William James on the Courage to Believe

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Fordham Univ Press, 1997 - Philosophy - 223 pages
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William James's celebrated lecture on "The Will to Believe" has kindled spirited controversy since the day it was delivered. In this lively reappraisal of that controversy, Father O'Connell contributes some fresh contentions: that James's argument should be viewed against his indebtedness to Pascal and Renouvier; that it works primarily to validate our "over-beliefs"; and most surprising perhaps, that James envisages our "passional nature" as intervening, not after, but before and throughout, our intellectual weighting of the evidence for belief. For this second edition, Father O'Connell has added extensively to sharpen his arguments: that James's "deontological streak" saves him from "wishful thinking" and weaves together the attitudes of right, readiness, willingness, and will to believe, and that "willing faith" lends "the facts" their aura of believability.

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The Argument of The Will to Believe
On Matter and Manner
James and Pascal
Is It Wishful Thinking?
Outcomes and Overbeliefs
The Preclusive Force of Overbeliefs
The Strata of the Passional
The Metaphors of Belief
On Becoming Humanly Wise

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Page 5 - I cannot do so for this plain reason, that a. rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule.
Page 5 - ... acquaintance. This feeling, forced on us we know not whence, that by obstinately believing that there are gods (although not to do so would be so easy both for our logic and our life) we are doing the universe the deepest service we can, seems part of the living essence of the religious hypothesis. If the hypothesis were true in all its parts, including this one, then pure...
Page 4 - ... forever withheld from us unless we met the hypothesis halfway. To take a trivial illustration: just as a man who in a company of gentlemen made no advances, asked a warrant for every concession, and believed no one's word without proof, would cut himself off by such churlishness from all the social rewards that a more trusting spirit would earn, - so here, one who should shut himself up in snarling logicality and try to make the gods exhort his recognition willy-nilly, or not get it at all, might...
Page 1 - There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming. And where faith in a fact can help create the fact, that would be an insane logic which should say that faith running ahead of scientific evidence is the 'lowest kind of immorality' into which a thinking being can fall.
Page 3 - ... exact position. He is actively playing his stake as much as the believer is; he is backing the field against the religious hypothesis, just as the believer is backing the religious hypothesis against the field. To preach scepticism to us as a duty until

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About the author (1997)

Robert J. O'Connell is Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. He is a leading Augustinian scholar.

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