Clifford V.S James

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In our last class we examined the argument of William Clifford, and William James. In this essay I will simply examine the two opposing sides. Clifford takes the side of Evidentialism. Evidentialism is the standing that for a belief to be knowledge, it must be supported by evidence. According to evidentialism, everyone has a rational and moral duty to believe only those claims that are supported by sufficient evidence. If a belief doesn't fit in with well established scientific beliefs or isn't discovered through normal scientific practices, then it isn't rational and doesn't count as genuine knowledge. On the other side is James, who believes in Pragmatism. In an essay entitled, Pragmatism's Theory of Truth James wrote " Truth happens to be an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. It's verity is in fact an event, a process: the process namely of its verifying itself, its verification. Grant an idea or belief to be true, what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash value in experiential terms?"

Clifford says that we harm ourselves and others when we do not question our beliefs. James argues that it is appropriate to resolve particular cases on non-rational grounds, as a matter of choice, passion, or volition. Religious choices are a perfect example. Clifford makes the point we have no right to beliefs that are based on insufficient evidence. Our beliefs must be based on sufficient evidence. James says belief beyond evidence is justified for "genuine options", when belief in a fact is necessary for the existence of that fact. James asserts that Clifford would have us avoid error but this does not guarantee truth. James believes the risk of being in error is sometimes worth the pursuit of truth. There are worse things than being found in error. We often must proceed...
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