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Using the prompt below, write an essay.
Prompt: Is it rational to believe something when you do not have sufficient evidence? Explain and evaluate your position.
There is a substantive debate on whether it is rational to believe in something when there is no sufficient evidence. According to evidentialists, it is deemed irrational for an individual to believe in anything without backing it up with evidence (Horwich 65; Sepielli 529). They argue that evidence should form the basis of a good reason for believing is anything. According to Clifford, the belief in something without sufficient evidence is not only irrational but also immoral (Schoenfield 211). Clifford opined that any belief that is not backed up with evidence constitutes a sin against humankind.
Further, it is irrational to believe in anything without sufficient evidence. To illustrate this assertion, people have peddled rumors around the world about particular phenomena without providing evidence. In most cases, people tend to believe in these rumors without seeking evidence in support of them (Horwich 65). In this regard, it is imperative that people should seek for evidence before they can accept what they are being told (Schechter 431). The belief in rumors has left many people needlessly harmed (Lord 452). According to Clifford, a belief is a power to act. It is worth noting that actions are often public and as such, beliefs are public too. Accordingly, anything that is public and has an effect on other people merits moral evaluation (Schoenfield 211). It is critical that the moral of beliefs ought to be evaluated regarding its content (Laird and Katherine 30; Schroeder 241). Additionally, it is important to evaluate how beliefs are acquired; whether justly acquired or not. Some studies have argued that belief in something without evidence can be equated to a person who steals something that does not belong to him/her. As such, the only that can entitle an individual to his/her power of belief is sufficient evidence (Lasonen?Aarnio 333).
The belief in anything without sufficient evidence perpetuates intellectual laziness superstition as far investigation is concerned. It is a fact that intellectual laziness and superstition will adversely affect other people (Lord 457). Additionally, the culture of superstition breeds the tacitly endorse one’s belief for everybody in the society. It is imperative to note that beliefs often form the basis of actions. In this light, beliefs have enormous consequences socially. Morally acquired beliefs are relevant because morality defines behavior (Schechter 433). The fact that people believe in something without evidence denies the society the engine of inquiry (Sepielli 529; Lord 457). The motivation for human beings to find answers is the realization that we do not have the answers. Lack of appropriate answers stops the progression of science and mankind (Laird and Katherine 30). According to James, a belief is desecrated in circumstances where it is given to unquestioned and unproved statements to meet personal pleasure of a believer (Schechter 435; Laird and Katherine 30). It is the duty of humanity to guard themselves against beliefs without sufficient evidence (Lasonen?Aarnio 333; Horwich 69). It is morally wrong always, everywhere and everybody to believe in something without having sufficient evidence.
Having examined the importance of believing in anything with sufficient evidence, it is imperative to note there are inherent problems in sustaining this argument. In my point of view, sufficient evidence may not be easy to determine given various factors that impact on the reasoning of individuals (Lord 457). The first problem is the determination of what constitutes sufficient evidence. It is worth noting that even the evidentialists have challenges in gauging the amount of evidence required for an individual to believe in anything (Lasonen?Aarnio 336). The second problem has to do with knowing when a person has sufficient evident (Schechter 431; Horwich 65). I must opine that knowing exactly when a person has sufficient evidence to believe in anything is a difficult measure. Another challenge that is associated with locating sufficient evident is deciphering whether it is an objective or subjective relation (Lasonen?Aarnio 337; Schoenfield 211). Lastly, the question of sufficient evidence raises issues such as whether it contributes to ultimately unjustified or infinite regression evidence.
There are arguments that when a belief is based on rationality, the belief is deemed to be consistent and founded on real evidence. The belief ought to be consistent at all times and backed with sufficient evidence failure to which it becomes a fallacy (Schechter 432). Furthermore, beliefs that are based on reason, the amount, and quality of such evidence are adjudged to be proportionate to the vitality of the evidence (Lord 460). It suffices to point out that virtually every person has a belief that may have been founded reasonably and rationally or not. It is vital to note that people are often free to make their minds (Horwich 65; Sepielli 527; Schoenfield 216). This is achieved when people decide to gather evidence according to their reasoning.
In many circumstances, people tend to believe in what they simply hope to be true. For instance, if I tell my friend that Jesus Christ is coming back tomorrow, he is bound to believe somehow because it is something that he has been hoping to achieve. The belief is therefore influenced by the Scriptures as contained in the holy books. According to an argument put forward James in his essay “The Will to Believe” that it is permissible for an individual to believe in anything if the belief will contribute to success (Schechter 431; Lord 458). For example, a student preparing for his/her end semester exam can believe that the results will be favorable. In this case, it is not mandatory that an individual possesses sufficient evidence.
In conclusion, the ensuing debate on whether it is imperative to always back up every belief with sufficient evidence is substantive. Ideally, it is paramount that people believe in something that they have sufficient evidence. In real life situation, believing in rumors without establishing sufficient evidence contributes to broken relationships. However much it is permissible in some cases to believe without sufficient evidence, individuals ought to gather some facts about such phenomena. In a nutshell, it is imperative that people should believe in something only when they have sufficient evidence.
Horwich, Paul. Probability and evidence. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Laird, James D., and Katherine Lacasse. "Bodily influences on emotional feelings: Accumulating evidence and extensions of William James’s theory of emotion." Emotion Review 6.1 (2014): 27-34.
Lasonen?Aarnio, Maria. "Higher?Order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88.2 (2014): 314-345.
Lord, Errol. "The real symmetry problem (s) for wide-scope accounts of rationality." Philosophical Studies 170.3 (2014): 443-464.
Schoenfield, Miriam. "Permission to believe: Why permissivism is true and what it tells us about irrelevant influences on belief." Noûs 48.2 (2014): 193-218.
Schechter, Joshua. "Rational self-doubt and the failure of closure." Philosophical Studies 163.2 (2013): 429-452.
Schroeder, Mark. "Knowledge is belief for sufficient (objective and subjective) reason." Oxford studies in epistemology 5 (2015): 226-52.
Sepielli, Andrew. "What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do…." Noûs 48.3 (2014): 521-544.
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