The Psychology of Conviction: A Study of Beliefs and Attitudes

By Joseph Jastrow | Go to book overview

III
THE WILL TO BELIEVE IN THE SUPERNATURAL

THE present study aims to illustrate, in terms of a widely disseminated belief, the manner in which the inclination toward a conclusion affects the process of argument and the perspective of evidence. The influence may be coarse and obvious; it may be subtle and indirect. On the part of those subject to its sway, the influence is disavowed, often indignantly repudiated; for the analysis thus becomes vivisectional in its attack. An objective psychology must perforce overrule while yet it considers such protests.

The topic may be introduced by a personal reminiscence. Among the indiscreet memories of an uneventful curriculum of many college generations ago, one survives in fair relief -- the study of Bishop Butler's "Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature" ( A.D. 1736). So much of this non-elective study as reached my understanding aroused an aversion to the type of argument primarily, to the matter incidentally. Yet by the light of that benign essay I have again and again appreciated the comfort of sighting the terminus from the starting-point of a logical journey. It seems to be simpler and safer to reason or to travel when the destination is greeted, not with the uncertain scrutiny of

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