Ethics of Belief

“Belief, that sacred faculty which prompts the decisions of our will, and knits into harmonious working all the compacted energies of our being, is ours not for ourselves, but for humanity…It is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements, for the solace and private pleasure of the believer; to add a tinsel splendour to the plain straight road of our life and display a bright mirage beyond it; or even to drown the common sorrows of our kind by a self-deception which allows them not only to cast down, but also to degrade us.” (Page 5, Paragraph 2)

Clifford’s argument, written in standard form
P1: Entertaining a belief without sufficient evidence or investigation will lead to negative results that the party who held the belief is always responsible for.
P2: If someone entertains an untrue belief but holds that belief after thorough investigation, they have the right to hold that untrue belief.
P3: A belief without sufficient evidence can be spread to other unknowing beings and therefore that invalid belief becomes widespread.
C: It is wrong to hold and act on a belief without sufficient evidence period.

Clifford’s argument is valid so long as his premises are valid: everyone is responsible for their beliefs and the investigation of them thereof, an untrue belief that has been investigated is more likely to be accepted as valid, and an untrue belief can be widespread regardless of investigation. This lack of investigation can have negative outcomes on both the responsible party and those s/he spreads this belief unto. Therefore the conclusion that a belief based on insufficient evidence is indeed valid.

By that same reasoning, Clifford’s argument is also sound as both the premises and conclusion have logical validity. Believing something without any evidence to back it up leads to an ignorance that can be spread to the collective. Upon that ignorance spreading, the collective no longer holds any power because their beliefs can be questioned and proved invalid.

There are no fallacies to be found within Clifford’s argument. A widespread and unfounded belief could easily be the undoing of a society.

Word Count: 349


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