This assignment concerns the opposing views of W.T. Clifford and William James about the attitude we ought to take towards religious belief. The readings are the first two essays in the online book found at:
Essay 1: The Ethics of Belief
Begin by reading Part I of Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” by W.T Clifford. Write a 200-300 word essay that describes his attitude towards belief. Be sure to address the following issues:
1. Why does Clifford say what we believe is not merely a private matter, but a moral issue?
2. What is morally permissible for us to believe?
3. What implications does his view have for religious faith? Before answering this question, you may want to look at the last few lines of Part III that begin with “To sum up.”
Use examples where appropriate in your discussion.
Essay 2: The Will to Believe.
The second essay, “The Will to Believe,” contains William James’ response to Clifford.
You are to write 200-300 words explaining James’ response to Clifford’s position. Be sure to include the following:
1. Explain James classification of hypotheses as alive or dead and the types of options used in deciding between alternative hypotheses.
2. Explain why James does not believe it is rational to suspend belief about the existence of God and like religious matters?
3. What does James say about the practicality of Clifford’s claims pertaining to what we are permitted to believe?