This essay aims to justify the claim of William Kingdon Clifford in the Ethics of the belief that "The claim that it is wrong, always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” Clifford in his quote is trying to enlighten the issue that a person's confidence on the belief is not a measure of the empirical evidence but it is based on the coherent story that a mind creates. It is due to this fact the person becomes an easy prey of the false news, misleading information, charlatans and conspiracy theories. It makes us become a host and we start believing the things that morally is incorrect (Aiken and Robert 2017). The error in such cases can be devastating for society. People must develop Epistemic alertness for believing in any incident. People need to understand that there is a need to shift their way of believing things otherwise they will become a vessel of credulity.
Clifford with his experiment wanted to enlighten human beings about their habitual nature of delusion, unreason and rationalization. He told a story about a ship-owner who was about to send his emigrant ship into the sea. The ship-owner initially had a lot of thoughts on whether the ship is worthy of the sail of not? He started looking at the past experiences where the ship has undergone through different voyages but needed to be repaired. He knew that the ship was old and weak(Nottelmann and Fessenbecker 2019). It does not have the strength required to sail. But instead of believing in his reflections, he started believing the providence put before. He thought that he is ungenerously questioning on the builders and contractors of the ship and his introspection changed his belief and making him acquire a comfortable conviction that his vessel will come home safely. He departure the ship with a light heart but it was found that the ship could not come out of the strange exile and sunk inside the ocean.
This incident raised a question that what is right and what is wrong. Isn't it being the ship owners mistake to take away the lives of the people who were going to the fatherland to seek better opportunities believing that they will reach the destination safely? Did the shipowner believe that his ship was sound and safe? Was it correct to believe in the evidence which was fragmented? Through all this question Clifford wanted to emphasize the fact that if ship-owner would have investigated about the ship properly he would not have to feel guilt for the death of the innocent people(Pace 2017). A small cognitive flaw resulted in the death of the people it is therefore very important for us to understand that without investigating the entire cause we must never come to any conclusion because it is about right and wrong.
It is advised that instead of strongly believing on some pieces of evidence a person must see to the response of the action caused as in the case of the ship-owner. His action of sending the ship into the sea took away the life of the innocent people. He could have saved the lives of the people by no sending the ship on sail. Our action can have good or bad impact and we need to carefully choose it. The biggest problem with every person is that they align the beliefs with the illusions rather than on the accurateness of the reality (McKenna 2016). It is observed that people do not try to investigate the cause in spite they start believing in the information that is given by some other person. People tend to believe more on rumors and they start believing in it because it seems realistic with the spices added on the incident. This is the very reason why people fail in fulfilling their responsibility towards truth.
Our lives are guided by the general concept that no one man's belief can be private. Our every little action be it our thoughts, property, fashion is inherited by the next generation thus we need to be epistemic and create a world in which everyone can prosperously live. Every belief of the man must be based on the investigation rather than on insufficient beliefs because the impact of a wrong belief is to be suffered by society (White 2019). Believing on insufficient evidence is always a wrong practice because in such cases belief-formation turn into carelessness and it results in incredulous behaviour which is not good for the individuals and that for the society. He further claims that evidence can be fragmentary and tarrying but believing on them is like supporting the people those who are in power and making other weak who are the sufferers. Such a stealthy situation creates a train of inner thoughts and individuals think that their behaviour can come out in society and can let them down. It is our beliefs that shape up the reality and it decides our actions and it can be for the betterment of society or it can deteriorate it
Clifford through his claims wants to emphasize the people on their believing process. It wants the people to investigate what is right and what is wrong before coming to any conviction. He wanted people to understand that evidence displayed can be false and that not the belief but its action can have a tremendous impact on both individual and the society. It is thus very important to enhance cognitive behaviour instead of being credulous. The purpose of this quote was that it is not enough to have a good mind, it is equally important to apply it well by thinking and instigating on every aspect before concluding something which is not true based on the insufficient shreds of evidence provided.
Aiken, S. and Robert, B.T. 2017. The Will-to-Believe is Immoral. William James, Moral Philosophy, and the Ethical Life: The Cries of the Wounded, pp.143-160.
Nottelmann, N. and Fessenbecker, P. 2019. Honesty and inquiry: WK Clifford’s ethics of belief. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, pp.1-22.
McKenna, R. 2016. Clifford and the common epistemic norm. American Philosophical Quarterly, pp.245-257.
Pace, M. 2017. Book Review: Evidentialism And The Will To Believe. Faith and Philosophy: Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers, 34(4), p.6.
White, R. 2019. Epistemic permissiveness. Contemporary Epistemology: An Anthology, pp.267-276.
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