Religious Studies 29 (1):1 - 19 (1993)

‘The Will to Believe.’ The mere mention of this title cannot fail to elicit a reaction from philosophers. Written almost 100 years ago, it continues to intrigue, inspire, perplex and repel, often all in the selfsame reader. Few who make acquaintance with this robust and insightful lecture can remain neutral toward it. In 100 years there has been continuous debate about both the content of the argument and its merits. I will confess to being among those intrigued and inspired by this lecture of James's – and, until recently, also much perplexed by it. The sources of my intrigue have been its guiding insights: that living is choosing in the midst of uncertainty; that in pressing cases, waiting for evidence is no escape from risk; and that believing can create certain truths. The sources of my inspiration have been its vibrant presence and its gallant call to courage. But the main source of my perplexity was the shape of the argument itself: Just what was James's case here? What was the conclusion? What were the premises? Off and on, I pondered the matter for years without resolution, and it was only after I abandoned the very frame of the question that I found a way out of my puzzlement. What I have come to see is that James is not pressing toward one key conclusion in ‘The Will to Believe’. There are two, the second far bolder, far more sweeping than the first. What makes this especially difficult to see is that James himself nowhere acknowledges it. Indeed, he expressly disavows the second conclusion, and this for good reason: The two conclusions are incompatible. In what follows, I want first to take you to the source of my problem in understanding James's classic lecture, then to explain to you why my two-argument theory seems its unavoidable if inelegant resolution. Finally, I want to turn to the properly philosophical task. I want to inquire into the truth of his more sweeping claim
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DOI 10.1017/S0034412500022009
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The Morality of Faith in Martin Buber and William James.Samuel Breslauer - 2017 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 82 (2):153-174.

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