Philosophy Essay

Question

Recall Clifford’s evidentialist argument from Module 2 and contrast Clifford’s position with one of the nonevidealist positions encountered in either Module 5 or Module 6. Decide which position, evidentialism or nonevidentialism, more closely aligns with your own point of view and argue for that position.

Answer

Evidentialism vs Nonevidentialism Analysis

Contents

Thesis. 1

Argument 1

Objection. 2

Response. 3

Conclusion. 3

Works Cited. 4

Thesis

It is better to live life believing in something than to live it believing in nothing at all. In believing, one may either choose evidentialism or nonevidentialism. The philosophy of evidentialism is founded on the adherence to sufficient evidence in proving the existence of something, while nonevidentialism encompasses situations in which an individual may choose to believe in something based on conviction regardless of whether or not there is enough evidence supporting the belief (Fieldman and Conee 15). This paper takes both accounts into consideration based on the beliefs of W. K. Clifford and those of Blaise Pascal before taking a stand. Based on this analysis, I believe in nonevidentialism.

Argument

W. K. Clifford, a British mathematician and philosopher of the late 1800s, believed that believing something on insufficient evidence is ethically wrong (Pojman, Rea and Solomon 498). He believed that there is an ethical dimension to everything, beliefs included. In supporting his argument, Clifford gave the classic example of the question of religion in a society. He narrated that once upon a time, in one island, a rumor started spreading that some inhabitants had a very different doctrine and that they taught these doctrines to their children through means that were uncalled for. Soon, the islanders started rioting in order to make their accusations known to everyone. The riots became so serious that a commission of enquiry was appointed to investigate the matter after which the inhabitants were found innocent (Pojman, Rea and Solomon 499).

Based on this example, Clifford goes on to explain that it is clear that the islanders made their accusations based on insufficient evidence. They were quick to accuse the inhabitants because they felt threatened by their presence. Believing in something without sufficient evidence or for reasons that are unworthy ultimately leads to weakened powers of judicial justice, self-control and doubt (Van 17). According to Clifford, one must always seek to find out more about a situation or an individual before deciding on casting a stone (Pojman, Rea and Solomon 502). Therefore, believing is not wrong and neither is having a personal belief about something. What is wrong is believing without sufficient evidence as it may lead to very grave consequences.

Objection

Blaise Pascal on the other hand, a French mathematician and physician from the 1600s, believed that it is reasonable to believe something with or without supporting evidence (Pojman, Rea and Solomon 496). He based this argument on his faith, his Catholic religion and his belief that God exists. Taking the concept of infinity to heart, Pascal attempts to justify his argument by stating that it is self-evident that there are infinity numbers and that can be proven. It is also known that numbers can either be odd or even, a statement that can also be proven. However, no one can know for sure if infinity is odd or even and to say that it is either would certainly be false. Therefore, as humans, we believe in an infinity without knowing whether it odd or even.

In the same way, Christians believe that God exists. However, Christians do not know what He is and to insinuate that there is knowledge of what He is would be false. In other words, Christians believe in the existence of God without knowing His nature just like in the case of infinity for mathematicians. According to Pascal, one must make a choice on what to believe in, seeing as not picking a side is a choice in itself (Rinard 209). It is wrong, however, to reprove the individuals like himself who have chosen to believe in God. In his studies, Blaise Pascal makes it clear that when it comes to belief, there is an equal risk of either losing in gaining (Pojman, Rea and Solomon 497). The only difference, therefore, is that in gaining, one gains all but in losing, one loses nothing.

Response

As an individual, I am more inclined to support the belief of Blaise Pascal which is to say that I believe in nonevidentialism. The idea that one ought to gather sufficient evidence, beyond reasonable doubt may apply to the legal and justice system but not to all beliefs. I personally believe that it is better to believe in something than in nothing at all. In the same way, it is better to live life believing in something, a higher power in this case, and find out the belief was right or wrong later on than not to believe in the existence of a higher power and find out that there actually was one.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is imperative to note that both arguments may appear correct to one individual but incorrect to another. Clifford holds the opinion that it is inherently wrong to believe in something without sufficient evidence to prove it. Pascal, on the other hand, believes that one may put himself/herself in a position of believing in something without necessarily proving it or needing any proof altogether. Either way, the result is the same. The one who believes without evidence and the one who does so with sufficient evidence both stand to lose or gain something depending on the nature of the new evidence that may be generated in future.

Works Cited

Fieldman, Richard, and Earl Conee. “Evidentialism.” Philosophical studies, 48.1 (1985): 15-34. Print.

Pojman, Luis., Rea, Michael C. and Solomon, Robert C. Encountering the Real Faith and Philosophical Enquiry, 6th Edition. London: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

Rinard, Susanna. “Against the New Evidentialists.” Philosophical Issues, 25.1 (2015): 208-223. Print.

Van Inwagen, Peter. “Listening to Clifford’s Ghost.” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 65 (2009): 15-35. Print.

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