William James on Belief and the Horns of Determinism


In William James’ “The Will to Believe”, he lays out three categories of belief which he calls alive or dead, forced or avoidable, and momentous or trivial. These categories of belief lead James to have disagreements with Pascal and Clifford who both held to a view of emotions in belief. In regard to Clifford, James sees his view too extreme because Clifford denies the role of emotions entirely. He believes that all beliefs should only be believed with sufficient evidence. This clearly poses a problem for James because if this is the case most beliefs will not be able to be taken up by people.