The Will to Doubt

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The Will to Doubt: An Essay in Philosophy for the General Thinker is a book published in 1907 by University of Michigan professor Alfred Henry Lloyd. Professor Lloyd would later become interim President of the University of Michigan in 1925.


The Will to Doubt was Lloyd's fourth book and was published as a volume in the Ethical Library Series. The book was a response to William James' 1896 collection of essays titled The Will to Believe. Professor Lloyd's simple thesis is that "doubt is essential to real belief".[1] He wrote at the beginning of the 20th century, in what he called an age of doubt:

"We would often hide it from others, not to say from ourselves, but it is there, and we all know it to be there.[2] Though many fear doubt, and try to keep it hidden and locked away, the confession of doubt is in fact the beginning of philosophy".[3]


Fear is a chief motivator of dogmatism, and dogmatic people are slaves to their fears. This is not genuine confidence.[4] But doubt is not the road to atheism; in fact, doubt is part of a very difficult road to theism.[5]

Bertrand Russell built upon these arguments in subsequent years, even directly referencing Lloyd in Free Thought and Official Propaganda.


  1. ^ The Will to Doubt. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1907, p. ix
  2. ^ Will to Doubt, p. 1
  3. ^ Will to Doubt, p. 2
  4. ^ Will to Doubt, p. 9
  5. ^ Will to Doubt, p. 27