This introductory chapter discusses how William James' “The Will to Believe” has stimulated adverse criticisms, some of them fierce, as well as equally impassioned essays in defense. Philosophers naturally come at an essay of this sort with their own preoccupations, priorities, and methodological suppositions. One reason for the variety of criticisms and defenses of “The Will to Believe” is that critics and defenders are not always reading the same lecture, or reading it in the same way. Beyond that, the chapter shows that there are elements in James' argument to which almost none of them attributes the importance that they held for James himself.
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