Here is a passage from James’s essay “The Will to Believe,” which UP@NIGHT recently learned was written in anticipation of the Philosophical Gourmet Report.
Mr. Balfour gives the name of “authority” to all those influences, born of the intellectual climate, that make hypotheses possible or impossible for us, alive or dead. Here in this room, we all of us believe in molecules and the conservation of energy, in democracy and necessary progress, in Protestant Christianity and the duty of fighting for “the doctrine of the immortal Monroe,” * all for no reasons worthy of the name. We see into these matters with no more inner clearness, and probably with much less, than any disbeliever in them might possess. His unconventionality would probably have some grounds to show for its conclusions; but for us, not insight, but the prestige of the opinions, is what makes the spark shoot from them and light up our sleeping magazines of faith. Our reason is quite satisfied, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of every thousand of us, if it can find a few arguments that will do to recite in case our credulity is criticized by some one else. Our faith is faith in some one else’s faith….**
*[and the Philosophical Gourmet Report,]
**William James, “The Will to Believe,” in Essays in Pragmatism (New York: Hafner Press, 1948) 93-94.