Ethics of belief and other essays

We are only at liberty to infer the excellence of his moral precepts, or of the means which he devised for so working upon men as to get them obeyed, or of the social and political machinery which he set up. Prudential norms usually have a hypothetical structure: He may quite honestly believe that this statement is a fair inference from his experiments, but in that case his judgment is at fault.

Is it possible to believe that a system which has succeeded so well is really founded upon a delusion? The very sacredness of the precious deposit imposes upon us the duty and the responsibility of testing it, of purifying and enlarging it to the utmost of our power.

If we must needs embalm his possible errors along with his solid achievements, and use his authority as an excuse for believing what he cannot have known, we make of his goodness an occasion to sin.

But if we chose to grant him all these assumptions, for the sake of argument, and because it is difficult both for the faithful and for infidels to discuss them fairly and without passion, still we should have something to say which takes away the ground of his belief, and therefore shows that it is wrong to entertain it.

They published grave accusations against individual citizens of the highest position and character, and did all in their power to injure these citizens in their exercise of their professions. It appears, then, that the great use of the conception, the intellectual part of the heirloom, is to enable us to ask questions; that it grows and is kept straight by means of these questions; and if we do not use it for that purpose we shall gradually lose it altogether, and be left with a mere code of regulations which cannot rightly be called morality at all.

This formulation keeps the types of values distinct while still forging a link between them in the form of P2.

The Ethics of Belief

A very simple consideration of the character of experiments would show him that they never can lead to results of such a kind; that being themselves only approximate and limited, they cannot give us knowledge which is exact and universal.

Perhaps there are aesthetic norms that guide us to beliefs that have some sort of aesthetic merit, or that make us qua subjects more beautiful in virtue of believing them. So closely are our duties knit together, that whoso shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

But other cases can be used to make the same point: The tradition says also, at a definite place and time, that such and such actions are just, or true, or beneficent. The reason of this judgment is not far to seek: And yet that ability seems to be presupposed by the idea that this is an action-guiding norm.

Laying aside, then, such tradition as is handed on without testing by successive generations, let us consider that which is truly built up out of the common experience of mankind. Still others think that one category of norm collapses into another and that this can give us an all things considered conclusion for discussion of whether epistemic rationality collapses into prudential rationality, for example, see Kelly In sum: The man would not have been innocent, he would only have been not found out.

In the moral world, for example, it gives us the conceptions of right in general, of justice, of truth, of beneficence, and the like. Let us suppose, then, that I, like Mohammed, go into desert places to fast and pray; what things can happen to me which will give me the right to believe that I am divinely inspired?

He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also.

Every one of them, if he chose to examine himself in foro conscientiae, would know that he had acquired and nourished a belief, when he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him; and therein he would know that he had done a wrong thing.Also included are four other noteworthy essays by Clifford: "On the Aims and Instruments of Scientific Thought," "Right and Wrong," "The Ethics of Religion," and "The Influence upon Morality of a Decline in Religious Belief.".

The Ethics of Belief () William K. Clifford Originally published in Contemporary Review, Reprinted in Lectures and Essays (). Presently in print in The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays (Prometheus Books, ).

The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays Quotes

I. THE DUTY OF INQUIRY A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. The Ethics of Belief () William K.

The Ethics of Belief (1877)

Clifford. Originally published in Contemporary Review, Reprinted in Lectures and Essays (). Presently in print in The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays (Prometheus Books, ). The “ethics of belief” refers to a cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, and psychology.

The central question in the debate is whether there are norms of some sort governing our habits of belief-formation, belief-maintenance, and belief-relinquishment. "The Ethics of Belief" is presented here in its complete form, along with "The Aims and Instruments of Scientific Thought, " "Right and Wrong, " and other essays.

About the Author William Kingdon Clifford () was a British mathematician and philosopher/5(5). Lectures and Essays, ed. Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (London: Macmillan and Co., THE ETHICS OF BELIEF 3 cases the belief held by one man was of great importance to other men.

But forasmuch as no belief held by one man, however seemingly trivial the belief, and however obscure the.

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Ethics of belief and other essays
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