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P.D. Magnus

Risk and Efficacy in 'The Will to Believe'

Directly about Jamesian pragmatism, indirectly about values in science.

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Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse have recently argued strenuously against James' permissivism about belief. They are wrong, both about cases and about the general issue. In addition to the usual examples, the paper considers the importance of permissiveness in scientific discovery. The discussion highlights two different strands of James' argument: one driven by doxastic efficacy and another driven by inductive risk. Although either strand is sufficient to show that it is sometimes permissible to believe in the absence of sufficient evidence, the two considerations have different scope and force.

The first on-line draft of this paper was posted 10aug2018.