Please only use the reading provided by me to ANSWER THIS QUESTION. Execute the following in at most fifteen sentences. Provide quotations. Ensure you properly punctuate the quotation and cite the passage (use parenthetical notation). I attached the reading from William James.
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The Will to Believe by William
12.1 Hypothesis and Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
12.2 Pascals Wager . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
12.3 Cliffords Veto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
12.4 Psychological Causes of Belief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
12.5 Thesis of This Essay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
12.6 Empricism and Absolutism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
12.7 Objective Certitude and its Unattainability . . . . . . . . 181
12.8 Two Different Sorts of Risks in Believing . . . . . . . . . 183
12.9 Some Risk is Unavoidable . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
12.10Faith May Bring Forth its Own Verification . . . . . . . . 186
12.11Logical Conditions of Religious Belief . . . . . . . . . . . 188
In the recently published Life by Leslie Stephen of his brother, Fitz-James,
there is an account of a school to which the latter went when he was a boy.
The teacher, a certain Mr. Guest, used to converse with his pupils in this
wise: Gurney, what is the difference between justification and sanctification?
Stephen, prove the omnipotence of God! etc. In the midst of our Harvard
freethinking and indifference we are prone to imagine that here at your good
old orthodox College conversation continues to be somewhat upon this order;
and to show you that we at Harvard have not lost all interest in these
vital subjects, I have brought with me to-night something like a sermon on
justification by faith to read to you,I mean an essay in justification of faith,
a defence of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters, in
spite of the fact that our merely logical intellect may not have been coerced.
The Will to Believe, accordingly, is the title of my paper.
I have long defended to my own students the lawfulness of voluntarily
adopted faith; but as soon as they have got well imbued with the logical
spirit, they have as a rule refused to admit my contention to be lawful philosophically,
even though in point of fact they were personally all the time
chock-full of some faith or other themselves. I am all the while, however,
so profoundly convinced that my own position is correct, that your invitation
has seemed to me a good occasion to make my statements more clear.
Perhaps your minds will be more open than those with which I have hitherto
had to deal. I will be as little technical as I can, though I must begin by
setting up some technical distinctions that will help us in the end.
12.1 Hypothesis and Options
Let us give the name of hypothesis to anything that may be proposed to our
belief; and just as the electricians speak of live and dead wires, let us speak of
any hypothesis as either live or dead. A live hypothesis is one which appeals
as a real possibility to him to whom it is proposed. If I ask you to believe
in the Mahdi, the notion makes no electric connection with your nature,it
refuses to scintillate with any credibility at all. As an hypothesis it is completely
dead. To an Arab, however (even if he be not one of the Mahdis
followers), the hypothesis is among the minds possibilities: it is alive. This
shows that deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties,
but relations to the individual thinker. They are measured by his
willingness to act. The maximum of liveness in an hypothesis means willingness
to act irrevocably. Practically, that means belief; but there is some
believing tendency wherever there is willingness to act at all.
Next, let us call the decision between two hypotheses an option. Options
may be of several kinds. They may be1, living or dead; 2, forced or avoidable;
3, momentous or trivial; and for our purposes we may call an option a genuine
option when it is of the forced, living, and momentous kind.
1. A living option is one in which both hypotheses are live ones. If I say
to you: Be a theosophist or be a Mohammedan, it is probably a dead
option, because for you neither hypothesis is likely to be alive. But
if I say: Be an agnostic or be a Christian, it is otherwise: trained as
you are, each hypothesis makes some appeal, however small, to your
2. Next, if I say to you: Choose between going out with your umbrella or
without it, I do not offer you a genuine option, for it is not forced. You
can easily avoid it by not going out at all. Similarly, if I say, Either love
me or hate me, Either call my theory true or call it false, your option
is avoidable. You may remain indifferent to me, neither loving nor
hating, and you may decline to offer any judgment as to my theory. But
if I say, Either accept this truth or go without it, I put on you a forced
option, for there is no standing place outside of the alternative. Every
dilemma based on a complete logical disjunction, with no possibility
of not choosing, is an option of this forced kind.
