The Ethics of Belief

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This section provides us with two selections from the essays of William K. Clifford (1845-1879) and William James (1842-1910). Clifford's essay, The Ethics of Belief, is based on the concept of evidentialism. This concept 'holds that we should not accept any statement as true unless we have good evidence to support its truth'; (Voices of Wisdom, 346). James wrote his essay, The Will to Believe, as a response to Clifford's essay where he endorsed a philosophy called pragmatism.
Pragmatism is described in the book as a method for settling philosophical disputes. It is based on the pragmatic theory of truth. This theory says that a 'proposition p is true if and only if the belief that 'p is true' works'; (Voices of Wisdom, 346). In order to get a better understanding of the pragmatic theory of truth, the theory is contrasted against two other theories, the correspondence theory of truth and the coherence theory of truth. James disagreed with these theories because 'they present truth as a static property existing prior to and independent of human experience and investigation';. James viewed truth as a constant movement of ideas, which guide human beings into more and more satisfying experiences every time.
Clifford holds that you should not believe any proposition just because it will give you eternal happiness when in fact there is a lack of evidence which should lead you to doubt the proposition. James, on the other hand, gives us three conditions to believe beyond evidence. 'First, when you are confronted with what he calls a 'genuine option' that cannot be decided on evidential grounds, you have a right to decide the issue according to your 'passional nature'. Second, when faced with a situation when belief in a fact is necessary for the existence of that fact, you have the right to believe beyond evidence. And finally, in a situation when belief in a true proposition is necessary for getting at the evidence in support of its truth, you are entitled to believe'; (Voices of Wisdom, 347). In that last quote James tells us that we are entitled to use our feelings and/or our faith in order to resolve a matter.
First we take a look at an extract of William K. Clifford's essay where he presents us a few situations in order to clarify his point. He starts by telling us a story of a ship-owner that was providing transportation for a group of emigrants. He knew...

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...g beyond evidence are acceptable from my point of view. These conditions bring into consideration human nature. They allow your feelings and emotions to get involved in the decision-making process which are very hard to margin. Your soul is allowed to participate as well we he tells us that it is ok to belief in order to find evidence. He allows the human being as a whole to participate in an option.
On the other hand William K. Clifford is too vague on his approach to life. He is very conservative from what I could see. He is inclined to the things he can grasp in order to find evidence but then doubts whatever he finds. I don't like the fact that he doesn't establish a set of rules or parameters for his way of thinking. His stories portray his reasoning very well but maybe the fact that he uses these examples doesn't help me see the whole concept. James does give us his options and conditions, which lets see where he is taking us. James's bold approach to the options we face in our lives show a true desire and love for life that I can identify with. I personally like to face the unknowns and learn the truth of them instead of preventing a mistake that might arise from doing so.

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