Take a Leap of Faith

Feb 29

Pick your Professor

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. 

We have three main learning goals for this day. You will:

  1. Understand the relationship between belief and the will, contrasting doxastic voluntarism with doxastic involuntarism
  2. Compare James’s approach to faith and doubt with Pascal’s pragmatism and Descartes’ foundationalism
  3. Explain what is meant by the “ethics of belief” and identify James’s three criteria for an ethical “leap of faith”
  4. Defend your own position on the question of whether pragmatic arguments for truth are rational or responsible.

Read This:

PrimaryInteractive Essay: The Will to Believe (William James)

Secondary: A Pragmatic Faith

Do This:


  • After you’ve finished today’s reading, make sure you complete the reading quiz, which you can access through your section’s Canvas page.

Suggested: How do doubts impact your spiritual life? How do you feel when you’re uncertain about your religious beliefs? If you’re religious, have you ever considered bringing these questions to prayer?

Watch This: