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"... there are known knowns...". Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.

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there are known knowns
"... there are known knowns..."

Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know. -Donald Rumsfeld

questions for thought
Questions for Thought

Can you trust your “intuition”?

Is there a limit to “human reason”?

Are there things we cannot know? If so, how do you know there are things we cannot know? What are they? If you know what there are (things that you don’t know), then do you really notknow them?

Does knowledge come from experience?

Can we be certain about our beliefs?

How do you know if what you think is true is really true?

What is truth?

Are some things true even if we don’t yet know them?

epistemology is
Epistemology is…

…the study of knowledge & theories of knowing.

The epistemologist wants to know how we can distinguish between opinion and knowledge.

Can YOU distinguish between opinion and knowledge?

How do you know if a thing is true and/or real?


LET’S PLAY A GAME…Which of the following can you say that you know is true?( Be prepared to be able to explain WHY you think it is true.)

You exist. I exist.

It will rain tomorrow. All fat cats are fat.

The sun rose yesterday. Two plus two equals four.

God exists. Every event has a cause.

It’s real if I touch it. It’s real if I see it.

It’s real if I can think it. Golden mountains exist.

The cat is on the mat. No bachelors are married.

Tigers are mammals. The moon is lavender.


If line A were extended, which

would be its continuation – B or C?

a theory rationalism

Rationalismis a theory grounded on the idea that some things are true (whether or not I have ever or will ever experience them) and that I can “reasonthem out” in order to know they are true.

Even if I have never seen a “fat cat,” I know what “fat” means and what “cat” means, so I can reason out that a “fat cat” would be “fat” – even if I had never seen a fat cat (or even a skinny one, for that matter).


Math problems (2 + 2 = 4) are determined by using reason.

By definition, a bachelor is not married, and if he ever gets married, he will not longer be a bachelor. You know that by using reason.

Most Rationalists also believe that some ideas are already built into our minds at birth, and theseinnate ideas(as they are called) are part of the hardwiring of our minds that help us make sense of our sensory experiences.

Innate ideas are true and exist in our minds even before our minds have developed to the point of being able to think about them.


How do we know thatinnate ideasare true? By direct intellectual intuition (reason).

Sensation does not tell us that “Every event has a cause.” Reason tells us that.

Hence the Rationalist believe that knowledge isa priori(or prior to and independent of our actual experiences.

We know things not learned from sensation, and we can prove things are true without reference to sensation.

We can reason it out, and are proofs aredeductive(meaning that the conclusion follows necessarily from our premises).

b theory empiricism

Empiricismis an epistemological theory that says the only things we can “know” (for certain) are things that we have actuallyexperiencedthrough oursenses(i.e., via taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing).

Anything else, whether we have read about it in a book or even a college professor has taught us about it, can “sound” true and even “be” true, but we cannot know whether in fact it actually is true until we can experience it for ourselves.


Empiricism claims that prior to sensation, the mind is empty – like a blank piece of paper or blank slate (tabula rasa).

Sensation makes impressions on this slate, like pressing a stylus into a writing tablet made of wax or clay.

From those impressions, we learn through other experience what is true or false, and then over the years begin to build up a storehouse of knowledge.

So for an Empiricist, our knowledge comesa posteriori(after experience). We cannot know anything is true until we have experienced it.


If we want to be able to verify that our knowledge is true about something, we have to look for other experiences to prove it.

We also cannot say for certain that what has happened some way over and over again in the past will happen the same way in the future. At best, we can say that it will “probably” happen that way again in the future. So our knowledge isinductivewhen we make conclusions about future events based on present or past experiences.

Of course, our inductive conclusions may be wrong, but probability is the best we can hope for if we want to know something about the world in which we live.

rationalism v empiricism
Rationalism v. Empiricism

innate ideas tabula rasa

reason sensation

a prioria posteriori

deductive inductive

realism knowing the really real
REALISM: Knowing the “Really Real”


Naïve or Direct Realism – What you see is what you get (like a photograph); our sense put us in touch with reality

Dog in the world

Dog in the mind


Dog in the world

Representative or Indirect Realism (John Locke) – The mind “represents” the external world to itself but does not duplicate it (e.g., you see a shaggy dog, and the mind sees this

or this figure)


Subjective Realism (George Berkeley) – Reality exists only if there is some “subject” who is perceiving it as an idea; fortunately, God is always perceiving, even if we are not

Q: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to

hear it, does it make a noise?

A: Yes. God hears it.



Cartesian Realism – What you see is not what you get (since you’re getting geometrical figures).

Reality is in the mind; it’s not “out there” to see; ideas (and innate ones at that) are “real.”


c pseudo theory skepticism doubt
C.Pseudo-Theory:SKEPTICISM = Doubt

How do you know, if you know?

