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William Clifford – the lust for the stupid

May 3, 2014

“He who truly believes that which prompts him to an action has looked upon the action to lust after it; he has committed it already in his heart. If a belief is not realized immediately in open deeds, it is stored up for the guidance of the future. It goes to make a part of that aggregate of beliefs which is the link between sensation and action at every moment of all our lives and which is so organized and compacted together that no part of it can be isolated from the rest, but every new addition modifies the structure of the whole. No real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is ever truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which may someday explode into overt action.”

(from ‘The Ethics of Belief’ [1877], which is printed in combination with WIlliam James’ response, ‘The Will to Believe’, and A. J. Burger’s commentary on both, in The Ethics of Belief)

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