Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aikin's Forthcoming Book on Clifford and James

Aikin, Scott. Evidentialism and the Will to Believe (Bloomsbury, forthcoming). The book is due to come out in July. Here's the blurb:
Work on the norms of belief in epistemology regularly starts with two touchstone essays: W.K. Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief" and William James's "The Will to Believe." Discussing the central themes from these seminal essays, Evidentialism and the Will to Believe explores the history of the ideas governing evidentialism.

As well as Clifford's argument from the examples of the shipowner, the consequences of credulity and his defence against skepticism, this book tackles James's conditions for a genuine option and the structure of the will to believe case as a counter-example to Clifford's evidentialism. Exploring the question of whether James's case successfully counters Clifford's evidentialist rule for belief, this study captures the debate between those who hold that one should proportion belief to evidence and those who hold that the evidentialist norm is too restrictive.

More than a sustained explication of the essays, it also surveys recent epistemological arguments to evidentialism. But it is by bringing Clifford and James into fruitful conversation for the first time that this study presents a clearer history of the issues and provides an important reconstruction of the notion of evidence in contemporary epistemology.
And here's the table of contents:
Introduction
1. The objectives of commentary
2. Three themes
3. Five evaluative theses
Chapter 1: Reading Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief”
William Kingdon Clifford and the Metaphysical Society
Section I – The Duty of Inquiry
1. The ship owner case
2. The island case
3. Beliefs and actions
4. Beliefs and their consequences
5. Ethics and belief
6. Endorsing evidentialism
Section II – The Weight of Authority
1. Anti-skepticism
2. Testimonial evidence
3. Miraculous testimony
4. The publicity requirement
5. The sacred tradition of humanity
Section III – The Limits of Inference
1. A burnt child dreads the fire
2. Regulative principles
3. Three norms
Chapter 2: Reading James’s “The Will to Believe”
William James and “The Will to Believe”
Preamble
Section I – Hypotheses and Options
1. Introduction and definitions
2. Live and dead options
3. Forced options
4. Momentous options
5. Religion as a genuine option
Section II – Pascal’s Wager
1. Four stages of “The Will to Believe”
2. Voluntarism and its limits
3. The wager
4. Clifford’s veto
Section III – Psychological Causes of Belief
1. A concession to evidentialism
2. Truth and other useful ideas
3. Pascal is a regular clincher
Section IV – The Thesis of the Essay
1. A thematic transition
2. The thesis
Sections V and VI – Absolutism and Empiricism
1. Two forms of faith
2. Objective evidence and its discontents
3. Truth for Empricism
Section VII – Two Different Sorts of Risks in Believing
1. The two commandments
2. The case for the Truth Norm
3. Two critical points
Section VIII – Some Risk Unavoidable
1. Applying the meta-epistemology
2. Interested inquiry
3. Two analogies
Section IX – Faith May Bring Forth Its Own Verification
1. Moral and scientific questions
2. Moral skepticism
3. The argument from friendship
4. The argument from social coordination
5. Doxastic efficacy and the will-to-believe
Section X – Logical Conditions of Religious Belief
1. The overall form of James’s argument
2. Religion’s dual essence
3. Religion as live and momentous
4. Religion as forced
5. The conversion fallacy
6. Religion as doxastically efficacious
7. Evidentialism as irrational
8. Religious tolerance
Chapter 3: The Ethics of Belief and Philosophy of Religion
Question 1: Must evidentialism be an ethical doctrine?
Question 2: Can practical reasons trump theoretical reasons?
Question 3: Can religion be pragmatically reconstructed?
Question 4: What about the power of positive thinking?
Bibliography
Index

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