William Clifford and William James’ Conflict Views on Beliefs

1166 WordsFeb 26, 20185 Pages
William Clifford argues that we should never “believe anything on insufficient evidence” (Philosophy of Religion, p. 103)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 evidence is “an irrational rule” (James, p. 109)2. James’ essay suggests that there is some level of truth to the fact that no one can decide what it is that you truly believe in because if that were to be true somewhere along the way someone else probably forced those beliefs on you, either directly or indirectly. He suggests that your true beliefs are the ones that you have without any rhyme or reason. James goes to say that it is better to believe in something wholly, even if there is no evidence to prove it because that may be the only way to find your true faith, while Clifford believes that it is safer to believe in nothing until you have clear evidence so you do not have to run the risk of possibly believing in a inauthentic belief. In Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief he gives an example of a ship that is sent out to sea that ends up sinking and killing everyone onboard. Clifford proceeds to say that the ship owner was the one who was guilty of each of the passengers’ deaths because he “had no [moral] right to believe on such evidence as was before him” (Clifford, p. 100). The ship owner had his doubts about the ships
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