In: Fallacious Arguments in Ancient Philosophy
Author: Jonathan Adler

James’ The Will to Believe is the most influential writing in the ethics of belief. In it, James defends the right and rationality to believe on non-evidential grounds. James’ argument is directed against Clifford’s “Evidentialism” presented in The Ethics of Belief in which Clifford concludes that “[i]t is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence”. After an overview of the James-Clifford exchange and James’ argument, I reconstruct his argument in detail. Subsequently, I examine four steps in James’ argument, and try to show that these amount to fallacies – enticing to reason, but not cogent.

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis