The Pragmatic Dimension of the So-Called Clifford’s Thesis

Keywords: W.K. Clifford, W. James, ethics of belief, pragmatism, the authority of tradition


The main aim of this paper is to scrutinize William Kingdon Clifford’s ethical evidentialism and to defend it against the criticism formulated by pragmatist thinkers. Clifford famous thesis states: “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Clifford’s argumentation for this thesis, which fits into 19th century positivist epistemology, consciously included pragmatist elements which defy the classical pragmatist criticism of its supposed radicality. Additionally, it seems that contemporary pragmatists accounts support normative intuitions that backed up Clifford’s account of ethics of belief, proposed almost 150 years ago. The latter includes a normative-ethical argument for the grounds of epistemology.

Author Biography

Adam Dyrda, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland

Dr. habil. Adam Dyrda, Prof. at UJ — Jagiellonian University, Faculty of Law and Administration, Department of Theory of Law


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