Take a Leap of Faith

Wed, Mar 04

Maybe having good beliefs means sometimes believing even when there is not enough evidence either way?  In this session we will consider whether we have control over our beliefs and whether it is ever a good idea to believe something before the evidence has come in. We will take a close look at William James's pragmatic defense of "leaps of faith" when it comes to choosing forms of life.  By the end of class:

  1. You will understand the relationship between belief and the will, contrasting doxastic voluntarism with doxastic involuntarism.
  2. You will explain what is meant by the "ethics of belief".
  3. You will defend your own position on the question of whether pragmatic arguments for truth are rational or responsible.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: The Will to Believe (William James)


Theranos Has Struggled with Its Blood Tests (WSJ)

Interview with "Bad Blood" Author John Carreyrou (TechRepublic)

Do This:

Complete the following questions in your reflection journal:

  1. Explain the conditions under which James thinks it is rational to believe beyond the evidence.  Would Elizabeth Holmes meet these conditions in believing that her blood testing device would work?
  2. Have you ever taken a "leap of faith"?  Was it rational? Why or why not?  How would you define faith?

Watch This: