William James

Pragmatic Voluntarism:   “The Will to Believe”

 

I. Basic Terminology of Pragmatic Voluntarism:

 

A. Hypothesis – any proposition proposed as a possible belief –

 

1. Live Hypothesis – a belief that appeals to the hearer

 

2. Dead Hypothesis – a belief that does not appeal to the hearer

 

B. Option – the choice between hypotheses –

 

1. Living/Dead

 

2. Forced/Avoidable

 

3. Momentous/Trivial

 

4. Genuine – a living, forced, and momentous option

 

II. Decision Theory

 

A. How we make decisions:

 

1. Rational – many decisions can be made based on rational grounds appealing to …

 

a. Empirical evidence

 

b. Analytical evidence

 

2. Passional – We can Will to believe in cases where

 

a. a hypothesis is rationally indeterminable, and

 

b. we are presented with a genuine option

 

 

B. Options for Passional Decision Making:

 

1.Dead Option:

 

 

2. Live Option: