? Quite right! Can you, as
a matter of fact, my good man, tell us where, in relation to our
present position, the King's Road exactly is?"

"Ye're In It," said the aged face at the window.

-Edith Wharton, "A Backward Glance", 1934ยท


It is amazing that Henry James can bloviate so much on
asking "Where is King's Road?"  I had the same feeling
reading William James on what might be the basis of the
saying in the subject line. It seems to me that attribute
that saying to William James is comparable to claiming
the Freud used the iceberg metaphor.

-Mike Palij
New York University

-----------     Original Message      -----------
On Wed, 12 Oct 2016 05:27:37 -0700,Christopher Green wrote:
On Oct 11, 2016, at 9:14 AM, Mike Palij  wrote:
So, what's the source?  William James is often associated with
the quote in Subject line but, like icebergs and Freud, no sources
or references are given.  Or did I miss it?  Send me something.

I do not find that exact quote. However, the 5th para. of chapter 14
(Association) of James' Principles of Psychology expresses a similar idea:

The truth must be admitted that thought works under conditions imposed ab extra. The great law of habit itself -- that twenty experiences make us recall a thing better than one, that long indulgence in error makes right thinking almost impossible -- seems to have no essential foundation in reason. The business of thought is with truth -- the number of experiences ought to have nothing to do with her hold of it; and she ought by right to be able to hug it
all the closer, after years wasted out of its presence. The contrary
arrangements seem quite fantastic and arbitrary, but nevertheless are part of the very bone and marrow of our minds. Reason is only one out of a thousand
possibilities in the thinking of each of us. Who can count all the silly
fancies, the grotesque suppositions, the utterly irrelevant reflections he makes in the course of a day? Who can swear that his prejudices and irrational beliefs constitute a less bulky part of his mental furniture than his clarified opinions? It is true that a presiding arbiter seems to sit aloft in the mind,
and emphasize the better suggestions into permanence, while it ends by
droopping out and leaving unrecorded the confusion. But this is all the
difference. The mode of genesis of the worthy and the worthless seems the same. The laws of our actual thinking, of the cogitatum, must account alike for the bad and the good materials on which the arbiter has to decide, for wisdom and for folly. The laws of the arbiter, of the cogitandum, of what we ought to
think, are to the former as the [p. 553] laws of ethics are to those of
history. Who but an Hegelian historian ever pretended that reason in action was
per se a sufficient explanation of the political changes in Europe?

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