Category Archives: William James

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

We finished last time with the opening paragraph of William Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief.1

This tells his keynote story of the passenger ship owner who manages to overcome his doubts as to whether his ship is actually seaworthy. He does this not by having her overhauled and refitted but by trusting in Providence.

The ship sails and then sinks in mid-ocean.

Is the ship owner guilty of the death of passengers and crew? Undoubtedly.

JMW Turner The Shipwreck
J M W Turner: The Shipwreck
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What is and what ought to be

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

I was talking last time about 9/11, religious belief and fake news in relation to William Clifford’s 1877 evidence principle:

…it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

Clifford’s principle has come in for a lot of stick over the years from those who saw it as too ‘scientistic’ – ie coming from ‘an exaggerated belief in the principles and methods of science’.

11 September 2001 attacks on New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty
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Fake news and the ethics of belief

First in a series.

On 15 December 2020 I finally graduated with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. My thesis was on the ethics of belief. It was finished at the end of 2019 and submitted in January. In September I heard the final version had been accepted.

In this Covid year the graduation ceremony was of course a virtual rather than physical event. Even if it had been a physical event I may not have attended in person as we had returned to the UK in 2016.

University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town, Upper Campus
By Adrian Frith – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
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The hedgehog and the fox

This follows Sir Isaiah Berlin in a series of
posts on Isaiah Berlin’s The hedgehog and the fox.
The first was Hedgehogs and foxes.

We were talking about Isaiah Berlin. As an undergraduate I had to get to grips with his thoughts on ‘Verification’ and ‘Empirical Propositions and Hypothetical Statements’, blissfully unaware that he had also written about foxes and hedgehogs. Continue reading

I Believe I Can Fly

Clifford William KingdonThanks to leisureguy I came across a welcome affirmation that, despite ‘t internet, AI, fake news, Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica and what have you, William Clifford’s 1877 The Ethics of Belief is still being read and taken seriously today.

This is good as I’m desperately close to finishing a PhD on Clifford, The Ethics of Belief and William James. Continue reading