The Will You Believe By William James

1424 Words Mar 4th, 2015 6 Pages
In the essay “The Will to Believe”, William James criticizes the views of W.K Clifford, who held the belief that no one should ever go beyond evidence when forming an opinion. James thinks that our reasoning has to sometimes use other considerations apart from what the evidence points to. He claims that if our primary aim is to have true beliefs, then we sometimes have to take the risk of believing without strong evidence and let our passion decide or we are guaranteed to believe in the wrong things all the time.

James differentiates between live and dead options. A live option is one which appeals as a real possibility to whom it is proposed. Some hypotheses have little to no credibility at all. He claims that the liveliness is not an intrinsic property, but is interpersonal. James also says there are different kinds of options. (James 130)

James then discusses what are the ways in which we come to have beliefs? He introduces Pascal 's thoughts regarding Pascal’s wager, as an argument for a belief in God. It is based on the philosophy that we can chose whether or not to believe in God simply on the basis of our self-interest. But James says that he is suspicions that anyone ever came to believe in God this way. He believe this is not how human minds work. (James 131-132)

James thinks that for many of our beliefs, the evidence plays only a small part in determining what we believe. He says what determines the beliefs we have is hard to say, because we…

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