W.K. Clifford

The Ethical Implications of Belief


“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for any one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”


A. Two Examples


1.  The Shipowner:


2.  Religious Persecution:


B. The Duties of believing


1. Belief requires evidence


2. Doubt requires investigation


3. Normative evaluation requires identifying the origin of belief (i.e., why do we believe what we believe?)


C. Believing and Acting – The social nexus


1. Actions are moral or immoral


2. Beliefs are the source of action (hence cannot be separated from moral consideration)


3. Belief/action is social:


a. Categorical duty of honesty (to all mankind)


b. Consequences of weak belief formation:

i. personal – weaken our power of rational investigation

ii. social – makes society credulous