The Ethics Of Belief By William James

Decent Essays

The Will to Believe is a lecture that was presented by William James in 1896, it specifically defends that one can choose to believe in a religion without prior evidence of its truth. William James was a well-distinguished philosopher as well as a psychologist and a physician. He with a few other philosophers like Charles sanders Pierce and John Dewey were fundamental in establishing modern philosophy in America and are thought to be the founding fathers of pragmatism. James taught at several universities including both Brown and Yale where he often had arguments and lengthy discussions with his students about religion. In his introductory comments, he clearly states that a lot of his freethinking students did not believe one should believe in religion if it cannot be rationally proven. This was contradictory to his thoughts and consequently wrote the paper in order to try sway his students view. During the time James was writing his paper, another professor, William Kingdom Clifford was backing the opposite. He believed that belief without evidence is immoral. He wrote an essay called the ‘The Ethics of Belief’; he wrote ‘It’s wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence’. He first used this statement to explain all aspects of life but he later applied it specifically to religious belief. The will to believe was written after the ethics of belief and was written to combat the arguments and plays off all the failures in

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