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William Clifford The Ethics Of Belief Analysis

Decent Essays
William K. Clifford, a great mathematician and philosopher of the 1877 authored the essay The Ethics of Belief. In this famous essay he wrote about how it is always wrong to believe anything that does not have concrete evidence. Although people always have different opinions, beliefs based on bad or incomplete evidence are always wrong no matter what. I believe what Clifford says in this essay about bad evidence because when people believe things that are not true it could negatively affect another person’s life. Clifford gives two examples one of a boat and one about gossip, which helps demonstrate how not having concrete evidence to support one’s statements can negatively impact people around them.
In his first example, Clifford talks about
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On top of all the negligence the ship owner was still only worried about his benefit and collected an insurance payment on the ship that sank. This strengthens the argument that he probably knew this ship would not make it. The ship owner’s greed cost the lives of the crew on board. Clifford in the essay says, “The unjustified beliefs affect many people, and that it is therefore clear that those beliefs were culpably wrong”(Clifford PAGE MUNBER). Clearly the situation of the ship owner is demonstrated here because the unjustified beliefs he had about the ship being ready to be sailed affected all the people on board the ship and their…show more content…
This example is closely related to the ship owner as believing unjustified things will affect all these people. The accusers were wrong in this case for believing and saying things because there evidence was not good enough for them to have the right to believe what they did. Clifford says “we ought to never unquestioningly believe things” (Clifford PAGE MUNBER) because this could end up hurting people and standing up for poorly supported beliefs that could affect others. A historical event that can clearly explain what Clifford is trying to explain in this example is the Salem Witch trials. In Salem Massachusetts 1692 the law system was guilty until proven innocent. Because of this system people were falsely getting accused of being a witch and then getting killed because they were unable to prove that they were not a witch. The law system is now changed to innocent until proven guilty to stop the accusers who have beliefs or incomplete evidence that result in negatively affecting people.
Beliefs based on bad evidence are always wrong no matter what the issue is. Clifford’s two examples clearly show why it is never okay to believe things without having facts to back up what you’re thinking. He also shows that accusing others based on incomplete evidence can negatively affect them. If people always try to justify their beliefs on bad evidence, they
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