Clifford believes that it is a moral obligation to refuse any belief that lacks sufficient evidence, because in his account belief may behave almost like a virus: It would, for example, delight William James to learn that, over a century after his death, empirical science has shown that people who believe in God and regularly attend church have, on average, better health and a much longer lifespan than non-believers.
But the Jamesian or pragmatic view is that, if reading your horoscope in the morning in some way allows you to get a handle on your day, then the horoscope is indeed true to the extent that it provides utility. James says if both options are undetermined by evidence, choose that belief theory which will help you get on with your life; for most people religious belief is of superior practical value than atheism; answers more of our questions; James is a member of an American School of thought known as Pragmatism.
Absolutism and Empiricism For the absolutist, we can know the truth, and we can know that we know it. Also, for some it may not be a live option. Jamesian Pragmatism seeks to occupy a middle ground between overly skeptical empiricism and out-of-touch idealism -- the basic question, for James, is what he would elsewhere refer to as "the cash value of an idea," a somewhat winkingly vulgar shorthand for describing its real-world utility.
The thesis I defend is, briefly stated, this: For example, James comes at the question as a pragmatist, with…. The notion of someone reading a horoscope every morning just to be reminded that, in empirical terms, horoscopes are generally meaningless bullshit is overall unlikely.
James, William The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy James actually agrees with what Clifford has to say, but he says that there are certain situations, in which it is proper, rational to believe without sufficient evidence.
To that extent, the truth of the horoscope is established in practice -- as opposed to a remorseless skepticism which automatically wipes away any chance that the horoscope could possess something resembling truth, the mind instead is open to the possibility that there might be something true about it, and there is something true about it insofar as it provides some form of utility.
Clifford argues that it is a "duty…to guard ourselves from such beliefs as from a pestilence which may shortly master our own body and then spread to the rest of the town.
For the empiricist by contrast, our beliefs can be true, but we can never know with certainty that they are true. Clifford adds that if a "belief has been accepted on insufficient evidence" then "the pleasure is a stolen one" James 8.
The important thing, however, is that the horoscope needs to be a live possibility for the believer -- we may assume that the presence of horoscopes in daily newspapers indicates that, for a large number of peopleit is, and thus horoscopes do not fall into that category to which James relegates things like belief in theosophy or the Mahdi, which were presumably not live possibilities for his contemporary readers.
Pragmatists go beyond the normal claim that whether a theory is useful in organizing and predicting experiences is a good test of truth, to the more extreme claim that all we mean by claiming a theory is true is that it is useful in organizing and predicting experiences.
This certainly does not prove my belief is true. After all I could be wrong in any case. I might as well rick error and be happier. This is itself a passional not intellectually-required decision.
I feel that I must choose between the two hypotheses, that I am faced with a forced choice. James argues that, in situations where the option between gaining and losing the truth is not genuine i.
James writes as one who may very well have prayed himself, or would at least be curious to make the sincere attempt to do so, if possible. He mentions many examples of conflicting certainties, i. One might complain, as Clifford does, that this allows a person to form beliefs in defiance of the evidence -- but for James, the matter of what constitutes evidence is changed.
This utility would, for James, justify religious belief as being somehow true, even if its individual truth-claims would not withstand scientific scrutiny.
That is, I could either believe that there is life after death, or I could believe that there is not. In this case, remaining in doubt will not make me as unhappy as I would be if I positively disbelieved in life beyond death; but also, it will not make me as happy as I would be if I were to believe in trans-mortal survival.
James 11 In short, since the existence of God or an afterlife are not to be "decided on intellectual grounds" to refuse to believe on the grounds of insufficient evidence is beside the point. The empiricist believes that we can get closer and closer to the truth through scientific inquiry into the facts of experience and through logical thinking.
One may suspect that James is so enthusiastic about the privileged truth-claim that should be accorded to a possible religious experience because he himself may have had one, or hopes to have one: To suspend belief is as near as makes no difference to believing that there is not life after death.
Finally, the consequences of believing one way or the other on this issue will be momentous for me e. Those people who read their horoscope are the ones to whom, in some way, it offers a living possibility of meaning -- and James wishes to validate that meaning by understanding the act as defined largely by its utility.
The consequences of believing one way or the other on this issue will be momentous for me e. Obviously in the most literal sense it cannot be: It is similar to deciding for one or the other of two hypotheses. I must either believe or not believe in the reality of life beyond death.
Is there life after death or not? This is another element of the pragmatic utility, however: However, the empiricist doubts that we can ever be certain that our beliefs are true even if they are, as a matter of fact, true.View this essay on William James Clifford and Belief William James'.
William James' The Will to Believe was written in response to an essay on religious belief Essay William James Clifford and Belief William James and 90,+ more term papers written by professionals and your peers.
William James and the Forced Wager. Note that we have seen that theists and atheists alike have suggested that evidence should guide our decision as to whether or not to believe.
William James is responding to William Klingdon Clifford’s essay “The Ethics of Belief. William James Essay Examples. A Comparison between William James's Perspective on Emotions and Jean-Paul Sartre's Rebuttal of It.
words. 2 pages. An Analysis of William James "The Dilemma of Determinism" A Comparison of William K. Clifford and William James' Essays. 1, words. William Clifford argues that we should never “believe anything on insufficient evidence” (Philosophy of Religion, p.
)1 and if we do decide to believe in God without any evidence it would be considered “wrong,” however, William James’ The Will to Believe essay argues, in response to Cliffords essay, that believing anything without sufficient. Ulysses is a comparison between the essays of william clifford and william james a modernist novel by Irish writer James Joyce.
Information on and readings from American psychologist and philosopher William James. These pages deal with the Philosophy and what is restate thesis Metaphysics of Mathematics.
In his Will to Believe and Other Essays,1 James argues William James. The Will to Believe and Other Essays.
London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1 Clifford, would be stolen in deﬁance of her duty to mankind. Human pas-“The Will to Believe” by William James.Download