A Study of William James' View on Ethics of Belief

Document Type : Research Paper


Ph.D. of Philosophy of Religion, University of Tehran, Pardis-e Farabi


In this essay, we will sort out William James's arguments in his ‘The Will to Believe’. These arguments range from an argument against Clifford's model of evidentialism, an argument for the right to believe and an argument for the will to believe. There are two micro-level arguments, as well, that are the argument to have more true beliefs and the argument to have less false beliefs. James uses the two latter micro-level arguments for his three former macro-level arguments. The totality of the structure of his arguments rests on two foundations: credulity and the dispositional theory of belief. Without these two foundations, none of his arguments in his The Will to Believe work. They will be presented before delving into the discussions about James's arguments. James's arguments have an evidential model which is different from Clifford's model of evidentialism. Therefore, his arguments against Clifford's model should not be construed as against evidentialism tout court. At the end, certain corollaries of his arguments will be discussed


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