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The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays (Great Books in Philosophy) Paperback – May 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Great Books in Philosophy
  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573926914
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573926911
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,786,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
First, it is good that some of Clifford's essays are again in print, as they are important and very well written. If you want some of Clifford's essays from his out-of-print book LECTURES AND ESSAYS (aside from the justly famous "The Ethics of Belief"), this is your only choice, unless you want a used copy, which will probably be extremely difficult to find. Too bad, though, that Prometheus did not choose to reprint the entire first edition of LECTURES AND ESSAYS instead of this 'sampler'.
If, however, you are primarily interested in the essay "The Ethics of Belief" or the subject matter of belief, you would be far better off with a different book: THE ETHICS OF BELIEF: Essays by William Kingdon Clifford, William James, and A.J. Burger, edited by A.J. Burger, ISBN 1-93133-07-6 (paper) or 1-931333-08-4 (cloth). In that book, you get "The Ethics of Belief" based on the first edition (the Prometheus version is evidently NOT based on the first edition), complete and unabridged, with added explanatory material (ever wonder about Clifford's cryptic remarks about Spanish engineers? Burger provides an answer). You also can read James' more famous response (even though it is quite inferior to Clifford's essay) and Burger's interesting response to James. With Burger's book, you get the views of three writers on this important subject, instead of only one.
So, the bottom line is this: If you want some of Clifford's essays other than "The Ethics of Belief", buy this book. But if you are primarily interested in "The Ethics of Belief", then buy Burger's book instead.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By What's in a name? on December 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
William Kingdon Clifford is justly famous for his brilliant essay "The Ethics of Belief". In it, he argues for the conclusion that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." He does not merely assert this, and expect people to take his word for the matter (as many seem to imagine); he gives reasons for this position. Obviously, I will not be able to do justice to his argument in a brief review, but a condensed version is: What you believe affects your actions, and your actions affect others. As you are responsible for the effects of your actions on others, so, too, are you responsible for the effects of your beliefs on others. Therefore, you have no right to simply believe whatever you want to believe any more than you have a right to do whatever you want to do. You ought to act responsibly so as not to harm others, and to do so, you need to believe responsibly. Thus you need to be careful about what you believe. And that means that you need to have adequate reasons or evidence in favor of what you believe.

(To avoid possible confusion: Clifford was writing about ethics, not about law. Nothing Clifford states implies what would be illegal to believe; indeed, as one is supposed to believe according to the best evidence one has, it would be entirely inappropriate for someone to require a specific belief of others. After all, if you lack sufficient evidence for a belief, you should not have it.)

Clifford starts with an example of a shipowner who wants to believe his ship is safe and does not need expensive repairs, so he convinces himself that it really is safe, without giving it a proper inspection (or, in other words, without bothering with evidence).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sara Severyn on April 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Clifford is such a well-spoken, sensible, open-minded scholar. Everybody should read his works and imitate his ethical belief policy. I am very pleased with this purchase, this seller, and the rapid time in which I received this book.

IT IS WRONG ALWAYS, EVERYWHERE, AND FOR ANYONE, TO BELIEVE ANYTHING UPON INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. ~Clifford
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