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The Will to Believe – Philosophy Essay (Critical Writing)


Often we are faced with a situation where we are supposed to believe in some facts which are put forward by others either theoretically or through written documents. The presenters of these ideas will, in most cases, want us to believe without doubt that whatever they have is the truth and should be taken as such.

They try to give evidence supporting their position, but not everybody will be convinced enough with this evidence therefore prompting a different view. Different people may look at the same issue differently depending on their personal judgment and available facts. People should weigh the available evidence supporting a theory before having faith on the same and try to be as objective as possible.

Subject Matter

The article explores the possibility of a person being wrong about an idea which he/she actually believes is correct. People should be left on their own will to decide whether they want to believe in something or not. According to the author, the nature of an individual and volition influences inferences made; therefore it is impossible to state categorically that one could be absolutely objective.

That the truth exists in the world is an indisputable fact to everyone. There are two categories of people as depicted in the article: the absolutists who believe that the truth can actually be recognized the when it is found, and the empiricists who argue that though the truth exists, it is not obviously recognizable when it is found (James par 7). There is debate whether intellect and pure reason on one side, or the will on the other should be applied when choosing what to believe.

Notably, we believe in various theories because the community compels us to do so, and in many instances we decide to follow experimental outcomes instead of logic. Incidentally, by choosing to restrict ourselves in one line of thought, we often rely only on those theories that support our opinion, “As a rule we disbelieve all facts and theories for which we have no use” (James par 12). We are therefore exhorted to ensure that there is enough evidence to enable us to believe in whatever we want to believe in.

Author’s Opinion

In the article, the author chooses to agree with the empiricists on their argument of continuous search for the truth. Everybody has an argument for and against a certain theory, because though the truth exists to be certain when it is found can be complex idea.

The total rejection of the Aristotelian logic by the Hegelians is an example to support this (James par 18). As the article depicts, a theory with several points supporting its truth, can have almost an equivalent number of criticisms. We should therefore believe in nothing until enough evidence has been provided.

Personal Position

On one hand, am in agreement with the author that empiricism is the better way to go, since existence of truth is not that open that one can say with certainty that this is the truth. Discoveries are made time and again, this sometimes change what people have known to be true for centuries. On top of that, there is nothing like objective evidence in the world, given that our intellect or non intellect character affects our judgment.

In many instances, as it can be seen from the article, people will want to believe or have faith in a certain issue just on the reason that others have faith in the same depicting a lot of subjectivity. James clearly brings out the idea of subjectivity by saying, “As a matter of fact we find ourselves believing, we hardly know how or why” (par 11). On the other hand, I disagree with his position that we believe in nothing until we have enough evidence, because what he labels as enough evidence is subjective hence varies from one person to another (James par 14).

Furthermore, other facts of the world for example the existence of God cannot have more evidence than what is already known, simply put by James “You must either believe or not believe that God is” (par 6). Besides, it is important to note that as a human being one cannot believe in nothing at all as that would mean doubting even the existence of an individual.

Importance of the Article

The article is timely to open our minds so that we can join in the search for the truth which according to the author surely exists. It is also beneficial as it encourages people not to trust in anything just because it has been said, but analyze to see whether there is evidence warranting one to believe in the same. The article acts as an eye opener, by cautioning those who like taking issues as they are presented that everybody has his / her own arguments.

While it is imperative to take caution before believing in anything, the article does not clarify the rules to follow in deciding what is not true, hence everybody can negate an idea if the person believes there is enough evidence to do so. The author would like people to apply logic over experiments, but does not explain what should be done in cases where experiment is the only way of determining the truth.


Everyone is subject to personal judgments when making conclusions in any analysis which makes objectivity hard to come by. In conjunction with that, it is not a rule that we should agree with everything somebody puts across, rather we should scrutinize whether the ideas are worthy believing. Consequently, to have faith in anything is by choice, but we should keep in mind that the truth about everything exists somewhere.

Works Cited

James, William. “”. New World, June 1896.

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IvyPanda. (2020, April 28). The Will to Believe - Philosophy. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-will-to-believe-philosophy/

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"The Will to Believe - Philosophy." IvyPanda, 28 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-will-to-believe-philosophy/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Will to Believe - Philosophy." April 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-will-to-believe-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. "The Will to Believe - Philosophy." April 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-will-to-believe-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "The Will to Believe - Philosophy." April 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-will-to-believe-philosophy/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Will to Believe - Philosophy'. 28 April.

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