A Defense of the Ethics of Belief

Philo 7 (1):79-96 (2004)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This is an attempt to rehabilitate W. K. Clifford’s long-rejected position that “it is [morally] wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence.” I supplement Clifford’s own argument with two others. They are all valid. I argue for the truth of their premises. The premises in the arguments I use to supplement Clifford’s own are that we cannot believe purely at will; that we must choose among Cliffordianism, some other rule, and doxastic amoralism; that all other rules are self-subverting in that they can be used effectively at most once; and that a policy of doxastic amoralism has worse results overall than adherence to Cliffordianism. The upshot is that Cliffordianism is an irreducible analogue of rule utilitarianism. I look at some objections to Cliffordianism. I argue that none has merit. I point out that Cliffordianism provides something of a justification for legal freedom of conscience.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 79,857

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

A Re-evaluation of Clifford and His Critics.Brian Zamulinski - 2002 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (3):437-457.
The Virtues of Belief: Toward a Non-Evidentialist Ethics of Belief-Formation.Richard Amesbury - 2008 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 63 (1-3):25 - 37.
W.K. Clifford and 'The ethics of belief'.Tim Madigan - 2008 - Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.
The Ethics of Belief.Michael Lopresto - 2011 - Emergent Australasian Philosophers (4):9.
The ethics of belief and other essays.William Kingdon Clifford - 1999 - Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. Edited by Tim Madigan.
The ethics of belief.Andrew Chignell - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Ethics of Belief.W. K. Clifford - 1877 - In The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 70-97.
The ethics of belief: Conservative belief management.Melissa Bergeron - 2006 - Social Epistemology 20 (1):67 – 78.
Can There Be a Knowledge-First Ethics of Belief?Dennis Whitcomb - 2014 - In Jonathan Matheson & Rico Vits (eds.), The Ethics of Belief: Individual and Social. Oxford University Press.
Wide-Scope Requirements and the Ethics of Belief.Berit Brogaard - 2014 - In Jonathan Matheson & Rico Vitz (eds.), The Ethics of Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 130–145.
Why believe?John Cottingham - 2009 - New York: Continuum.


Added to PP

140 (#97,817)

6 months
5 (#166,733)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Honesty and inquiry: W.K. Clifford’s ethics of belief.Nikolaj Nottelmann & Patrick Fessenbecker - 2020 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28 (4):797-818.
Clifford's Consequentialism.Brian Zamulinski - 2022 - Utilitas 34 (3):289-299.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references