Skip to main content

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:
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”
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?


Popular posts from this blog

Epicurean Cosmological Arguments for Matter's Necessity

One can find, through the writings of Lucretius, a powerful yet simple Epicurean argument for matter's (factual or metaphysical) necessity. In simplest terms, the argument is that since matter exists, and since nothing can come from nothing, matter is eternal and uncreated, and is therefore at least a factually necessary being. 
A stronger version of Epicurus' core argument can be developed by adding an appeal to something in the neighborhood of origin essentialism. The basic line of reasoning here is that being uncreated is an essential property of matter, and thus that the matter at the actual world is essentially uncreated.
Yet stronger versions of the argument could go on from there by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason to argue that whatever plays the role of being eternal and essentially uncreated does not vary from world to world, and thus that matter is a metaphysically necessary being.
It seems to me that this broadly Epicurean line of reasoning is a co…

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…

Notes on Swinburne, "On Why God Allows Evil"

Notes on Swinburne’s “Why God Allows Evil”

1. The kinds of goods a theistic god would provide: deeper goods than just “thrills of pleasure and times of contentment” (p. 90). For example:
1.1 Significant freedom and responsibility
1.1.1 for ourselves
1.1.2 for others
1.1.3 for the world in which they live
1.2 Valuable lives
1.2.1 being of significant use to ourselves
1.2.2 being of significant use to each other

2. Kinds of evil
2.1 Moral evil: all the evil caused or permitted by human beings, whether intentionally or through negligence (e.g., murder, theft, etc.)
2.2 Natural evil: all the rest: evil not caused or permitted by human beings (e.g., suffering caused by hurricanes, forest fires, diseases, animal suffering, etc.)

3. The gist of Swinburne’s answer to the problem of evil: God cannot – logically cannot -- give us the goods of significant freedom, responsibility and usefulness without thereby allowing for the possibility of lots of moral and natural evil. This is why he has al…