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William James in "The Will to Believe" writes that whenever we have a "genuine option" that cannot be decided on intellectual grounds, we must decide it "pasionally." James is known as a "pragmatist." Describe in detail an episode from your personal life in which you made a "genuine" decision, i.e. a decision that was "live," "forced," and "momentous." Clearly, James would have supported your decision, but how would Clifford -- an evidentialist -- respond to the decision you made?


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Philosophy 231: The Big Questions Professor C. Trogan Handout: Epistemology/Belief: Clifford and James 1. What do the examples of the shipowner and the commission show? People have no right to believe on inadequate evidence. It makes no difference if the belief turns out to be true or not. The right to believe is given by the adequacy of the evidence, not by the sincerity with which the belief is held. 2. Do you agree with Clifford's contention that all of us have a duty to question our beliefs? Why, or why not? Note: Clifford argues that our beliefs influence our actions and have consequences for other humans. Hence belief is a moral obligation (a duty) which is desecrated when based on unproved or unquestioned assumptions. He also contends that belief and action are so closely related that to condemn one is to condemn the other. Are belief and action are so closely related? 3. Do you agree with Clifford's claim that it is "wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence"? Why, or why not? Note: Clifford argues that we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, of carefully weighing evidence, and promote credulity if we do believe based on insufficient evidence. Do you think such consequences really follow from violating Clifford's rule? 4. What do you think Clifford means by "sufficient evidence"? How much evidence is sufficient? He appears to mean evidence that has been fairly and judiciously examined and has withstood critical questioning and testing. What constitutes evidence? What different kinds of evidence exist? What is the difference between sufficient and necessary evidence? 5. What, according to James, is a genuine option? Give an example. A genuine option is one that is live, forced, and momentous. Example: Either get married now or lose the chance. 6. What is James's thesis? Whenever we face a genuine option that cannot be decided by evidence, our desires must decide our belief since the decision not to believe is as much a decision based on desire as our decision to believe. 1 7. How, according to James, does Clifford's attitude differ from James's with respect to "our first and great commandments as would-be knowers"? Clifford's attitude is "we must avoid error" while James's is "we must know the truth." James thinks Clifford's attitude, although safer and more conservative than his own, would nevertheless lead to missing truth we otherwise might find. James's own view, although riskier, would allow us to get more truth. 8. How does James support his own attitude? What examples does he use? Do his examples support his thesis? Why, or why not? He argues that his attitude (we must know the truth) is as much an expression of the passions as Clifford's (avoid error). Clifford has a fear of being duped, but James has a fear of missing the truth. He uses the examples of a general keeping soldiers out of battle for fear of causalities, of the law courts having to decide based on the best evidence attainable for the moment, of moral questions that cannot wait for sensible proof because they deal with what ought to exist, not with what already does exist. He also cites cases of personal relations that depend, in part, on how we act toward the other and cases where cooperation is needed to create a fact (government, army, ship, college, athletic team, train of passages being robbed, etc.). Further, he claims that if the "religious hypothesis" (by which he means the claims that "the best things are the most eternal" and we are "better off even now if we believe" that to be so) is false, agnosticism would keep us from error, but if its true, it would keep us from even finding out because it would prevent us from taking the chance of following our "willing nature." James thinks that Clifford's rule prevents me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth and therefore it is irrational. Note: James carefully sets aside scientific beliefs and all other situations where we have the leisure to wait for more evidence and there is nothing immediate or momentous at stake. In these situations Clifford's advice is good advice. However, if Clifford's rule is "irrational" when used in the situations James cites, why isn't James's rule "irrational" in situations where I would be led to embrace certain kinds of falsehood, if falsehood really be there? 2 ...
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Q. William James in "The Will to Believe" writes that whenever we have a "genuine
option" that cannot be decided on intellectual grounds, we must decide it "pasionally."
James is known as a "pragmatist." Describe in detail an episode from your personal life
in which you made a "genuine" decision, i.e. a decision that was "live," "forced," and
"momentous." Clearly, James wo...

agneta (47443)
University of Maryland

Anonymous
Return customer, been using sp for a good two years now.

Anonymous
Thanks as always for the good work!

Anonymous
Excellent job

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