thumbnail of Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The will to believe: William James, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It means something to know that the world should be one way rather than another. And so it matters to us that we should believe one way rather than another. In other words where affected by more than simple rational and evidential strength we're driven by feeling and by concern and we have all the power and emotional pride for surrendering certain belief in a general. Why perhaps we're obliged to care more about truth than about any given proposition being true in a way. We have often a greater commitment to morality and now than we have any given actual thing. Nevertheless that plainly true that is part of being human. That the content of our belief and thought the content of our world. Given that we believe as we do should matter and what
we find out on the borderline. Now I'm James Hattori. The difference to me of a belief being true. Well if the central concern of Jim or it is if you wish in response to which Jayne in TA philosophy may be taken and generated want to defer to me to make a difference and that led him to it according to certain beliefs should be true and have a factor in making that belief true in which case our passionate nature would in a fact not be an impotent in the fabric of the event but would contribute to the pattern which was being woken. Now let's perform at this
time. I kind of thought it meant let's imagine to have a community of rational intelligent who's a friend to a proposition would be exactly proportionate to the GRI of evidence available to them. And that degree of strength of evidential strength and for social the degree of their affluent they would believe whatever they were obliged by the canon of rationality to believe and believe whatever they would be obliged to do believe and I would suspend judgment where neither believe nor do I believe were obligatory. That would be like whether they. Turning the video with shift in the wind automatic and mechanical indicator of the ship and direction in the current evidence in fact the
world changes in evidence would mean changes in believe there would be no reason. And indeed the distinction between hard. And real would go live every cough would be a reason for a bully. The only Corps allowed would be Rush but a matter of evidence. There would then be no hard before believe think what it would not rush to believe the inhabitants of that imaginary community would always do what they want to do and would never do what they ought not to do. The morality of belief would constitute if you wish. The law of nature for that community. If you are rational intelligent. It would be very like categorical imperative in the domain of rational belief.
Having come through. Now suppose we brought to you the laws of nature for that community of television and the moral system which specified our ability with regard to belief duty which we know we ought to perform but which we cannot automatically perform because of contrary and or moral weakness of one or another thought. But the customary view in morality and there often is a conflict in morality between inclination and obligation and the will is not always as Plato recognized in his moral phycologist the ally and executive or of relief. And now you might say that if you were inspired you might say let live and go. We were members of that community of rational intelligent. Let us be evidential
think. Such an attitude passed in James time and the effort to leave according to what it was immoral to believe anything for which we had insufficient evidence him or to believe anything except what we ought to believe him or to believe anything other than what we believe it to. Never quite fundamental to you would have an analog in terms of morality whatever is not obligatory. It's from something like you find out it leaves out of account that vast body of things which neither are obligatory nor are forbidden but which are merely permitted. We're being limited in the fine if you wish. In terms of not being forbidden and not being obligatory with the it's up
to us whether or not we do. And in the domain of belief. Well that body will come from both propositions with respect to wit the pure intelligence. My experiment of a moment ago would have to suspend judgment because it's not obligatory to believe the evidence would not cause offense to the proposition. And with those creatures there is there are no which are not read. If they have no reason to believe nothing to be in it here that we differ with our car differ from reason. And the question I put before you is the way a right to believe what we're to believe. One we
have and defined an evidential term. Either no reason or no good reason for believing as we do and where unless we can gripe to that fundamental question that if a belief is not obligatory it's forbidden. We have no obligation no belief. Well bookmarked action James has replied to that. Which of course we do have to write a lot of for a moment to see whether in things James is saying that we're morally entitled to anything we want to hold so long as not believing is not obligatory. I want you to think for a moment of what the expression the will to believe me. I think myself that the conjunction of the two words will and belief will strike a puzzling not because there is the mere morality of believing which is an issue.
The implication of joining these two terms is that we may not believe what we will so that what we believe is the Latin word for Will is out there. But there is in addition a psychological question of whether we can have psychological believe we will and I don't believe we can consider any proposition which just as a matter of fact you don't at the moment believe not to believe that proposition. Even with proposition you might want to believe her in all likelihood you can't get yourself to believe it by trying to believe. It's why I try to forget the thing as a matter of vision. We do forget but not by writing to forget and we do believe but not by the thought of a certain thing would
give a great comfort if we believed them. For example. But China is our great ally. The thing burned with not can for of the planet was live the north pole waving Christmas. We can bring to it. But you can't leave things if you don't believe them. In part because you would in the end of conflict have to give up many other belief in order to receive them. The whole world I should would have to be very different for you in order that any of those beliefs could be held by you for truth. I mean your world would have to be a different world. In order for you to hold beliefs true. And the difficulty of the fighting to believe things would be matched by the difficulty of the fighting not to believe the other thing. With with the desired proposition is so painfully
incompatible. Because beliefs are not isolated I think they form part and believe it over which a matter of internal conflict is super into and inserting a new but conflicting a belief into such a system is often complicated. As for example putting a new organ and to a body which will often blindly reject it because of an alien intrusion. So it might seem a mere consideration of the matter but we in fact have very little option over what we believe. The belief that the answer to the from the will and dramatic case to accept a new proposition is to undergo a transformation of the world and a transformation of your thought. In other words we efficiently are identical with the belief that we hold.
But when we when they change it we change and believe it can amount to a change in identity. After example think of a change undergone by saw when he became pope and that entails. Since we're constrained to believe the world to be the way we believe in a change in the world as we've lived it didn't merely think he will be different. When he got thrown from the horse on the road to Damascus the world became different. But crime should be a god rather than a minor political it's not just another fact one happens to learn virtually very no. Now that you dramatize it but in minor way I want it happen whenever I believe change.
We have some control but it's perhaps more conspicuous that our beliefs control rather than the other way round. What we believe we can't help holding them and I've been thinking to underscore the thing the impotent the in the well with regard to believe in this regard then believing in a passion. And it's hardly to be wondered at the control who believe should be treated in action moral literature and with peace with the control of the passion. If it were not hard to believe. But to control the belief which requires so far rival nothing could've been further from James mind then than the idea that I may believe that I will or that might believe should respond from my will. The expression the will to believe is the
German of what we would call a drive the white hunger and love drive. I thought the German and because of the will is a very German kind of expression. You find in nature for example in the expression the will to power. We don't have but we are willpower. We are energy directed outward. Existing through our domination in a perfectly unknown and we have to remember the nature were almost exact contemporaries. I'm Jame you it's not so much that we have but that we are there to be a complet of affirmation and a repudiation and that view which if correct would explain the respect in which to change one's belief is in a measure to change one's oneself and one's world.
Now the character was not given the will to believe it will be as much the case with my community of pure rational intelligent as it is with our. Life. I can't help believing they do believe except that they believe only what they believe. Providing that what one ought to believe is a function only of evidence and of differential evidential strength. And now what we have to do with Africa. Well whether the night of being a pure rational intelligent caused by reason or what would be reason to believe as well as one does believe is an awful desirable way to be in the domain of belief or way to to that think if we wish to be morally and perhaps will believe.
The pure rational intelligent I've defined in my view not through the con but on the back of how they come to be how. Indeed the national intelligence must be indifferent to what they believe and have been different indifferent to how the world can only whether the belief he hold whatever the content are how justifiably. And between competing propositions he is much in defy his will to believe going to suspension when the evidence doesn't incline spontaneously in one rather than another. Only when the evidence incline to his inclination and then only upon that proposition which is the correct
proposition to favor in that regard. Very unlike us for what characterizes often not simply that we typically don't believe but that we care. About the content of our belief and we reach for our belief to the world and not to our object we care about the way the world is. Its neutrality and different possible world. Which by contrast cash prizes the pure rational intelligence by not caring in whatever way the world should be. Now James has at this point a most interesting proposal. I suppose that our wanting a certain proposition to be true should inform K contributors to the truth of that proposition
so that if we didn't care. That would have meant that the proposition in question wouldn't have come true then for that proposition. The very structure and content of the universe will depend upon our holding certain beliefs and this is as much so for the pure rational intelligent as it is for us. By have not caring which way the world is by only caring that he not rationally believe the world to be from Y and which it isn't he by default contributes as much to shaping the universe. By restraining from believe itself and believing as we contribute to it by not praying for it. Such a proposition and there are perhaps many take positions in effect to take and
then every option regarding B is a fourth option. James right in a fundamental rationality as follows belief as measured by action. Not only done. But must continually outstrip scientific evidence and the truth whose reality belief is a factor of 100 confront and the truth is not only lit and pertinent financial and in the open the drill cannot become true. And right now that makes you which is the crux. Perhaps this one we care. That a certain proposition partly I believe be true. Have the world of the object not the fact that we happen to believe the
proposition. I mean typically we don't care that we hold certain beliefs so much as we want to believe we hold the truth. If we merely care about holding the belief then we should be willing to undergo the following routine to provide a drug. Which again that we shouldn't believe anything. We live. To be I mean it wouldn't make the world it would just make our brotherhood want to believe that I'm a millionaire. With a lot to be lived with a worn out the saddle on the bridge with mad about me. I know that if I take the drop off and really believe the proposition and I see the world through the lens of those believe I think our
comfortable one would feel holding those beliefs. But comfort not with standing. We could not I think take a drug. For our concern of not to be comfortable with the beliefs we hold but comfortable only with the beliefs we hold true. That's why the pure rational intelligence remains in so far a paradigm for the concern of not in the content of what he believe it but only in the likelihood of what he believes being true and half of the world should be as little different from his representation of it as evidence will permit. So when we believe a proposition true we cannot will believe differently than we do. For that would be to change the very confident belief it believed would become a mere thetan and in some measure that explains how to revolve again. Such things through brainwashing were man of home to believe what
isn't and what he didn't believe. It's the horror as well of what we read and not before where the hero broke up and swing like an abandoned well. When my in the face with no consideration how did hearing one way or another in the morality of what it matter whether we care or not. True. I care that the members of my family should not be you know my caring doesn't affect the truth of my beliefs. Now the pressures that arise. From initial doubt upon James the belief is a factor as well. In fact let me show you how. I suppose I
believe in knowing out now that I much prefer that to the world and so to believe that it snowing out is to believe that it's true that it's snowing out but that means I must regard it snowing out as a complete and in so far that I don't regard it as a fact accompli I don't believe that the proposition is true. But so far I don't believe it true. I don't believe it. Period. No it is a complete and accomplished fact something that really then it follows that I can't and no one can do anything about it. For suppose something could be done about it want to suppose it not effect a complete and then argued Intel but I can't hold the corresponding belief so to believe that a
proposition to believe the proposition is to believe that nothing can be done regarding that which makes it true and to believe that something can be done regarding what makes it true. If not to believe the proposition in thought women how can Jamie can lay a third to the belief contribute to make the proposition true for he who believe the proposition is true. If one person in the world take any steps toward making it through it being a fair accompli. In his mind if anything the belief of the true would serve to inhibit any that being with regard to that property. Mission on the part of him thought James theory by that argument seemed so cool. And similarly the concept of chance no longer in
America makes a great deal that the Fed accompli. But if I'm a rational I know that it's a fact accompli there's nothing I can do about it past outside my power. I have no recourse. They have to accept it. To stand by if you wish in resolution for what the good of my care any longer. The time for caring being you is past when that which I care about is the first to complete. So James you have to think is appeal to the fact it can seem in the light of those logical configuration to be slightly dated slightly heroic. Quite irrelevant. Nevertheless the argument presented Holmes I believe just what we need in order to. That was Jamie.
I can believe that what I do. Mike's a difference to the world. Only if I believe the world itself is not a fact accompli. And if I believe it then I am constrained to believe that I am impotent to change the world. So if I believe that I'm not impotent to change the world then I'm a fool who believes that the world is not completely a fact accomplished. Now of course I should suppose the world not to be a factor come play in film think I'm impotent to change it but live merely on the other. If I blame I'm not impotent to alter the world I must regard the world as all possible and hence not affect accompli and hence open as to whether some propositions are false or true.
Now consider the proposition. The world is not a fact accompli. And secondly we make a difference to how the world is regarding this. What if you were a rational intelligent to decide. Let's remember that we're dealing here with the problem. Of the freedom of the will and the problem of faith and of logical determined. I believe it's not an inconsiderate answer to our question regarding no to the proposition that the evidence cannot incline rationally in one direction or another for it must by now be clear that any evidence in support of one side in that ancient controversy can be matched by equally compelling evidence for the other. And that every article on the one side equally compelling argument
on the other. So the pure raw intelligence is obliged to be neutral. However. In the prop of the universe and that we are impotent. To be an after all pragmatic to be fatal and so forth. What then if I believe these irrational beliefs and rationality have been defined. But if I believe the universe is not of I in effect and the universe and if I believe that it similarly affected play. It's my nature that I'm not able to change my nature. I catch my nature which is the nature of Adore
and of a change or of a free agent and of a modifier. Thank you sir. Of you have heard Arthur de Danto Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University as he spoke on the topic. William James and the will to believe this was another program in the series. Peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. On our next program Joseph Campbell professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College will discuss the philosophical concepts of creativity in the Orient. These programs originate at the Cooper Union in New York City and are recorded by radio station WNYC. The programs are made available to the station by the national educational radio network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
The will to believe: William James, part two
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-m03xxq3c).
Episode Description
This program presents the second part of a lecture by Arthur Danto, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Danto, Arthur C., 1924-2013
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-23 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:39
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The will to believe: William James, part two,” 1968-05-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 9, 2023,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The will to believe: William James, part two.” 1968-05-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 9, 2023. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The will to believe: William James, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from