Evidentialism is a thesis epistemology simply stating one is justified to believe about something if they have evidence supporting the said belief; it is, therefore, a thesis about justified beliefs and unjustified beliefs, while non-evidentialism, on the other hand, implies believing in something without necessarily having adequate evidence to support the existence of that belief (Pedersen et al.,1-24). This paper will cover evidentialist arguments by evidentialism philosopher W.K Clifford which he has outlined in his essay, the ethics of belief, and non-evidentialist discussion in the essay pascal’s wager and finally, conclude on the position of best suit according to my beliefs.
CLIFFORD’S EVIDENTIALIST ARGUMENT
In this argument, Clifford starts his discussion by entertaining sumptuously through an incident involving a ship owner who set to the sea with his order ship, which was desperate for repair. Despite noticing the bad shape of his ship and the need to repair the vessel, the ship owner went ahead, sending the ship to sea on an ill-fated voyage. The ship sunk in the middle of the sea, and all workers on board drowned to death. In this, the ship owner was to blame for the death of all crew members onboard because despite noticing the odds in his ship, he had no right to believe in the ship’s soundness, which was based on his conviction and experience of the past with the ship that she had in many time made safe previous journeys and with no incidences returned to the port.
Following Clifford, no evidence was present to tell the ship owner if he should or should not continue with the ship sailing. Furthermore, Clifford suggests that if the ship owner had assessed himself in foroconscientia, he could have noticed he was doing something wrong by sending allowing the ship out to the sea before first inspecting its odds and repairing them. Clifford continues with his argument and further distinguishes that the owner’s mistaken belief on the sturdiness of the ship was not wrong but the going with the ship to the sea without adequate evidence to support the worthiness belief of the ship.
In the evidentialist argument by Clifford, to support a belief, he urges that unless a belief holder is influenced by the belief to take action, in our case, to assess and repair the odds of the ship, one does not truly possess a belief at all. The argument is interesting as it reflects a piece of Kierkegaard’s existentialism argument, which indicates that one’s genuine or passionate belief is endured by action (Höffken et al.,197-214). Kierkegaard adds by suggesting that one lives his existence based on his inward passion through actions (Higgins et al.,). Clifford continues with his argument, proposing that if a person does not act upon the belief, it is stored with other beliefs for future guidance and finally will result in the explosion of action.
Kierkegaard and Clifford have similar but subtly different argument statements because Clifford does not agree with internal, inward, or private beliefs as Kierkegaard does. Still, he does predicate that the beliefs can be internalized for later use. Anyway, in the incident of the ship-owner, Clifford supposes that it’s wrong believing in inadequate evidence, and a person cannot enhance their belief by subduing their uncertainties and avoiding further investigations. Clifford’s argument shows that in one way or another, all beliefs influence our actions, action from beliefs with no evidence causes harm to the believer or others as beliefs are not personal or private, and lastly, believing anything without supporting or sufficient evidence is always wrong for anyone.
THE NON-EVIDENTIALIST ARGUMENT
In the article Pascal’s wager, we draw the non-evidentialist argument by Blaise Pascal. Blaise Pascal was a Christian philosopher whose main goal was to bring nonbelievers to God, and the wager has been considered the most infirm argument in philosophy against evidentialism. Despite this, if you get a better knowledge and understanding of Pascal and the periods he lived, the argument has more reasonable strength. During his time, the seventeenth-century intellectuals laughed, mocked, and ignored theology and medieval philosophy was no longer active. In these times of intense skepticism, the classic argument to prove the presence and existence of God did not prevail and was ignored as people turned on their deaf ears and mocked the philosopher. During this period, Pascal’s wager was written not to convince people about the existence of God but rather to make people consider against the prevailing belief of agnosticism, age, and power, the choice of contrary to or in opposition to Christianity or God (Nyman, Bill, 41). Pascal was sure that a wager like what he was proposing was nowhere near convincing and making people have mature and deep faith, but it was a first move and many people’s starting point that would reduce the number of atheists to a certain degree.
From Pascal’s wager, we can draw the following premise; there is a choice we can work with, and the choice can be either God is or God is not (Kreeft, Peter). If a personal belief accepts Pascal’s wager that there is God and chooses that he exists, in the end, discovering that indeed God does exist, he will have infinitely gained everything. On the other hand, if one’s choice is believing in God and his existence and later discovering that he does not exist, he has a finite loss, like entirely losing one’s mortal life since nothing else is present. If a person chooses not to believe in God and later discovers God does exist, the person neither wins nor stands to infinitely lose. And lastly, if one chooses not to believe in God and he does not exist, the person wins only the finite human mortal life and nothing more.
An evidentialist would argue against pascals wager that no one would defend either of Pascal’s propositions if they would have reasoned accordingly, and they would find at fault anyone who chose as, again, there is no justification of their beliefs. From the wager, agnostics of the time would argue that the only option is not to choose, not to wager. Blaise’s PascalPascal knew such questioning would develop, and to resolve this; he restated that there was no room for one not to choose; one must choose; this was a forced option, and not choosing was not part of the options.
From the two arguments, the non-evidentialism position attracts and relates to my belief system much better than evidentialism does because I do not believe that for one to have faith or form an opinion, one must necessarily have sufficient or hard evidence. In addition, I highly disagree that a belief held privately by a person can cause harm to them or other people around them. Inward passion is what forms my beliefs in religion and God, and this has motivated me to seek new ways and opportunities to richen as well as enhance my spiritual life and faith growth. As suggested by Kierkegaard and Pascal, I act out of my passion, in ways like involvement in my parish as a catechist and as a lay master and spreading and sharing with others my faith, not to sway them but rather to sow seeds, which will expectantly take root firmly, develop and grow within them. This mirrors Pascal’sPascal’s reasons for developing the wager. Beliefs such as religion, in my view, I feel and believe they are very personal and relationship-oriented and do not always need supportive evidence to enforce them. Also, there is a calling from God; they happen interiorly hence considered as mystical experiences; this is only to benefit me; no other being is required to believe or feel as I do, or even in my induvial experiences.
Higgins, Kathleen, Soren Kierkegaard, Louis Pojman, Michael Rea, Robert Solomon. Encountering the Real: Faith and Philosophical Enquiry. Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2013.
Höffken, Ole. “Mysticism of Experience, Faith in Communication: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.” Quietism, Agnosticism, and Mysticism. Springer, Singapore, 2021. 197-214.
Kreeft, Peter. The Argument from Pascal’s Wager. Web. 2014.
Nyman, Bill. “Pascal’s Wager and Its Postmodern Counterpart.” International Journal of Philosophy 10.1 (2022): 41.
Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding, and Luca Moretti. “Non-Evidentialist Epistemology: Introduction and Overview.” Non-Evidentialist Epistemology. Brill, 2021. 1-24.