3. Finally, if I were Dr. Nansen and proposed to you to join my North Pole
expedition, your option would be momentous; for this would probably
be your only similar opportunity, and your choice now would either
exclude you from the North Pole sort of immortality altogether or
put at least the chance of it into your hands. He who refuses to embrace
a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed.
Per contra, the option is trivial when the opportunity is not unique,
when the stake is insignificant, or when the decision is reversible if it
later prove unwise. Such trivial options abound in the scientific life.
A chemist finds an hypothesis live enough to spend a year in its verification:
he believes in it to that extent. But if his experiments prove
inconclusive either way, he is quit for his loss of time, no vital harm
It will facilitate our discussion if we keep all these distinctions well in
12.2 Pascals Wager
The next matter to consider is the actual psychology of human opinion.
When we look at certain facts, it seems as if our passional and volitional nature
lay at the root of all our convictions. When we look at others, it seems
as if they could do nothing when the intellect had once said its say. Let us
take the latter facts up first.
Does it not seem preposterous on the very face of it to talk of our opinions
being modifiable at will? Can our will either help or hinder our intellect
in its perceptions of truth? Can we, by just willing it, believe that Abraham
Lincolns existence is a myth, and that the portraits of him in McClures Magazine
are all of some one else? Can we, by any effort of our will, or by any
strength of wish that it were true, believe ourselves well and about when
we are roaring with rheumatism in bed, or feel certain that the sum of the
two one-dollar bills in our pocket must be a hundred dollars? We can say
any of these things, but we are absolutely impotent to believe them; and of
just such things is the whole fabric of the truths that we do believe in made
up,matters of fact, immediate or remote, as Hume said, and relations between
ideas, which are either there or not there for us if we see them so, and
which if not there cannot be put there by any action of our own.
In Pascals Thoughts there is a celebrated passage known in literature as
Pascals wager. In it he tries to force us into Christianity by reasoning as if
our concern with truth resembled our concern with the stakes in a game of
chance. Translated freely his words are these: You must either believe or not
believe that God iswhich will you do? Your human reason cannot say. A
game is going on between you and the nature of things which at the day of
judgment will bring out either heads or tails. Weigh what your gains and
your losses would be if you should stake all you have on heads, or Gods
existence: if you win in such case, you gain eternal beatitude; if you lose,
you lose nothing at all. If there were an infinity of chances, and only one
for God in this wager, still you ought to stake your all on God; for though
you surely risk a finite loss by this procedure, any finite loss is reasonable,
even a certain one is reasonable, if there is but the possibility of infinite gain.
Go, then, and take holy water, and have masses said; belief will come and
stupefy your scruples,Cela vous fera croire et vous abêtira. Why should you
not? At bottom, what have you to lose?
12.3 Cliffords Veto
You probably feel that when religious faith expresses itself thus, in the language
of the gaming-table, it is put to its last trumps. Surely Pascals own
personal belief in masses and holy water had far other springs; and this celebrated
page of his is but an argument for others, a last desperate snatch at
a weapon against the hardness of the unbelieving heart. We feel that a faith
in masses and holy water adopted wilfully after such a mechanical calculation
would lack the inner soul of faiths reality; and if we were ourselves in
the place of the Deity, we should probably take particular pleasure in cutting
off believers of this pattern from their infinite reward. It is evident that
unless there be some pre-existing tendency to believe in masses and holy
water, the option offered to the will by Pascal is not a living option. Certainly
no Turk ever took to masses and holy water on its account; and even
to us Protestants these means of salvation seem such foregone impossibilities
that Pascals logic, invoked for them specifically, leaves us unmoved.
As well might the Mahdi write to us, saying, I am the Expected One whom
God has created in his effulgence. You shall be infinitely happy if you confess
me; otherwise you shall be cut off from the light of the sun. Weigh, then,
your infinite gain if I am genuine against your finite sacrifice if I am not!
