Quotes from The Principles of Psychology by William James

“Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as ‘chain’ or ‘train’ do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.” – William James, Principles of Psychology

  • Gaps and changes in quality that we do notice don’t undermine the feeling that our consciousness is continuous (we bridge the gap between pre-gap consciousness easily)
  • Gaps and changes in quality that we don’t notice aren’t felt as interruptions because we’re not aware of them
  • The stream of consciousness is really both a stream of perception and a stream of thought and attention shifts dynamically back and forth between them

”When we take a general view of the wonderful stream of our consciousness, what strikes us first is the different pace of its parts. Like a bird’s life, it seems to be an alternation of flights and perchings… Let us call the resting places the ‘substantive parts’ and the places of flight the ‘transitive parts’ of the stream of thought”