The Ethics Of Belief By William Clifford: The Moral Obligation To Justify Your Beliefs

794 words - 4 pages

It is crucial that every belief must be thoroughly explored and justified to avoid any future repercussions. Clifford provides two examples in which, regardless of the outcome, the party that creates a belief without comprehensive justification ends up at fault. It is possible to apply the situations in The Ethics of Belief to any cases of belief and end up with the conclusion that justification is of utmost importance. Justifying beliefs is so important because even the smallest beliefs affect others in the community, add to the global belief system, and alter the believer moral compass in future decisions.
Clifford believes that it is a moral requirement that beliefs are justified in order to minimize the chance that an incorrect belief will affect other people. In the case of the ship-owner, who sent out his old emigrant ship based solely on the fact that he was able to suppress his doubts, killed every family looking for a better future. His unjustified belief had minimal effects on his business, but destroyed the lives of many families, due to his negligence in getting the ship repaired. Clifford argues that even if the ship had arrived safely, the ship owner is still guilty of not justifying his belief because once an action has occurred; it is “right or wrong forever” (Clifford). The only difference would be he would not have found out about his misdoings. His decision to convince himself that his ship would not fail him served two purposes: saving his enterprise money and easing his mind if anything were to happen to the people aboard his ship. In the second example, the unjustified accusations against, “individual citizens of the highest position and character” (Clifford), hurt their professional lives. The accusations were not only wrong, but the accusations could have been easily avoided, as the information pertaining to their innocence was easily acquirable. The accusers, who were heavily biased, chose not to justify their actions, which resulted in the misled, hurting accusations. In the converse situation, even if the accusers had been correct, it is still required to justify the beliefs to squash any doubts and to base their accusations in truth. Clifford proves the fact that even small beliefs can affect the lives of many people because the society is by definition a cluster of people who rely on each other for their overall...

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