But if the belief has been accepted on insufficient evidence, the pleasure is a stolen one. . Not only does it deceive ourselves by giving us a sense of power which we do not really possess, but it is sinful, because it is stolen in defiance of our duty to mankind. . That duty is to guard ourselves from such beliefs as from a pestilence, which may shortly master our own body and then spread to the rest of the town. . What would be thought of one who, for the sake of a sweet fruit, should deliberately run the risk of bringing a plague upon his family and his neighbours? And, as in other such cases, it is not the risk only which has to be considered; for a bad action is always bad at the time when it is done, no matter what happens afterwards. . every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons, we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, of judicially and fairly weighing evidence. . we all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to, and the evil born when one such belief is entertained is great and wide. . But a greater and wider evil arises when the credulous character is maintained and supported, when a habit of believing for unworthy reasons is fostered and made permanent. .
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every hard-worked wife of an artisan may transmit to her children beliefs which shall knit society together, or rend it in pieces. . no simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty and of questioning all that we believe. It is true that this duty is a hard one, and the doubt which comes out of it is often a very bitter thing. . It leaves us bare and powerless where we thought that we were safe and strong. . to know all about anything is to know how to deal with it under all circumstances. . we feel much happier and more secure when we think we know precisely what to do, no matter what happens, then when we have lost our way and do not know where to turn. . And if we have supposed ourselves to know all about anything, and to be capable of doing what is fit in regard to it, we naturally do not like to find that we are really ignorant and powerless, that we have to begin again. It is the sense of power attached to a sense of knowledge that makes men desirous of believing, and afraid of doubting. This sense of power is the highest and best of pleasures when the belief on which it is founded is a true belief, and has been fairly earned by investigation. . For then we may justly feel that it is common property, and holds good for others as well as for ourselves. . Then we may be glad, not that I have learned secrets by which i am safer and stronger, but that we men have got mastery over more of the world; and we shall be strong, not for ourselves, but in the name of Man and.
The reason of this judgment is not far to seek: it is that in summary both these cases the belief held by one man was of great importance to other men. . But forasmuch as no belief held by one man, however seemingly trivial the belief, and however obscure the believer, is ever actually insignificant or without its effect on the fate of mankind, we have no choice but to extend our judgment to all cases. Belief, that sacred faculty which prompts the decisions of our will, and knits into harmonious working all the compacted energies of our being, is ours not for ourselves, but for humanity. . It is rightly used on truths which have been established by long experience and waiting toil, and which have stood in the fierce light of free and fearless questioning. . Then it helps to bind men together, and to strengthen and direct their common action. . It is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements, for the solace and private pleasure of the believer; to add a tinsel splendour to the plain straight road of our life and display a bright mirage beyond it; or even to drown the common. Whoso would deserve well of his fellows in this matter will guard the purity of his belief with a very fanaticism of jealous care, lest at any time it should rest on an unworthy object, and catch a stain which can never be wiped away. It is not only the leader of men, statesmen, philosopher, or poet, that owes this bounden duty to mankind. . every rustic who delivers in the village alehouse his slow, infrequent sentences, may help to kill or keep alive the fatal superstitions which clog his race. .
If a belief is not realized immediately in open deeds, it is stored up for the guidance of the future. . It goes to make a part of that aggregate of beliefs which is the link between sensation and action at every moment of all our lives, and which is so organized and compacted together that no part of it can be isolated from the rest. no real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is ever truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which. And no one mans belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone. . Our lives are guided by that general conception of the course of things which has been created by society for social purposes. . Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought, are common property, fashioned and perfected from age to age; an heirloom which every succeeding generation inherits as a precious deposit and a sacred trust to be handed on to the next one. Into this, for good or ill, is woven every belief of every man who has speech of his fellows. . An awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should help to create the world in which posterity will live. In the two supposed cases which have been considered, it has been judged wrong dates to believe on insufficient evidence, or to nourish belief by suppressing doubts and avoiding investigation. .
It may be said, however, that in both of these supposed cases it is not the belief which is judged to be wrong, but the action following upon. . The shipowner might say, i am perfectly certain that my ship is sound, but still I feel it my duty to have her examined, before trusting the lives of so many people to her. . And it might be said to the agitator, however convinced you were of the justice of your cause and the truth of your convictions, you ought not to have made a public attack upon any mans character until you had examined the evidence on both. In the first place, let us admit that, so far as it goes, this view of the case is right and necessary; right, because even when a mans belief is so fixed that he cannot think otherwise, he still has a choice in regard. But this being premised as necessary, it becomes clear that it is not sufficient, and that our previous judgment is required to supplement. . For it is not possible so to sever the belief from the action it suggests as to condemn the one without condemning the other. . no man holding a strong belief on one side of a question, or even wishing to hold a belief on one side, can investigate it with such fairness and completeness as if he were really in doubt and unbiassed; so that the existence. Nor is it that truly a belief at all which has not some influence upon the actions of him who holds. . he who truly believes that which prompts him to an action has looked upon the action to lust after it, he has committed it already in his heart. .
