Southwest Philosophy Review 38 (1):81-90 (2022)

Henry Jackman
York University
William James has traditionally been seen as a critic of evidentialism, with his claim that “Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds” being understood as saying that in certain cases we have the right to believe beyond what is certified by the evidence. However, there is an alternate, “expansive”, reading of James (defended most recently by Cheryl Misak, Robert Talisse, and Scott Aikin) that portrays him not as criticizing evidentialism itself, but only as trying to expand our conception what we should count as evidence. There are two main strategies for defending this ‘expansive’ reading. The first approach relies on showing that the logic of James’s argument itself relies on highlighting a new type of evidence rather than rather than undermining the need for our beliefs to be grounded in evidence, while the second approach appeals to aspects of James’s biography to show that he always intended something closer to the expansive reading. It is argued here that neither approach is persuasive, and that the anti-evidentialist reading of James remains the most probable.
Keywords William James  Pragmatism  Evidentialism
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DOI 10.5840/swphilreview20223819
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References found in this work BETA

Equal Treatment for Belief.Susanna Rinard - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (7):1923-1950.
The American Pragmatists.Cheryl Misak - 2013 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
A New Argument for Evidentialism.Nishi Shah - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (225):481–498.
The Ethics of Belief.Andrew Chignell - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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