Take “God” for example. The skeptic would say, “I think we just believe or we don’t, but we can’t really know whether God exists or not.”

If knowledge is not certain (via reason or the senses), the skeptic says that we should just suspend judgment or doubt both sides.

Everyone is a skeptic or doubter at one time or another in his or her life.Common-sense skepticismkeeps us from being too gullible at times.


Scientists and some philosophers use a kind of skepticism called “methodological skepticism” in their search for truth.

In order to be certain of something (such as the temperature at which water freezes), they begin by doubting the original hypothesis and then conduct several experiments under different circumstances to see if the evidence supports the original claim/hypothesis.

Absolute skepticismsays that we can never know anything for certain (without the possibility of doubt), so the best we can do is act on what seems to work (even if it’s not true).


.The sentence in this box is false.

Everything I say is a lie.

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers

exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will

instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more

bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which

states that this has already happened. - Douglas Adams

rene descartes a french rationalist
Rene’ Descartes – a French Rationalist

Radical Doubt (and the four-rule Method)

Cartesian Dualism

Two Substances from God: Mind (thought) and Body (extension)

Primary qualities (measurable) are in objects and quantifiable; and

Secondary qualities are in the mind

Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)

Four innate ideas: self, identity, substance, and God

descartes method
Descartes’ METHOD

The progress and certainty of mathematical knowledge, Descartes supposed, provide an emulable model for a similarly productive philosophical method, characterized by four simple rules:

1.Accept as true only what is indubitable (not doubtable).

2.Divide every question into manageable parts.

3.Begin with the simplest issues and ascend to the more complex.

4.Review frequently enough to retain the whole argument at once.

This quasi-mathematical procedure for the achievement of knowledge is typical of a rationalistic approach to epistemology.

descartes meditations i ii
Descartes’ Meditations I & II

I have accepted many falsehoods as true

I am now going to doubt everything and start only accepting back as true what I can know for certain

Is this my hand? How do I know I have a body?

Am I a madman to accept a false reality?

Maybe I am dreaming. In my dreams, things seem very real but are not.

Well, at least 2 + 3 = 5 whether I am awake or dreaming. Or is it?


There are some things which seem more reasonable to believe than to deny, and God’s existence is one of them

I will believe only those things about which I have “clear and distinct” ideas in my mind

Let’s suppose that instead of God who is the source of all Truth that an evil demon exists who wants to deceive me

Color, shape, sound, and other external things are just dreamed illusions which the demon uses to ensnare my judgment; body, shape, extension, motion, and place are fantasies

Memory is also unreliable


Although Descartes probably did not say this, he could have, since he would agree with it.

We know that our senses lie to us, else how could we say that feet smell and noses run ?


If I don’t have a body, then it follows that “I” don’t exist

But surely I must exist if it’s “me” who is convinced that I am always deceived by the evil demon

But whether I am convinced or deceived or just thinking about being deceived, I must finally conclude that the statement “I am, I exist” must be true whenever I state it or mentally consider it even if I am saying “I am deceived”

But what is this “I”? I’m not sure, but as long as I’m thinking, there is some “I” that must exist who is thinking


If I completely stopped thinking, I would cease to exist. “I think, therefore I am”(Cogito ergo sum)

Descartes walked into a bar and sat down on a stool.

The bartender asks, “Would you like a beer?”

Descartes says, “I think not,” and - poof - he disappeared.

But what am I then? A thinking thing. And what is that? Something that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and also senses and has mental images.

It is me who seems to gain awareness of physical objects through the senses. But these things are unreal, since I am dreaming.

Properly speaking, sensing is just thinking


Take for example this piece ofwax.

The candle is hard & round; and it smells and tastes sweet, as if it were straight from the honeycomb.


When it is heated, everything having to do with the taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing is changed; yet the wax remains.

Let’s remove everything that doesn’t properly belong to the wax (since those things were lost when the wax was heated).

My idea of the wax remains real, and I have grasped that with my mind.

Although the wax changes when heated, there still exists some measurable characteristics in the wax, so they must exist in the wax as well.

However, color, smell, taste, etc must exist in my mind and not in the wax, since they did not remain in the wax.


