William James responds to Clifford

William James responds to Clifford - John Giardiniere...

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John Giardiniere February 18, 2008 Ghum 102 Essay Topic 3 William James and W.K. Clifford take very different views on the subject of reason in belief. James responds to Clifford’s arguments in Clifford’s “Ethics of Belief” by first outlining our two main goals as knowledge seekers. First we must know the truth, and second we must avoid error. He explains that often these two go hand in hand, but they are separate commands. While if we complete the first, we also complete the second, but by avoiding error we do not necessarily find the truth, we simple have not found the untruth. James says that Clifford focuses almost exclusively on the second command, and this is where he errs. James claims that Clifford is so determined to avoid error, that he would much rather not believe anything than to believe in ideas without having sufficient evidence for them, which he says is absolutely no way to live. James goes on to critique him by saying he is just as subject to irrational fears as those he rails against, an irrational fear of being wrong, while James says our mistakes are certainly “not such awfully solemn things”. Making decisions without evidence is not as simple or clear as we’d like it to be. James and Clifford are not always diametrically opposed on these issues, and there are many degrees of uncertainty in between them. First we must address the question of believing something where no evidence exists for
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William James responds to Clifford - John Giardiniere...

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