The Ethics Of Belief
THE ETHICS OF BELIEF

The Ethics of Belief

Edited by A.J. Burger
 
Essays by
William Kingdon Clifford
William James
A.J. Burger
 
Copyright 1997, 2001, 2008 by A.J. Burger.  All rights reserved.

CONTENTS
 

Preface

The Ethics of Belief
 William Kingdon Clifford

The Will to Believe
 William James

An Examination of ‘The Will to Believe’
 A.J. Burger
 


 
Preface

        People have long been interested in the circumstances under which it is appropriate to believe.  Often, the source of this interest is the desire to believe something for which one has insufficient evidence.  Extensive excerpts of the following essays by William Kingdon Clifford and William James are often reprinted in anthologies.  This is sufficient proof of the enduring interest in this subject, and of the importance of these particular essays.  But since they are excerpts, and since Clifford’s Lectures and Essays is no longer in print, there is a need for the present book.  Indeed, usually the excerpts from Clifford’s essay come exclusively from part one of his three-part essay.  And James’ essay is usually reprinted without parts II, III, V, VI, and VII, with the other parts not reprinted in their entirety.  Following are “The Ethics of Belief” and “The Will to Believe” in their entirety, along with added explanatory notes.  Following these essays is “An Examination of ‘The Will to Believe.’”  It is not the first examination of that work;{1} however, it is, I believe, one that adds a unique contribution to the discussion.  The reader is advised to read the essays in the order presented here (which is the order in which they were written), as James’ essay is a response to Clifford’s essay, as well as to ideas of a like nature; and my own essay is a response to James’ essay.
        It is to be hoped that the present volume will be useful to anyone interested in the question of whether it is appropriate to have faith–that is, believe in the absence of evidence.  Indeed, even if my own essay is not as useful as I believe it to be, the availability of Clifford’s and James’ essays, reprinted in their entirety, in one convenient book, should prove worthwhile.

                                     A.J. Burger
                             September 2001
 
About the Text
of the printed book

        The text of William Kingdon Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” is based upon the first edition of Lectures and Essays, Macmillan and Co., 1879, edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock.  The text of William James’ “The Will to Believe” is based upon the first edition of The Will to Believe and other essays in popular philosophy, Longmans, Green & Co., 1897.  In the essays by Clifford and James, the added footnotes are indicated by “–AJB”.  This is the first printing of “An Examination of ‘The Will to Believe,’” which was originally written in 1994, and has been subsequently revised.

About the Text
at this website

        The text of William Kingdon Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” is based upon the second edition of Lectures and Essays, Macmillan and Co., 1886, edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock.  The text of William James’ “The Will to Believe” is based upon the Dover reprint of The Will to Believe and other essays in popular philosophy, which is said to be “an unabridged and unaltered republication of the first edition” printed by Longmans, Green & Co. in 1897, as I was unable to obtain an original when this was first put on the internet in 1997.  My essay, however, has been updated.
 

About the REVISED EDITION
printed book only

        The Revised Edition of the book has an Afterword added in 2008.



Footnote

{1}  See, for example, A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (Simon & Schuster, 1945), ch. XXIX, particularly p 814-816; and “The Dark Side of Religion” in The Faith of a Liberal by Morris R. Cohen (Henry Holt, 1946), a relevant section of which is also reprinted as “Religion and the Will to Believe” in Introductory Readings in Philosophy, Marcus G. Singer and Robert R. Ammerman, eds. (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1962), p 231-234, and also as “A Critique of the Will to Believe” in Decisions in Philosophy of Religion, William B. Williamson, ed. (Prometheus Books, 1985), p 125-128.  {return}


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  REVISED EDITION:

The REVISED EDITION of the book is now available in print. Click here to find out more.

This book is now available in print. Click here to find out more.

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A.J. Burger
ajburger@rocketmail.com

Copyright 1997, 2001, 2008 by A.J. Burger.  All rights reserved.