1st Edition

Religious Belief and the Will

By Louis P. Pojman Copyright 1986
    274 Pages
    by Routledge

    Can we ever achieve belief by a direct act of will? If it will help us to be happier, should we make ourselves believe propositions which the evidence alone does not warrant? These are the sort of questions which Professor Pojman examines in Religious Belief and the Will (originally published in 1986). He deals with a constellation of problems related to believing and willing to believe; his main concern is with religious faith and belief, though his analysis is also of interest to epistemology and ethics.

    Pojman asks what is so important about believing propositions in the first place, and why religious creeds have made propositional belief a necessary condition for salvation. He considers whether one can be rational and still use the will to believe what the evidence alone does not warrant. He also discusses whether faith and belief are generically related or distinct attitudes.

    This is the first full-length treatise on religious belief that approaches the subject from the viewpoint of volitional activity (i.e., related to the will). It presents a rethinking of the way the will interacts with belief, a relationship often misconstrued in works of philosophy and theology. Pojman believes that the will is central to religious commitment, and that by understanding the relationship between the attitude of belief and the activity of willing, we are enabled to get fresh insight into the classical problem of religious belief and the will.

    Part One: Belief and Will in the History of Western Thought  1. Belief and Faith in the Bible and the Early Christian Movement  2. Plato on Knowledge and Belief  3. Augustine on Faith  4. Aquinas on Faith  5. The Rationalists on Belief and Will: Descartes and Spinoza  6. Pascal’s Wager: A Case of Indirect Volitionalism  7. The Empiricists’ Notion of Belief: Locke and Hume  8. Kant and Kierkegaard on the Nature and Place of Faith  9. Clifford and James on the Ethics of Belief  10. Modern Catholic Volitionalists: Newman, Pieper and Lonergan  11. The Contemporary Debate on Belief and Will  12. The Contemporary Debate on Faith and Reason: Fideism and Rationalism  Part Two: Belief, Will and Justification of Religious Belief  13. Direct Descriptive Volitionalism  14. Indirect Volitionalism, Prescriptive Volitionalism and the Ethics of Belief  15 Rationality and Religious Belief  16 Faith, Doubt and Hope


    Louis P. Pojman was Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was a professor for nine years. In 2004–5, he was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, UK, where he became a Life-Fellow. Pojman was best known perhaps for presenting extremely balanced perspectives in his writings on a variety of some of the most controversial and challenging contemporary issues, including abortion, affirmative action, and the death penalty. He endeavored to explain why people disagree on such issues and presented the roots of the ideas, teachings and writings that help build an understanding of these differing viewpoints so that the reader can reflect on his or her own point of view on various issues.

    Review of the first publication:

    “In this first-rate study, Pojman has many interesting things to say about volitionalism, the ethics of belief, Plantinga’s foundationalism, the role of reason in religious belief, the logic of non-rule bound intuitive judgements, etc.”

    John Donnelly, University of San Diego