Your answers to each of these questions should be at least one paragraph (6-7 sentences) long, and it should show some thoughtful consideration regarding the matters raised in the questions. Your total set of answers to these questions needs to be at least 200 words. Also, when you reply to these questions, be sure to insert the letter for each question next to your answer corresponding to that question.
A. Clifford says this at one point:
And no one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone. Our lives our guided by that general conception of the course of things which has been created by society for social purposes. Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought, are common property, fashioned and perfected from age to age; an heirloom which every succeeding generation inherits as a precious deposit and a sacred trust to be handled on to the next one, not unchanged but enlarged and purified, with some clear marks of its proper handiwork. Into this, for good or ill, is woven every belief of every man who has speech of his fellows. A awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should help to create the world in which posterity will live (500).
Explain what Clifford is saying here in your own words, and explain how this supports Clifford’s view that we need evidence for all of our beliefs.
B. Clifford thinks that we need evidence for all of our beliefs in order to be rational. One of the main ways that he reaches this conclusion is by reflecting on one example involving a ship owner and the lessons that we can learn from it. What do you think about this argument? Do you think that Clifford has argued convincingly for the conclusion that we need evidence for all of our beliefs in order to be rational? Why or why not?
C. Often in the course of discussing Clifford, philosophers discuss the following example. Suppose that someone is diagnosed with cancer and told he or she only has three weeks left to live. However, suppose that this person refuses to believe she will die in three weeks even though the doctors tell him or her that this is what the evidence indicates. Suppose that, in the face of the evidence, the person believes that she will live longer than three weeks, and suppose that as a result of this belief this person in fact ends up living longer than three weeks. This sort of thing happens in the real world. Do you think that this person is rational or irrational in what he or she believes about living longer than three weeks, and do you think that this example shows that Clifford is wrong that we must have evidence for all of our beliefs to be rational?
D. Often in discussing Clifford, people reply by saying, “As long as your beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, it is rational to believe whatever you want even if those beliefs have no evidence.” Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
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