His logic would be that of Pascal; but he would vainly use it on us, for the
hypothesis he offers us is dead. No tendency to act on it exists in us to any
The talk of believing by our volition seems, then, from one point of view,
simply silly. From another point of view it is worse than silly, it is vile. When
one turns to the magnificent edifice of the physical sciences, and sees how it
was reared; what thousands of disinterested moral lives of men lie buried in
its mere foundations; what patience and postponement, what choking down
of preference, what submission to the icy laws of outer fact are wrought into
its very stones and mortar; how absolutely impersonal it stands in its vast
augustness,then how besotted and contemptible seems every little sentimentalist
who comes blowing his voluntary smoke-wreaths, and pretending
to decide things from out of his private dream! Can we wonder if those
bred in the rugged and manly school of science should feel like spewing
such subjectivism out of their mouths? The whole system of loyalties which
grow up in the schools of science go dead against its toleration; so that it
is only natural that those who have caught the scientific fever should pass
over to the opposite extreme, and write sometimes as if the incorruptibly
truthful intellect ought positively to prefer bitterness and unacceptableness
to the heart in its cup.
It fortifies my soul to know That, though I perish, Truth is so
sings Clough, while Huxley exclaims: My only consolation lies in the reflection
that, however bad our posterity may become, so far as they hold
by the plain rule of not pretending to believe what they have no reason to
believe, because it may be to their advantage so to pretend [the word pretend
is surely here redundant], they will not have reached the lowest depth
of immorality. And that delicious enfant terrible Clifford writes; Belief is
desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements for the
solace and private pleasure of the believer, Whoso would deserve well of
his fellows in this matter will guard the purity of his belief with a very fanaticism
of jealous care, lest at any time it should rest on an unworthy object,
and catch a stain which can never be wiped away. If [a] belief has been
accepted on insufficient evidence [even though the belief be true, as Clifford
on the same page explains] the pleasure is a stolen one. It is sinful
because it is stolen in defiance of our duty to mankind. That duty is to guard
ourselves from such beliefs as from a pestilence which may shortly master
our own body and then spread to the rest of the town. It is wrong always,
everywhere, and for every one, to believe anything upon insufficient
12.4 Psychological Causes of Belief
All this strikes one as healthy, even when expressed, as by Clifford, with
somewhat too much of robustious pathos in the voice. Free-will and simple
wishing do seem, in the matter of our credences, to be only fifth wheels to
the coach. Yet if any one should thereupon assume that intellectual insight
is what remains after wish and will and sentimental preference have taken
wing, or that pure reason is what then settles our opinions, he would fly
quite as directly in the teeth of the facts.
It is only our already dead hypotheses that our willing nature is unable
to bring to life again. But what has made them dead for us is for the most
part a previous action of our willing nature of an antagonistic kind. When
I say willing nature, I do not mean only such deliberate volitions as may
have set up habits of belief that we cannot now escape from,I mean all
such factors of belief as fear and hope, prejudice and passion, imitation and
partisanship, the circumpressure of our caste and set. As a matter of fact we
find ourselves believing, we hardly know how or why. Mr. Balfour gives
the name of authority to all those influences, born of the intellectual climate,
that make hypotheses possible or impossible for us, alive or dead.
Here in this room, we all of us believe in molecules and the conservation
of energy, in democracy and necessary progress, in Protestant Christianity
and the duty of fighting for the doctrine of the immortal Monroe, all for
no reasons worthy of the name. We see into these matters with no more inner
clearness, and probably with much less, than any disbeliever in them
might possess. His unconventionality would probably have some grounds
to show for its conclusions; but for us, not insight, but the prestige of the
opinions, is what makes the spark shoot from them and light up our sleeping
magazines of faith. Our reason is quite satisfied, in nine hundred and
ninety-nine cases out of every thousand of us, if it can find a few arguments
that will do to recite in case our credulity is criticised by some one else. Our
faith is faith in some one elses faith, and in the greatest matters this is most
the case. Our belief in truth itself, for instance, that there is a truth, and that
our minds and it are made for each other,what is it but a passionate affirmation
of desire, in which our social system backs us up? We want to have a
truth; we want to believe that our experiments and studies and discussions
must put us in a continually better and better position towards it; and on
this line we agree to fight out our thinking lives. But if a pyrrhonistic sceptic
asks us how we know all this, can our logic find a reply? No! certainly it
cannot. It is just one volition against another,we willing to go in for life
upon a trust or assumption which he, for his part, does not care to make.