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They published grave accusations against individual citizens of the highest position and character, and did all in their power to injure these citizens in their exercise of their professions. . so great was the noise they made, that a commission was appointed to investigate the facts; but after the commission had carefully inquired into all the evidence that could be got, it appeared that the accused were innocent. . Not only had they been accused on insufficient evidence, but the evidence of their innocence was such as the agitators might easily have obtained, if they had attempted a fair inquiry. . After these disclosures the inhabitants of that country looked upon the members of the agitating society, not only as persons whose judgment was to be distrusted, but also as no longer essay to be counted honourable men. . For although they had sincerely and conscientiously believed in the charges they had made, yet they had no right to believe on such evidence as was before them. . Their sincere convictions, instead of being honestly earned by patient inquiring, were stolen by listening to the voice of prejudice and passion. Let us vary this case also, and suppose, other things remaining as before, that a still more accurate investigation proved the accused to have been really guilty. .
would this make any difference in the guilt of the accusers? . Clearly not; the question is not whether their belief was true or false, but whether they entertained it on wrong grounds. . They would no doubt say, now you see that we were right after all; next time perhaps you will believe. . And they might be believed, but they would not thereby become honourable men. . They would not be innocent, they would only be not found out. . every one of them, if he chose to examine himself in foro conscientiæ, would know that he had acquired and nourished a belief, when he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him; and therein he would know that he had.
What shall we say of him? . Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. . It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. . he had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts. . And although in the end he may have felt so sure about it that he could not think otherwise, yet inasmuch as he had knowingly and willingly worked himself into that frame of mind, he must be held responsible for.
Let us alter the case a little, and suppose that the ship was not unsound after all; that she made her voyage safely, and many others after. . Will that diminish the guilt of her owner? . When an action is once done, it is right or wrong for ever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that. . The man would not have been innocent, he would only have been not found out. . The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it; not what it was, but how he got it; not whether it turned out to be true or false, but whether he had a right. There was once an island in which some of the inhabitants professed a religion teaching neither the doctrine of original sin nor that of eternal punishment. . A suspicion got abroad that the professors of this religion had made use of unfair means to get their doctrines taught to children. . They were accused of wresting the laws of their country in such a way as to remove children from the care of their natural and legal guardians; and even of stealing them away and keeping them concealed from their friends and relations. . A certain number of men formed themselves into a society for the purpose of agitating the public about this matter. .
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doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. . These doubts preyed upon his mind and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him to great expense. . Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. . he said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would year not come safely home from this trip also. . he would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. . he would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors. . In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and.
Lectures and Essays, macmillan and., 1886, edited by leslie stephen and Frederick pollock. . The text of William James The will to believe is based upon the dover reprint. The will to believe and other essays in popular philosophy, which is said to be an unabridged and unaltered republication of the first edition printed by longmans, Green. In 1897, as I was unable to obtain an original when this was first put on the internet in 1997. . my essay, however, has been updated. About the revised edition printed book only The revised Edition of the book has an Afterword added in 2008. The revised edition of the book is now available in print. Clifford the ethics of belief 2 e duty of inquirhipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. . he knew that she was old, and not over-well essay built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. .
is not as useful as I believe it to be, the availability of Cliffords and James essays, reprinted in their entirety, in one convenient book, should prove worthwhile. September 2001, about the text of the printed book, the text of William Kingdon Cliffords The Ethics of Belief is based upon the first edition. Lectures and Essays, macmillan and., 1879, edited by leslie stephen and Frederick pollock. . The text of William James The will to believe is based upon the first edition. The will to believe and other essays in popular philosophy, longmans, Green and., 1897. . In the essays by Clifford and James, the added footnotes are indicated by ajb. . This is the first printing of An Examination of The will to believe, which was originally written in 1994, and has been subsequently revised. About the text at this website, the text of William Kingdon Cliffords The Ethics of Belief is based upon the second edition.
Extensive excerpts of the following essays by william Kingdon Clifford and William James are often reprinted in anthologies. . This is sufficient proof of the enduring interest in this subject, and of the importance of these particular essays. . But since they are excerpts, and since Cliffords, lectures and Essays is no longer in print, there is a need for the present book. . Indeed, usually the excerpts from Cliffords essay come exclusively from part one of his three-part essay. . And James essay is usually reprinted without parts ii, iii, v, vi, and vii, with the other parts not reprinted in their entirety. . Following are The Ethics of Belief and The will to believe in their entirety, along with added explanatory notes. . Following these essays is An Examination of The will to believe. . It is not the first examination of that work; lined 1 however, it is, i believe, one that adds a unique contribution to the discussion. . The reader is advised to read the essays in the order presented here (which is the order in which they were written as James essay is a response to Cliffords essay, as well as to ideas of a like nature; and my own essay.
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The revised edition of professional this book is now available in print. Click here to find out more. Revised edition now available! Burger, essays by, william Kingdon Clifford. Burger, copyright 1997, 2001, 2008. Contents, preface, the Ethics of Belief. William Kingdon Clifford, the will to believe, william James, an Examination of The will to believe. Burger, preface, people have long been interested in the circumstances under which it is appropriate to believe. . Often, the source of this interest is the desire to believe something for which one has insufficient evidence. .