No! We know that we can have “clear and distinct”

  • ideas about the rest of the world, because we have an
  • innate idea of God.
  • God is the only guarantee that:
  • our clear and distinct ideas are true, and
  • we are not being tricked by an evil & wicked demon


(Radical Dualism)


(Infinite substance)

MIND (soul) BODY (material)

(will)(finite substance)


Thought (takes up no space)Extension (occupies space)

(my true identity – “I”)(essential attribute)



affirm perceivingfigure size

denial thinking quantity shape

volition understandingnumber location

etc reasontime motion

(intelligence = natural light)(no mention of "force")

Primary Qualities – measurable

Color, smell, taste, etc are Secondary Properties; and can be known by reason

they are in themind, but not in the object

MIND and BODY are totally separate but work like 2 clocks keeping perfect time.

david hume a scottish empiricist
David Hume – a Scottish Empiricist

1. First Principle: We cannot have a thought which has not been experienced

2. Conceivability Principle: what is conceivable is possible; if the contrary is also conceivable, then

what was first conceived cannot be an absolute certainty

3. PUN (Principle of the Uniformity of Nature): experienced regularities will lead to expectations

of the same regularities in the future

analytic v synthetic
Analytic v. Synthetic

Hume said everything about the world can be expressed either as an Analytic Statement (Relations of Ideas) or a Synthetic Statement (Matters of Fact)

However, only Matters of Fact can be used to describe reality, because they come from experience


It sounds like Hume's a bad empiricist since he's admitting a priori

necessary truths (analytical statements), BUT he said that the

analytic Relations of Ideas are TAUTOLOGICAL (always true,

redundant, and repetitious):

All sisters are siblings 2 + 3 = 5

All bachelors are men PQ, P, Thus Q

There is no new information about the world in an analytic

statement, only information about the meanings of words. So

they are basically useless for telling us about reality.


So the rationalistic dream of reality which is defined "a priori" (innate ideas) and thus must be necessarily true has been shot out of the water, since "a priori" truths aren't descriptions of anything.

Only synthetic claims (matters of fact) can correctly describe reality, and these claims are necessarily "a posteriori" (learned by experience which can be traced back to the ideas when our senses first encountered the information).

Only synthetic statements can give us true facts about the world, but we can know they are true only by verifying them with experience.

The only way you would know that the statement “The cat is on the mat” is AFTER you looked to see if the cat really is on the mat, and that statement would be true for only as long as the cat actually is on the mat. If he gets up, the statement is no longer true.

how do we learn know from our senses
How do we learn/know from our senses?

Impression: immediate sense data/element from sense organs; sensation

Idea: reflection on sense data (memory/recollection of impression)

Complex idea: composite consisting of several ideas

false ideas
False Ideas

False ideas come from combining unrelated sense impressions, like “golden mountain” or “angel”; we have an idea of gold and of mountain (or wings and man) and then wrongly combine them into a complex idea.


Hume says, “Not every event has a cause” (think PUN).

There’s no cause and effect (just priority and contiguity), & there is no necessary connection between events.

There’s no personal identity or ego (just constancy and coherence of similar ideas).


Habit causes us to “expect” certain things (e.g., that our friend

looks older after 5 years of not seeing them seems predictable);

we’re not surprised by the changes

KEY: w=woodpile l=a lit firer=roaring fire

d=during fire c=glowing coals a=ashes

Continued perceptions:w--l--r--d--c--a



The imagination fills in the gaps.

Habit causes us to expect that a roaring fire will end in ashes.


1. How many f ’s are in the following sentence?Frank followed a few of the fellows toward the fiery circle at the front of the forum, where Frank fell off the final stair and landed flat on his back.

2. Read aloud the message in the triangle:



the sun’s

slowing dying rays

shining the colors of the

the rainbow above the gray horizon.


If you’re a good reader, you don’t look at every word, much less at every letter, when you read.

Your eyes pick up a few clues, and then your brain fills in the rest.

This is Hume’s point.

Our brain wants to believe that there is “cause and effect,” and it wants to believe that we have a “continuous ego” (personal identity), so it fills in any missing details which might suggest otherwise.

By the way, there were 16 “f”s and two “the”s.

soren kierkegaard a dane
Soren Kierkegaard – a Dane

Kierkegaard thought Descartes was correct to begin with "I think, therefore I am" but that Descartes was wrong in equating the self with thought.

“To think is one thing, to exist is another."


I can think and say many things about myself: "I am a teacher; I am an American; I am a natural blonde"; but I cannot think about my existence.

I cannot think it, rather I must live it.

My lived existence is equated with passion, decision, and action.

Kierkegaard was NOT particularly interested in "objective thought or truth"; he believed that philosophy beginswith "wonder" (like Aristotle said) rather than with doubt.


Objective (also analytic) truths:

(1) there exists a criteria of "truth"

(2) math, science, history (2+3=5; Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC)

(3) recognizable standards to determine truth

(4) no essential relationship to human existence (i.e. if I found that one of them were false, I wouldn't become a different person)

(5) Kierkegaard is uninterested in "Objective truths”; the meaningful knowledge for the individual, he thinks, is found in “Subjective truths.”


Subjective truths (thought):

(1) there is no criteria of "truth"

(2) personal values, such as religious and ethical claims

(Kant thought that there was something underlying the "value" of things)

(3) subjective: if I claim "God is love" and you challenge me, I cannot appeal to any objective criterion of truth to justify my assertion

- You can't talk about "death," an "afterlife," or really anything about the future (e.g. "I'll make an A on the next test, if I'm not dead."


