The Ethics Of Belief Clifford Analysis

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W. K. Clifford states in his essay The Ethics of Belief that it is immoral to hold beliefs that are based on insufficient evidence. He suggests that to hold such a belief is harmful to oneself as well as others. Not only is it immoral to form a belief on insufficient reason, but it is also immoral to keep a belief while ignoring doubts or avoiding an honest perspective on the belief. Clifford uses two stories as examples of instances where people immorally kept a belief and the outcome benefitted them while hurting those around them. The central idea of Clifford’s essay is that a belief is not morally correct because of the issue of right or wrong but rather if the belief had been founded on proper grounds or if it was entertained on improper …show more content…
The man knew his ship was not built well and not fit to transport people. To avoid the cost of getting the ship inspected and fixing any repairs the man convinced himself that ship was fine to sail. He told himself that she would make this journey and many others following. The ship inevitably sank with passengers on board and he was able to collect a check that reimbursed his property. The ship-owner’s moral responsibility for the deaths of those people is brought into question. While the ship-owner sincerely believed in the soundness of his ship, his belief in its seaworthiness was founded on the desire for profits and not on an actual inspection of the ship. Is the man’s guilt a consequence of the ship’s undesirable fate, or of his unwillingness to repair the ship? This begs a new question, can the consequent event of an antecedently act or belief determine the act’s morality? Clifford would assert that it is the antecedent act’s moral charge, not the consequence of it, that determines the morality of the entire sequence of events. Therefore since the man had no evidence to ground his belief in the ship’s soundness on, the sincerity of his belief cannot negate the immorality of his …show more content…
The central argument of the text is that a person is acting immorally when holding unsound beliefs whether or not they are caught in their beliefs. Building further on these beliefs or using them as a basis for other beliefs would be acting immorally as well. It is not the belief that is wrong but rather how one obtains the belief. It would also be immoral to continue to hold a belief while ignoring substantial evidence against said belief. Some people get so caught up in their beliefs that they are blind to investigating their belief for good reason. In the case of some people, emotions and thoughts control their beliefs and that overpowers the duty to find good reason. While it is wrong to hold an unsound belief it is also immoral to act on these beliefs, as the ship-owner did in the example. Once someone believes something their ability to evaluate the belief becomes harder. Clifford’s central idea that a belief is not morally correct because of the issue of right or wrong but rather if the belief had been founded on proper grounds or if it was entertained on improper grounds is displayed in the text through fictional

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