The Ethics Of Beliefs By William K Clifford

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In “The Ethics of Beliefs,” by William K Clifford, Clifford argues that beliefs should always have critical reasoning behind them. “To sum it up:” Clifford says, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” (18) Inquiry and reasoning are the road to sufficient evidence for beliefs. In the rest of his writing, Clifford shows the negative impacts of believing without sufficient evidence. Clifford also shows why confirmation bias, where someone interprets information to fit their preconceived notions, gets in the way of finding sufficient evidence. I have mixed feelings about Clifford’s claims. I must admit that I enjoy and am convinced by his analysis of the story of a ship owner, but some of his later reasoning falls short of the truth. While I agree with Clifford that beliefs should be founded on some reasoning, I disagree that bias completely disallows for finding sufficient evidence. Clifford claims that a man who is biased towards one side of a question is not fit for inquiry, which drives me crazy! We often have an inkling of what is true, but there are processes, like the scientific method, that allow us to be objective with our observations when looking for sufficient evidence. Clifford begins his first argument against believing without sufficient evidence with the story of a ship owner who has doubts about the condition of his ship. A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old,
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