Religious Studies


Practical considerations and evidence in James's permission to believe


Department of Philosophy and Religion, The University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Drive # 5015, Hattiesburg, Mississippi 39406, USA e-mail:


Philosophers often read ‘The will to believe’ as defending the substitution of non-epistemic reasons for inadequate epistemic reasons. I contend that a more charitable reading of James's argument is to understand him as proposing a contextualist account of the kind of evidence needed for responsible believing. On my reading, James claims that evidential support that might be insufficient in a purely theoretical context may be good enough when there is a pressing need to decide on a course of action.