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William Clifford The Ethics Of Belief

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William Clifford The Ethics Of Belief
Argumentative Essay on “The Ethics of Belief” PHIL 2641 Online – Section 001 February 13, 2008

William K. Clifford sets out to show in “The Ethics of Belief” that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence…” In this paper, I will show that his argument lacks key definitions needed in order to found his inference upon and that it begs the question as to what qualifies as “insufficient” evidence. Furthermore, I will show that the primary issue is not the belief but the results of the belief that is important and that all judgment and interpretation should be based upon said results.

Clifford introduces his argument by using the example of a shipbuilder who allows his ship to be used on
…show more content…
Perhaps the ship sank because there was a collision with another ship. Perhaps it sank because it struck an iceberg in the water. It may have sunk because of human error. In all of these scenarios no amount of fortification of the ship’s structure would …show more content…
If the question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of belief and whether or not one has the right to believe in the first place, then would the ship owner have been culpable had the doubts about the ship’s condition not been introduced? Is a person required to investigate EVERY doubt or question that is raised by another, which directly or indirectly impacts their belief? What if the source of doubt is unreliable? Without properly addressing these questions it is difficult to determine what the ship owner’s (or anyone else’s) responsibility was in the first place. This, I assert, is the fundamental problem with Clifford’s argument. To implicitly assume that one is guilty for simply believing without “sufficient” evidence can not be easily determined because the standards and thus the determination for “right” and “wrong” are too

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