William James ' Untenable Defence Of Faith

1530 Words Jan 27th, 2015 7 Pages
William James’ Untenable Defence of Faith

In his essay ’The Will to Believe’, William James promotes a seemingly pragmatic defense of religious faith by taking a benign form of religion from an already preselected set of concepts he wishes to consider. William James’s philosophy however is not motivated by pragmatism, nor is it pragmatic, but instead is an attempt to blow smoke to veil indefensible beliefs.
Faith, for the purpose of William James, would be belief lacking sufficient evidence to warrant belief on intellectual grounds. One could, for example, have faith that they will wake up the next day in a good mood, despite having no evidence to believe such. Religious faith would be belief in a deity despite a lack of evidence for a deity.
For religious faith to be justifiable, faith based beliefs must have value, humans must gain some good by indulging in the practice. To this measure,
James first establishes that ‘we all of us believe in molecules and the conser- vation of energy, in democracy and necessary progress... all for no reasons worthy of name’[1]. Our beliefs are established by accepting the words of
1others, the more prestigious an idea, the more likely it will be believed. Hu- mans engage in accepting beliefs on faith, and we even hold that some of these beliefs, despite the lack of evidence, have value.
James approaches his thesis on the legitimacy of faith by outlining two primary goals, believing what is true, and not believing what is false. He

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