William James’ “The Will to Believe” : Critical Response

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Here is my essay written for my Modern and Contemporary Philosophy class. I argue that William James’ criterion presented in “The Will To Believe” are untenable and one should not believe a proposition just because it makes them happy. True belief should be the goal and persons should not intellectually resign and let their emotions lead them to belief. Happiness can be had a a result of a rigorous intellectual process in which one is firmly grounded in belief. This paper was to only be around eight pages, so I didn’t get a chance to object to Clifford’s arguments (although I have done this a bit here) and otherwise had to limit myself. I would have also liked to talk about intellectual virtues and what it means to be a fulfilled epistemic agent, but I didn’t have the chance in this essay. I could have also elaborated more on absolute certainty and more about the benefits of critical thinking.

Will to Believe: A Critical Response

Background and Further Reading

James’ Will to Believe

Clifford, William K. “The Ethics of Belief.” 1999. Web. 31 Mar 2011. .

Pascal, Blaise. “Pensees .” Web. 31 Mar 2011.

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