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Philosphy 103 - Essay Example

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[Name of Student] [Name of Lecturer] Philosophy 103 [Date] William Clifford's Theory versus William James' Theory Introduction William Clifford and William James are two among the most widely studied philosophers in the academic and professional spheres. Although their works cover a wide range of subjects such as emotions and beliefs, certain differences are easily identified in their works…
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Philosphy 103
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Philosphy 103

In his work entitled “The Ethics of Belief”, Clifford highlighted two core reasons he felt beliefs are not just peoples’ private business (Kessler, p. 324). This stance on beliefs courted as many enemies and friends for Clifford as people opposed and supported his notions in equal measure. “The Ethics of Belief” sought to emphasize the principles of his feelings about beliefs. However, the central issues in this essay, like in most other essays he wrote on belief, was to show that it is wrong for a person to accept or believe in or about things without supporting and considerable evidences (Kessler, p. 324). In fact, it is Clifford’s notions and principles, which are considered the principles on which modern scientific reasoning is based. The main reason Clifford asserts that beliefs are not personal businesses is the fact that one’s beliefs affect others in society. ...
The other strong argument fronted by Clifford is that believing things on poor or flimsy grounds makes a person and society vulnerable to believe in falsehood, which may then be transferred to the larger family or society (Kessler, p. 324). On the contrary, in 1896, William James conducted a lecture entitled “The Will to Believe”. In essence, this lecture sought to counter Clifford’s assertion that beliefs should be based on significant evidences. That is, James felt that beliefs need not be based on prior evidences of truth (Kessler, p. 324). The lecture by James is largely regarded as being defensive of religious faith, which is often seen to lack evidence of truth. The central argument in this lecture was that the initial adoption of beliefs should form the basis of accessing truth and ascertaining whether evidences exist for the beliefs in question (Kessler, p. 324). For instance, according to James, one may believe in his ability to execute a given task, if such a task requires one to be confident. In fact, James opines that even scientific inquiries are based on first believing that something exists without first having significant evidence. Thus, for James, like one may believe in his or her ability to accomplish a task, religious belief may be rational if a person initially lacks evidence of the truth of the belief (Kessler, p. 324). However, James’ theory gives room for situations in which it is not entirely clear whether one is likely to lose or gain truth. That is, by not making up one’s mind, one may save himself or herself by throwing away the chance of gaining the truth about a belief (Kessler, p. 324). These scenarios are those in which one is not often forced to choose between believing falsehood and truth ... Read More
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