W. K. Clifford and William James on Doxastic Norms

Comprendre 20 (2):61-77 (2018)
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Abstract

The main aim of this paper is to explain and analyze the debate between W. K. Clifford ("The Ethics of Belief", 1877) and William James ("The Will to Believe", 1896). Given that the main assumption shared by Clifford and James in this debate is doxastic voluntarism –i.e., the claim that we can, at least in some occasions, willingly decide what to believe–, I will explain the arguments offered by Bernard Williams in his “Deciding to Believe” (1973) against doxastic voluntarism. Finally, I will explain what happens with the debate between Clifford and James once we accept Bernard Williams’s arguments and refuse to accept doxastic voluntarism.

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Alberto Oya
Universidade Nova de Lisboa

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References found in this work

Deciding to believe.Bernard Williams - 1973 - In Problems of the Self. Cambridge University Press. pp. 136--51.
The Ethics of Belief.W. K. Clifford - 1999 - In William Kingdon Clifford (ed.), The ethics of belief and other essays. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. pp. 70-97.
Pensées.Blaise Pascal - 1670 - In Aloysius Martinich, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger. London: Blackwell. pp. 111-112.
The Will to Believe.William James - 1896 - The New World 5:327--347.
The Ethics of Belief.William Clifford - 1879 - In Brian Davies (ed.), Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.

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