William James 's Decision Based On Intellectual Grounds

1634 Words Dec 3rd, 2015 7 Pages
In his lecture, “The Will to Believe,” William James addresses how one adopts a belief. There is a hypothesis and an option, where you choose between two live hypotheses. An option has the characteristics to be live or dead, forced or avoidable, and momentous or trivial. In his thesis, James argues how “our passional nature” must make our decisions about our beliefs when they cannot be certainly determined on “intellectual grounds,” however, this is not the case, we can always make the decision based on intellectual grounds. One can use Bayesian probability to gain some grasp of the situation and eventually to make a decision. In section I of James’ lecture, he defines hypothesis, giving examples of live and dead hypotheses. A hypothesis is “...anything that may be proposed to our belief.” (James, sec. 1) It is anything proposed to be believed, a claim. A hypothesis may be living or dead, depending on the recipient. James explains the difference between live or dead with an example of believing in Mahdi. To a person that does not know about the subject at hand, it would be a dead hypothesis. However, if this claim was presented to someone who knew the subject matter, it would alive as “… the hypothesis is among the mind 's possibilities.” (James, sec. 1) A live hypothesis is a claim that appears to be a real possibility for the one it is proposed to. A dead hypothesis is a claim that does not appear to be a real possibility for the one it is proposed to. Whether a…
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