William James 's Article Review Essay

William James 's Article Review Essay

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In the article, "The Will to Believe", William James responds to W.K. Clifford who argued
that it "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient
evidence". James held the belief that it 's more important to accomplish truth than to avoid error a
and that it can in fact be reasonable to hold a belief without sufficient evidence. Both
philosophers, in my opinion, offer persuasive arguments; however, I feel that beliefs are
often a moral issue and the choice to believe can be an emotional or instinctual one rather then an
intellectual one. Therefore, I don 't support Clifford 's argument that it its wrong in every situation
to maintain beliefs based on insufficient evidence and plan to argue against his position on
religious faith as a form of knowing on the grounds that it is unconvincing and not practical.
To support his reasoning, Clifford provides an example of a ship-owner who was responsible
for the death of those on board. Even though the ship owner sincerely believed that the vessel
was safe despite his doubt, it was held on inadequate evidence and therefore morally wrong.
Clifford claimed that even if no harm had resulted, the ship-owner would still have been morally
wrong as it is not the consequence of the belief that is wrong, but the holding of the belief in the
first place. Clifford also asserts that unfounded beliefs are harmful to not only the believer but all
of mankind, calling it a “sin” , which I believe is a bit drastic and not applicable to all beliefs.
Some beliefs come from an instinctual and emotional state and harm the fate of mankind in no
way.
I agree with Clifford when speaking of ideas that will have an apparent effect on the fate of
others, t...


... middle of paper ...


...h. James
believes that the risk of being wrong is sometimes worth the belief and that its okay to be found
wrong and risk being right. We often have to go on our quest for good without having
appropriate evidence, this is where trust and faith come in.
To a point,, I agree with Clifford’s’ evidentialist view, as in theory it is wise, however,
practically I believe it is not a plausable way to live your life because it would be near impossible
to find time to investigate “sufficient” evidence on which to base all beliefs that you come
across, whereas many of our beliefs are emotional and instincual, not intelligent. Also, an ethical
norm is decided by your moral compass, and this is very much an instinctual decision, not one
made based on knowledge. What it comes down to is two kinds of life, one full of doubt and
distrust, or one of faith. I choose faith.

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