William F. Clifford 's View On The Belief Essay

William F. Clifford 's View On The Belief Essay

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In William James’s “Will to Believe,” there is a strong focus on amending William K Clifford’s argument surrounding the belief. According to Clifford, belief is completely reliant on evidence. Not only is it completely reliant on evidence but on “sufficient” evidence. James quoted Clifford’s summary of belief in section 2, stating that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” While James showed clear disagreement in Clifford’s assertion, his focus in defending the will to believe centered more on providing the individual with options while recommending the “genuine option” in terms of their will to believe.
The main way James defends our will to belief is in his argument of the human opinion. James believed that the human opinion is not one that is only influenced by intellect. Contrary to what Clifford believed, one can and should be able to have a belief if it appeals to them at a level beyond intellect evidence. This meant that in cases where “sufficient” evidence cannot be provided as to why or why not an individual should believe something, if the option provides a “passional” benefit, the person has all the right to believe it. He uses the example of believing in God to make his point,
“Weigh what your gains and your losses would be if you should stake all you have on heads, or God 's existence: if you win in such case, you gain eternal beatitude; if you lose, you lose nothing at all. If there were an infinity of chances, and only one for God in this wager, still you ought to stake your all on God; for though you surely risk a finite loss by this procedure, any finite loss is reasonable, even a certain one is reasonable, if there is but the possibility of infinite...


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...the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another 's mental freedom.” This reiterates his belief in free will and its highly personal quality. He argues that in the grand scheme of things, the fate of an individual is in his or her hands. Their decision to live by a certain belief should not be probed or bashed because while the outside is “soulless” and demands logic, the inner parts are often unexplainable. Hence, respect for one’s individuality is respect for their mental freedom and belief. Therefore, I do believe that James provides an adequate defense of the religious belief mainly because of his summation point that it “in either case we act, [we are] taking out life in our hands.” While it seems foolish to say that the whole point in having a structure of belief is to avoid the peril that may befall us, it is however a part of being individuals.

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