As a rule we disbelieve all facts and theories for which we have no use.
Cliffords cosmic emotions find no use for Christian feelings. Huxley belabors
the bishops because there is no use for sacerdotalism in his scheme of
life. Newman, on the contrary, goes over to Romanism, and finds all sorts
of reasons good for staying there, because a priestly system is for him an
organic need and delight. Why do so few scientists even look at the evidence
for telepathy, so called? Because they think, as a leading biologist,
now dead, once said to me, that even if such a thing were true, scientists
ought to band together to keep it suppressed and concealed. It would undo
the uniformity of Nature and all sorts of other things without which scientists
cannot carry on their pursuits. But if this very man had been shown
something which as a scientist he might do with telepathy, he might not only
have examined the evidence, but even have found it good enough. This very
law which the logicians would impose upon usif I may give the name of
logicians to those who would rule out our willing nature hereis based on
nothing but their own natural wish to exclude all elements for which they,
in their professional quality of logicians, can find no use.
Evidently, then, our non-intellectual nature does influence our convictions.
There are passional tendencies and volitions which run before and
others which come after belief, and it is only the latter that are too late for
the fair; and they are not too late when the previous passional work has been
already in their own direction. Pascals argument, instead of being powerless,
then seems a regular clincher, and is the last stroke needed to make our
faith in masses and holy water complete. The state of things is evidently far
from simple; and pure insight and logic, whatever they might do ideally,
are not the only things that really do produce our creeds.
12.5 Thesis of This Essay
Our next duty, having recognized this mixed-up state of affairs, is to ask
whether it be simply reprehensible and pathological, or whether, on the contrary,
we must treat it as a normal element in making up our minds. The thesis
I defend is, briefly stated, this: Our passional nature not only lawfully may,
but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option
that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say, under such
circumstances, Do not decide, but leave the question open, is itself a passional
decision,just like deciding yes or no,and is attended with the same risk of losing
the truth. The thesis thus abstractly expressed will, I trust, soon become
quite clear. But I must first indulge in a bit more of preliminary work.
12.6 Empricism and Absolutism
It will be observed that for the purposes of this discussion we are on dogmatic
ground,ground, I mean, which leaves systematic philosophical scepticism
altogether out of account. The postulate that there is truth, and that it
is the destiny of our minds to attain it, we are deliberately resolving to make,
though the sceptic will not make it. We part company with him, therefore,
absolutely, at this point. But the faith that truth exists, and that our minds
can find it, may be held in two ways. We may talk of the empiricist way and
of the absolutist way of believing in truth. The absolutists in this matter say
that we not only can attain to knowing truth, but we can know when we have
attained to knowing it; while the empiricists think that although we may attain
it, we cannot infallibly know when. To know is one thing, and to know
for certain that we know is another. One may hold to the first being possible
without the second; hence the empiricists and the absolutists, although
neither of them is a sceptic in the usual philosophic sense of the term, show
very different degrees of dogmatism in their lives.
If we look at the history of opinions, we see that the empiricist tendency
has largely prevailed in science, while in philosophy the absolutist tendency
has had everything its own way. The characteristic sort of happiness, indeed,
which philosophies yield has mainly consisted in the conviction felt
by each successive school or system that by it bottom-certitude had been attained.
Other philosophies are collections of opinions, mostly false; my philosophy
gives standin …
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