Abstract

A number of philosophers have called into question the wishful thinking reading of “The Will to Believe.” According to them, William James is not encouraging us to will what we want to believe; rather, he is making the case that under certain epistemic conditions we have a right to believe. I contend that this right to believe thesis, while an important part of James’s essay, fails to capture his full view. First, I inquire into what James means by ‘our passional nature.’ I distinguish three roles the passional nature plays with respect to belief. I then illustrate how each role of the passional nature informs three related arguments within the “The Will to Believe.” Ultimately, I argue that James is not simply advocating the permissibility of religious belief. His primary thesis is that individuals who have a right to believe ought to believe.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9587
Print ISSN
0009-1774
Pages
pp. 62-78
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-15
Open Access
No
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