A Jamesian Account of Faith

  • Zain Ali
Part of the Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion book series (PFPR)


Faith, according to William James, involves believing beyond the evidence. The plan for this chapter is to first articulate a prima facie case for the philosophical viability of the Jamesian account of faith. To this end, we will engage with James’s account in three distinct ways. We will begin with an outline of the Jamesian account and then outline the various arguments marshalled in defence of this account. The main thrust of our initial engagement with James is to argue: (a) that there are conditions which justify a venture beyond the evidence, and (b) that the conditions which justify such a ‘faith venture’ can also be met in everyday circumstances. A defence of these two claims lends weight to view that the Jamesian account is philosophically viable.


Religious Belief Religious Commitment Passional Inclination Prima Facie Case Passional Nature 
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  1. 2.
    John Bishop, ‘Faith as Doxastic Venture’, Religious Studies, 2002, 38(4): 474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 15.
    In addition, the works already cited, e.g., Bishop’s paper ‘Faith as Doxastic Venture,’ and his book Believing by Faith, there are two works that are relevant to assessing the viability of the Jamesian account of faith: the first is Anderi A. Buckareff, ‘Can Faith be a Doxastic Venture?’ Religious Studies, 2005, 41(4): 435–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. John Bishop, ‘On the Possibility of Doxastic Venture: A Reply to Buckareff’, Religious Studies, 2005, 41(4): 447–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 16.
    John Hick, Faith and Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), pp. 35–46.Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    This argument is inspired by Hick, who suggests that, ‘Belief in reality of Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, and of the non-personal Brahman, Dharmakaya, Tao, seem to be experientially well based as belief in the Holy Trinity...if only one of the many belief-systems based upon religious experience can be true, it follows that religious experience generally produces false beliefs, and that it is thus a generally unreliable basis for belief formation...’. See John Hick, ‘The Epistemological Challenge of Religious Pluralism’, Faith and Philosophy, 1997, 14: 277–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Zain Ali 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zain Ali
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AucklandNew Zealand

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