Open main menu

Overbelief (also written as "over-belief") is a philosophical term[1] for a belief adopted that requires more evidence than one presently has. Generally, acts of overbelief are justified on emotional need or faith, and a need to make sense of spiritual experience, rather than on empirical evidence. This idea originates from the works of William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience[2] and refers to the conceptual framework that individuals have.

In overbelief, James explained the role of human temperament in philosophy, particularly how it creates a bias on the part of a philosopher that could be stronger than any of his more objective premises.[3] James maintained that overbelief is based on temperament instead of objective evidence or universal reason.[3] He stressed, however, that overbelief is qualified in the sense that it is provisional and that one's own overbelief is valid on account of the diversity of human consciousness and that the different experiences all have meaning.[4] This idea underpins James argument concerning the validity of religion, showing its connection with the scientific understanding of psychology.[5] He has established overbelief as a way of understanding how individuals and cultures systematically interpret faith experiences.[5]

According to James, a typical example of an overbelief would be R. W. Trine's contention that "The great central fact of the universe is that spirit of infinite life and power that is back of all, that manifests itself in and through all." James acknowledges that his own over-beliefs are so minimal that to some religious believers they may seem like "under-beliefs".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Overbelief." Accessed June 3, 2014.
  2. ^ The Varieties of Religious Experience online text
  3. ^ a b Slater, Michael (2014). Pragmatism and the Philosophy of Religion. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. p. 173. ISBN 9781107077270.
  4. ^ Carrette, Jeremy (2013). William James's Hidden Religious Imagination: A Universe of Relations. New York: Routledge. p. 169. ISBN 9780415828635.
  5. ^ a b Mullin, Richard P. (2007). The Soul of Classical American Philosophy: The Ethical and Spiritual Insights of William James, Josiah Royce, and Charles Sanders Peirce. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. p. 50. ISBN 9780791471098.