PHIL 102 Ashford University The Ethics of Belief Article Essay

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UNLV PHIL-102: Fall 2011 Prof. M. Moschella Final Critical Essay: Option 3 Analysis of Article: “The Ethics of Belief” by William K. Clifford, (1897) Should you believe something to be true even though you do not have sufficient, or adequate, evidence that it is true? Do you have a moral obligation to refrain from believing something true or false if the available evidence is not sufficient? Suppose you loan your old car to a friend. You have not check the brakes in some time, but you dismiss all doubts about the brakes from your mind, confident that they will work because they have in the past. Suppose your friend crashes and dies due to the faulty brakes. Are you to blame? Suppose your friend does not crash and die. Are you to blame for putting her life in danger? According to William K. Clifford (1845-1879), if you do not have sufficient evidence that the brakes are in working order, then you are to blame no matter what happens. (Introduction to article by Gary E. Kessler, (2010) in Voices of Wisdom: a multicultural philosophical reader. 7th ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning). INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Read the article, “The Ethics of Belief” by William K. Clifford, provided in this document, See pp. 3-5. 2. Write a Guided Essay, following the Essay Outline, See pg. 2. a. Format your essay with the outline headings and sub-headings. b. Follow word count requirements where noted. The paper should be about 3.5-4 pages. 3. Compose as: MSWord document, Double spaced, 12 pt. Standard Font. 4. Save as: your Last name_Final_Option3.doc 5. Submit your paper as directed for the Final Paper. 1| UNLV PHIL-102: Fall 2011 Prof. M. Moschella ESSAY OUTLINE: Section I: Respond to the below questions. A. What do the shipowner & the commission examples show? (Word count: 50-80) B. What do you think Clifford meant by “sufficient evidence”? (Word count: 50-80) C. What types of evidence, and How much evidence do you believe is sufficient? (Word count: 50-100) Section II: Diagramming or Standardization of the excerpt on pg. 6. A. Set out the reasoning of the argument in the excerpt by using ONE of the below methods learned in class: (Choose ONE) 1. Diagramming Method (from Ch. 7, pp. 164-171). 2. Standardization Method, (from Ch. 7, pp. 182-188). a) Use the same format instructions as Assignment 7. Section III: Assess the strength of the excerpt, focusing on whether the premises support the conclusion. (Word count: 200-300) A. In the excerpt, Clifford concludes: it is “wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence”. Do you believe his conclusion is true? 1. Say whether you think the argument is a good, convincing argument. Give reasons to support your view. 2. In response to #1, use at least one of the below strategies from Ch. 8. a) Strategy 1: Show a premise, or critical group of premises, is false OR explain why you believe it is true. (pp. 203-206.)  See bulleted list of the different ways to support your view from the bottom of pg. 205, to the top of pg. 206. b) Strategy 2: Show that the Conclusion does, OR does not follow from the premises (pp. 206-208). c) Note: The argument has been limited for the purposes of this assignment. Do not merely use the claim that Clifford “does not provide enough evidence” as a criticism to count against the argument. Section IV: Critical Question (Answer ONE of the below). Word count: 150-250 A. Do you agree with Clifford’s claim that all of us have a duty to question our beliefs? Why or why not? B. What do you think about Clifford’s argument that: “The credulous man is father to the liar and the cheat; … So closely are our duties knit together, that whoso shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all”? 2| UNLV PHIL-102: Fall 2011 Prof. M. Moschella Retrieved on 11/27/11 Internet Infidels Printable Document http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/w_k_clifford/ethics_of_belief.html http://www.infidels.org/ - Copyright© Internet Infidels® 1995-2011. All rights reserved. The Ethics of Belief (1877) William K. Clifford Presented here, in part. Originally published in Contemporary Review, 1877. Reprinted in Lectures and Essays (1879), pp. 177-188. I. THE DUTY OF INQUIRY A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him at great expense. Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors. In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance-money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales. What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts. And although in the end he may have felt so sure about it that he could not think otherwise, yet inasmuch as he had knowingly and willingly worked himself into that frame of mind, he must be held responsible for it. Let us alter the case a little, and suppose that the ship was not unsound after all; that she made her voyage safely, and many others after it. Will that diminish the guilt of her owner? Not one jot. When an action is once done, it is right or wrong for ever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that. The man would not have been innocent, he would only have 3| UNLV PHIL-102: Fall 2011 Prof. M. Moschella been not found out. The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it; not what it was, but how he got it; not whether it turned out to be true or false, but whether he had a right to believe on such evidence as was before him. There was once an island in which some of the inhabitants professed a religion teaching neither the doctrine of original sin nor that of eternal punishment. A suspicion got abroad that the professors of this religion had made use of unfair means to get their doctrines taught to children. They were accused of wresting the laws of their country in such a way as to remove children from the care of their natural and legal guardians; and even of stealing them away and keeping them concealed from their friends and relations. A certain number of men formed themselves into a society for the purpose of agitating the public about this matter. They published grave accusations against individual citizens of the highest position and character, and did all in their power to injure these citizens in their exercise of their professions. So great was the noise they made, that a Commission was appointed to investigate the facts; but after the Commission had carefully inquired into all the evidence that could be got, it appeared that the accused were innocent. Not only had they been accused on insufficient evidence, but the evidence of their innocence was such as the agitators might easily have obtained, if they had attempted a fair inquiry. After these disclosures the inhabitants of that country looked upon the members of the agitating society, not only as persons whose judgment was to be distrusted, but also as no longer to be counted honourable men. For although they had sincerely and conscientiously believed in the charges they had made, yet they had no right to believe on such evidence as was before them. Their sincere convictions, instead of being honestly earned by patient inquiring, were stolen by listening to the voice of prejudice and passion. Let us vary this case also, and suppose, other things remaining as before, that a still more accurate investigation proved the accused to have been really guilty. Would this make any difference in the guilt of the accusers? Clearly not; the question is not whether their belief was true or false, but whether they entertained it on wrong grounds. … They would no doubt say, "Now you see that we were right after all; next time perhaps you will believe us." And they might be believed, but they would not thereby become honourable men. They would not be innocent, they would only be not found out. Every one of them, if he chose to examine himself in foro conscientiae, would know that he had acquired and nourished a belief, when he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him; and therein he would know that he had done a wrong thing. … [Section removed.] And no one man's belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone. Our lives are guided by that general conception of the course of things which has been created by society for social purposes. Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought, are common property, fashioned and perfected from age to age; an heirloom which every succeeding generation inherits as a precious deposit and a sacred trust to be handled on to the next one, not unchanged but enlarged and purified, with some clear marks of its proper handiwork. Into this, for good or ill, is woven every belief of every man who has speech of his fellows. An awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should help to create the world in which posterity will live. 4| UNLV PHIL-102: Fall 2011 Prof. M. Moschella In the two supposed cases which have been considered, it has been judged wrong to believe on insufficient evidence, or to nourish belief by suppressing doubts and avoiding investigation. The reason of this judgment is not far to seek: it is that in both these cases the belief held by one man was of great importance to other men. But forasmuch as no belief held by one man, however seemingly trivial the belief, and however obscure the believer, is ever actually insignificant or without its effect on the fate of mankind, we have no choice but to extend our judgment to all cases of belief whatever. Belief, that sacred faculty which prompts the decisions of our will, and knits into harmonious working all the compacted energies of our being, is ours not for ourselves but for humanity. … [Section removed.] It is not only the leader of men, statesmen, philosopher, or poet, that owes this bounden duty to mankind. Every rustic who delivers in the village alehouse his slow, infrequent sentences, may help to kill or keep alive the fatal superstitions which clog his race. Every hard-worked wife of an artisan may transmit to her children beliefs which shall knit society together, or rend it in pieces. No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe. … [Section removed.] The harm which is done by credulity in a man is not confined to the fostering of a credulous character in others, and consequent support of false beliefs. Habitual want of care about what I believe leads to habitual want of care in others about the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth of one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other's mind; but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe thing because I want to believe them, and because they are comforting and pleasant? Will he not learn to cry, "Peace," to me, when there is no peace? By such a course I shall surround myself with a thick atmosphere of falsehood and fraud, and in that I must live. It may matter little to me, in my cloud-castle of sweet illusions and darling lies; but it matters much to Man that I have made my neighbours ready to deceive. The credulous man is father to the liar and the cheat; he lives in the bosom of this his family, and it is no marvel if he should become even as they are. So closely are our duties knit together, that whoso shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. … [End] Presented here, in part. Originally published in Contemporary Review, 1877. Reprinted in Lectures and Essays (1879), pp. 177-188. 5| UNLV PHIL-102: Fall 2011 Prof. M. Moschella FINAL CRITICAL ESSAY: SECTION II Diagram or Standardization of the Argument for Analysis Demonstrate the reasoning of the below excerpt, using EITHER: (Choose ONE) 1. Diagramming Method (from Ch. 7, pp. 164-171). OR 2. Standardization Method, (from Ch. 7, pp. 182-188). a. Use the same format instructions as Assignment 7. **The below has been edited for this assignment. Do not omit any statements when Diagramming or Standardizing.** EXCERPT: (taken from last paragraphs of article) … it has been judged wrong to believe on insufficient evidence, or to nourish belief by suppressing doubts and avoiding investigation. The reason of this judgment is not far to seek: … no belief held by one man, …, is ever actually insignificant or without its effect on the fate of mankind, we have no choice but to extend our judgment to all cases of belief whatever. Belief, … is ours not for ourselves but for humanity. … No [person] …, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe. … The harm which is done by credulity in a man is not confined to the fostering of a credulous character in others, and consequent support of false beliefs. Habitual want of care about what I believe leads to habitual want of care in others about the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth of one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other's mind; but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe thing because I want to believe them, and because they are comforting and pleasant? … By such a course I shall surround myself with a thick atmosphere of falsehood and fraud, and in that I must live. … The credulous man is father to the liar and the cheat; … So closely are our duties knit together, that whoso shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. … 6|
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Running head: CRITICAL ESSAY

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Critical Essay
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CRITICAL ESSAY

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Critical Essay
Section I
A. The shipowner and the commission examples demonstrate the basic argument of Clifford,
(1897) regarding the importance of obtaining sufficient evidence prior to making a
decision. Both the shipowner and commission made the decision to disregard the need to
confirm their beliefs and instead rely on conjecture to make conclusions.
B. According to Clifford, (1897), sufficient evidence refers to irrefutable and conclusive
evidence that the parties obtain to prove their perspective. For instance, conclusive
evidence from the shipowner is an inspection of the ship by a profession that establishes
the fact of the conditions of the ship. Clifford, (1897) wants individuals to ensure the
foundation of their conclusions cannot be challenged to cushion them from future
accusations of guilt.
C. I believe that evidence is sufficient if it is based on facts and statistics. For instance, in
the case of the shipowner, an inspection of the ship by a professional would be
considered sufficient evidence. The amount of evidence should also be such that it is
conclusive in nature, allowing no room for the individuals to later be challenged in their
beliefs.
Section II: Standardizati...


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