"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, and leave its stamp upon our character."

The poor practices of belief-formation turn us into careless, credulous believers.

And careless believing turns us into easy prey for fake-news pedlars, conspiracy theorists and charlatans. And letting ourselves become hosts to these false beliefs is morally wrong because the error cost for society can be devastating.

Our beliefs influence our actions. And false beliefs about physical or social facts lead us into poor habits of action that in the most extreme cases could threaten our survival.

In our capacity as communicators of belief, we have the moral responsibility not to pollute the well of collective knowledge.

‘Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought’ become ‘common property’. Subverting this ‘heirloom’, as he called it, by adding false beliefs is immoral because everyone’s lives ultimately rely on this vital, shared resource.


The Ethics of Belief by William Kingdon Clifford


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