To conclude the discussion, the author turns to James’s defense of the will to believe. Philosophers have tended to focus on the normative question of whether it is ever OK to adopt beliefs for pragmatic reasons. The “evidentialists” are prepared to criticize those who would resort to this sort of thing, and the intellectualists go further to argue that pragmatists are self-deceived. The author argues against these epistemic scolds. The social science of “positive illusions” confirms the coherence of James’s doctrine and provides an evidential basis for Bain’s theory of belief. Sometimes, we can ignore the evidence and believe what we want to believe knowing full well that this is what we are doing. The will to believe is real. Within limits, it can even be a good thing.
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