Summaries of W.K. Clifford and William James’s arguments for belief
In this paper, I hope to effectively summarize W.K Clifford’s (1879) argument on the ethics of belief, followed by a summary of William James’ (1897) argument on the right to believe, and finally, provide an argument for why W.K Clifford’s (1879) argument is stronger by highlighting its strengths while simultaneously arguing against William James’ (1897) argument.
According to Clifford (1879), there is an ethics to belief that makes it always wrong for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence. Clifford (1879) begins his paper by providing an illustrative analogy – one where a ship-owner is preparing to send to sea a ship filled …show more content…
In discussing telepathy, James claims scientists do not want to consider the evidence for telepathy because “they think...that even if such a thing were true, scientists ought to band together to keep it suppressed... It would undo the uniformity of Nature and all sorts of other things without which scientists cannot carry on their pursuits.” (505) James argues that “[the] very law which the logicians impose upon us...is based on nothing but their own natural wish to exclude all elements for which they...can find no use.” (506) Thus, James effectively argues that even the scientists’ passionate convictions and prejudices form their beliefs, as we see in the case of telepathic research. Finally, in this section, James (1897) argues such