Essay on the Ethics of
This assignment concerns the opposing views of W.T.
Clifford and William James about the attitude we ought to take towards
religious belief. The readings are the first two essays in the online
book found at:
1: The Ethics of Belief
Begin by reading Part I of Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief" by W.T
Clifford. Write a 200-300 word essay that describes his attitude towards
belief. Be sure to address the following issues:
1. Why does Clifford say what we believe is not merely a private matter, but a
2. What is morally permissible for us to believe?
3. What implications does his view have for religious faith? Before answering
this question, you may want to look at the last few lines of Part III that
begin with "To sum up."
examples where appropriate in your discussion.
going to be reading two very philosophical and complicated articles, and your essays
need to demonstrate that you've followed the argumentsmade in those essays.
Each essay has several questions that will
be answered directly from the text of the assigned article. What
you need to do is demonstrate that you understand how the author of the article
would answer each of the questions. The questions run in sequential order in
the text of the article.
Essay 2: The Will to Believe.
The second essay, "The Will to
Believe," contains William James' response to Clifford.
You are to write 200-300 words explaining
James' response to Clifford's position. Be sure to include the following:
1. Explain James classification of hypotheses
as alive or dead and the types of options used in deciding between alternative
2. Explain why James does not believe it is
rational to suspend belief about the existence of God and like religious
3. What does James say about the practicality
of Clifford's claims pertaining to what we are permitted to believe?
This can be found on the same website above.