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Tom has mounting evidence that he has incurable cancer, but he also believes that he would be happier, regardless of the truth, were he to believe that he is healthy. W.K.Clifford, who famously claimed, “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence,” would, depending upon the sufficiency of Tom’s evidence, direct him to believe that he has incurable cancer, no matter the results for his happiness. The legendary pragmatist William James, on the other hand, might deem this one of those situations in which it is permissible to follow one’s passions, and therefore might advise Tom to trust in his health in the face of the evidence to the contrary. Which one is right: the evidentialist or the pragmatist? The core of my research to date has aimed at resolving this central debate in the ethics of belief.
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