WILL TO BELIEVE. WILLIAM JAMES Bob Corbett An Outline This text can be found in many anthologies. It is a widely re-printed and. Email addresses, users' birth dates, names and telephone numbers were As a result of the settlement, Yahoo will also provide two years of. Presenting religion as journalism's silent partner, From Yahweh to Yahoo! provides and it had clearly impressed the social justice–loving William James, the philosopher, CHAPTER 9 “I Will Show You My Faith by What I Do”: A Survey of the at least in the minds of those who believe the media have become secular in.
These duties sometimes conflict.
In order to believe the truth, we must have beliefs and so we risk having false beliefs. In order to avoid having false beliefs, we may avoid believing things and so we may risk losing true beliefs.
Clifford thinks that believing falsehoods is worse than failing to believe truths and so he recommends believing only things which are well-justified.
Because some beliefs, like the belief that avoiding falsehood is more important than attaining truth, cannot be adopted on the basis of logic alone, and because such beliefs are central to the entire enterprise of believing anything at all, it must be okay, sometimes, to believe things for non-rational reasons. Here, we should suspend belief until the evidence comes in.
In two kinds of cases, however, we should or at least we may will to believe in the absence of rational justification.
The first type of case is an option between self-fulfilling hypotheses. In such cases, it would be self-defeating to refuse to adopt the belief until you have sufficient evidence for the fact. The second type of case is belief involving a genuine option, or an option which is simultaneously living, forced, and momentous. And it may be living for us as well, if both the existence and the non-existence of moral truths present themselves to us as possible things to believe.
Presumably, if the evidence against a certain hypothesis is especially compelling, that hypothesis will no longer be live for us and so will not be part of a genuine option. James notes that the religious option is momentous: The option is also forced, because there is no third alternative to believing or failing to believe.
A question about "The Will to Believe" by William James?
I think that this argument is undermined by its anthropomorphism. An avoidable option is when we ask you to choose A or B. You can evade the issue by not choosing at all, or choosing C or D. He defines an option as momentuous or trivial.
Notes on William James, “The Will to Believe”
An option is momentuous when it is a matter of some import, life and death, or an important once in a life time situation. Opposed to this are trivial options--options which don't really make much difference in the world, or ones where you have the option all over again in the near future.
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Note that there is great ambiguity here as to who and hope one defines what is momentuous and what is trivial. Can one choose to believe some claim?
James argues that one does not choose one's beliefs, but one just has them. He defends this claim with a series of examples, focussing on how we could not choose to believe things which we know to be false, such as that Abraham Lincoln did not live or that you are not sick when you are.
James claims that we look to leaders and authority figures, and model our beliefs after theirs. We believe and don't know why; we accept what we've been told.
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He discusses the value of free will, but he isn't too clear on this point. The thesis of this section is that pure logic doesn't dictate our beliefs. There are passional tendencies and volitions which can come before and or after belief.
When we have a genuine option that cannot be decided solely on intellectual grounds, our passional nature must be allowed to rule. Empiricists don't know when they have found truth while the absolutist do. Although we're born with absolutist attitudes, we should overcome this weakness and strive for the empiricist attitude of continually searching for the truth.
You have more to lose by fearing error in the matter of genuine option than you have to gain. Our will is bound to play a part in the formation of our opinions. Moral opinions are based on a personal proof of what one wants to believe, and not necessarily willed.
James is asking what we mean by religious hypotheses. He supports one choosing religious hypotheses and gives reasons.