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The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays (Thinker's Library, 111)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays (Thinker's Library, 111).pdf | Language: UNKNOWN
    W.K. Clifford(Author)

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • W.K. Clifford(Author)
  • Watts and Co; First Thus edition (1947)
  • Unknown
  • 3
  • Politics & Social Sciences

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  • By What's in a name? on December 22, 2005

    William Kingdon Clifford is justly famous for his brilliant essay "The Ethics of Belief". In it, he argues for the conclusion that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." He does not merely assert this, and expect people to take his word for the matter (as many seem to imagine); he gives reasons for this position. Obviously, I will not be able to do justice to his argument in a brief review, but a condensed version is: What you believe affects your actions, and your actions affect others. As you are responsible for the effects of your actions on others, so, too, are you responsible for the effects of your beliefs on others. Therefore, you have no right to simply believe whatever you want to believe any more than you have a right to do whatever you want to do. You ought to act responsibly so as not to harm others, and to do so, you need to believe responsibly. Thus you need to be careful about what you believe. And that means that you need to have adequate reasons or evidence in favor of what you believe.(To avoid possible confusion: Clifford was writing about ethics, not about law. Nothing Clifford states implies what would be illegal to believe; indeed, as one is supposed to believe according to the best evidence one has, it would be entirely inappropriate for someone to require a specific belief of others. After all, if you lack sufficient evidence for a belief, you should not have it.)Clifford starts with an example of a shipowner who wants to believe his ship is safe and does not need expensive repairs, so he convinces himself that it really is safe, without giving it a proper inspection (or, in other words, without bothering with evidence). It should be obvious that this is irresponsible and dangerous. It also shows why people don't simply have a right to believe whatever they want.It amazes me that some people who claim to have read his essay say that his argument is "circular" and that he gives no reasons for his position. Indeed, Clifford's first paragraph introduces the abovementioned shipowner, which goes a long way toward showing why evidence is something that should be used in belief formation. However, I expect that it is easier to reject his conclusion if one pretends that he has given no reasons for it, as many want to believe all sorts of nonsense, and do not care about the effects upon others. Usually, the motives are religious, as most religions do not hold up well to careful scrutiny, and people want to believe what they already believe, and don't wish to be told that they should only believe what they have good reason to believe. But think of all of the religious wars that have taken place throughout history, and you will see that people's religious views dramatically affect others, and therefore they ought to be more careful about what they believe.It is also interesting that some religious people regard Clifford's essay as being anti-religion, but that would mean that they believe that they have no good reason to believe their own religion! If a fair and impartial review of the evidence supports a particular religion, then according to Clifford's position, one should believe it. If not, then one should not.Regarding the Prometheus edition, I do wish they had chosen to reprint the entire LECTURES & ESSAYS, as another reviewer mentioned, as his other essays are also worth reading, though, perhaps, they are not as important as the title essay. And, as also mentioned by a previous reviewer, there is another edition that contains the essay "The Ethics of Belief", and it does contain an explanation of Clifford's remark about Spanish engineers, unlike the Prometheus edition. The new ISBN for it is 1-438251-76-9, though it does not contain other essays by Clifford.

  • By A customer on March 24, 2002

    First, it is good that some of Clifford's essays are again in print, as they are important and very well written. If you want some of Clifford's essays from his out-of-print book LECTURES AND ESSAYS (aside from the justly famous "The Ethics of Belief"), this is your only choice, unless you want a used copy, which will probably be extremely difficult to find. Too bad, though, that Prometheus did not choose to reprint the entire first edition of LECTURES AND ESSAYS instead of this 'sampler'.If, however, you are primarily interested in the essay "The Ethics of Belief" or the subject matter of belief, you would be far better off with a different book: THE ETHICS OF BELIEF: Essays by William Kingdon Clifford, William James, and A.J. Burger, edited by A.J. Burger, ISBN 1-93133-07-6 (paper) or 1-931333-08-4 (cloth). In that book, you get "The Ethics of Belief" based on the first edition (the Prometheus version is evidently NOT based on the first edition), complete and unabridged, with added explanatory material (ever wonder about Clifford's cryptic remarks about Spanish engineers? Burger provides an answer). You also can read James' more famous response (even though it is quite inferior to Clifford's essay) and Burger's interesting response to James. With Burger's book, you get the views of three writers on this important subject, instead of only one.So, the bottom line is this: If you want some of Clifford's essays other than "The Ethics of Belief", buy this book. But if you are primarily interested in "The Ethics of Belief", then buy Burger's book instead.

  • By Guest on October 24, 2003

    Burger's book is a poor buy, as Burger's analysis is weak. It is a book of polemic rather than philosophical depth and his writing is much poorer than either Clifford's or James's.Clifford's fundamental assumptions are circular - he states that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence". However, he offers no evidence in support of this assertion, thus failing his own test.The thesis of foundationalism has been successfully refuted by Alvin Plantinga and others (see his "Warranted Christian Belief"), but this essay still remains the archetype of the classical foundationalist approach.

  • By Francisco Mejia Uribe on October 7, 2015

    Clifford is a delight and a prophetic mind. In a world being torn appart by clashing irresponsible belief, his writings prove illuminating

  • By Harold E. Grupe Jr. on June 1, 2011

    It's hard to believe this book; these essays-- could have been written 58 years before I was even born! The words from this young man are as pertinent now as they were then-- and not many writers today can think so well or write with such clarity. Whether you agree or will want to disagree with what he has to say-- you will benefit from reading this book.

  • By Beverly G. Moreau on March 18, 2015

    Fast shipment! Item exactly as described! Highly recommended seller!!!

  • By Sara Severyn on April 26, 2010

    Clifford is such a well-spoken, sensible, open-minded scholar. Everybody should read his works and imitate his ethical belief policy. I am very pleased with this purchase, this seller, and the rapid time in which I received this book.IT IS WRONG ALWAYS, EVERYWHERE, AND FOR ANYONE, TO BELIEVE ANYTHING UPON INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. ~Clifford


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