- If we recognize that we might be dead at that time, we will have grasped the "subjective" truth about our death

- The discovery of one's death becomes a pretext for the discovery of one's "existence" (another subjective truth)

(4) major difference between "objective" and "subjective truths" is that the subjective ones are pretty much what we are and do -- the actions we perform are the result of the decisions that we make, which reflect the values we have chosen


(5) subjective truths help us order our priorities, clarify our values, recover the self from its alienation into social roles, an concertizes and intensifies our existence

(6) values are not grounded in certainty by accepted on faith. Love and faith do not merely happen; they must be cultivated and formed

(7) BUT it is a kind of "faith" in the uncertain; it takes a “leap of faith” to be able to act on a subjective that truth that cannot be either analytically or empirically verified


Kierkegaard once walked into the Danish

Lutheran Church and accused them of being

hypocrites, saying, “You either believe that

Jesus died and was raised again on the third

day or you don’t.”

It’s an Either/Or deal. You can say you believe

something is true then act like it is true for only

one hour each week and then act contrary to

that believe for the other 167 hours of the week.

If you truly believe it, your actions will show what

you believe. Words can be lies, but HOW a

person acts displays what he or shetruly



But there is a problem. Since I (or you) am supposed to act on what I believe, if my actions are not those you would expect to see for someone who believes a certain thing, does that mean that I do not actually believe it if I am not acting the way you think I should be acting?

How can you know what I believe?

This is a tricky question because it’s subjective.

What action must I do in order to “show” you that I believe something?

And if you need to know that what I say I believe is true (for me) before you take some action based on what you believe is true (for you) about me, then…….well, you can see where this is going!!!


Let’s pretend that I said “I love you.”

In your mind, a person who loves you would bring little

presents and always telling you that you are the most

wonderful person in the world.

But in my mind, being in love means spending as much

time as you can with the other person, even if that just

means sitting in the same room and not talking (and

you can forget the presents, because I believe the best

present you can get is knowing that I love you).

If I am not showing you that I am “in love” in the manner

you expect, will you believe that I am not in love with


I am showing you that I love you

according to my definition of

how a person in love should act.


Because truth is “subjective” according to Kierkegaard, “you” get to decide whether or not you think I am being truthful in my actions and about whether or not you think I really love you.

And of you are trying to decide whether or not you want to spend the rest of your life with me, it is very important for you to be able to believe that I really am in love with you before you act on your belief (whatever that ends up being).

But there are some things, he says, that even if

you can’t be certain about them, it is still better

for you to choose to believe that it’s true.

truth and religion
Truth and Religion

Kierkegaard said that truth is "subjective." By this he did not mean that it doesn't matter what we think or believe. He meant that the really important truths are "personal." Only these truths are “true for me.”

An important question, for example, is whether Christianity is true. This is not a question one can relate to theoretically or academically. For a person who "understands himself in life," it is a question of life and death. It is not something you sit and discuss for discussion's sake. It is something to be approached with the greatest passion and sincerity.


If you fall into the water, you have no theoretical interest in whether or not you will drown. It is neither "interesting" nor "uninteresting" whether there are alligators in the water. It is a question of life or death.

So we must distinguish between the philosophical question of whether God exists and the individual's relationship to the same question, a situation in which each and every man is utterly alone.

Fundamental questions such as these can only be approached through faith. Things we can know through reason, or knowledge, are according to Kierkegaard totally unimportant.


Faith is the most important factor in religious questions. Kierkegaard wrote: "If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.“

In other words, “faith” in God is something you must believe is true, but because God’s existence cannot be proven empirically (or even analytically – despite what Descartes thought), faith in God must, at best, be a “subjective truth” – it is “true for you” and thus you must act on it.

Many had previously tried to prove the existence of God - or at any rate to bring him within the bounds of rationality.

But if you content yourself with some such proof or logical argument, you suffer a loss of faith, and with it, a loss of religious passion.

What matters is not whether Christianity is true, but whether it is true for you.

A famous ‘proof’ for why it is logical to have faith in the existence of God is called PASCAL’S WAGER.


P Q

Q  R

P  R

pascal s wager

God exists

No God exists





No God


theory evidentialism

William K. Clifford, a British mathematician interested in philosophical and religious topics, wrote an essay entitled “The Ethics of Belief.”

His argument represents an epistemological position called evidentialism. Evidentialism holds that we should not accept any statement as true unless we have good evidence to support its truth.

Our beliefs about the truth of things – be they moral, religions, or scientific – must meet the appropriate epistemic standards.

Practical standards, such as aiding me in accomplishing certain goals or possibly resulting in my eternal happiness, will not do.

theory pragmatism here come the americans
Theory: PRAGMATISM(here come the Americans!)

William James wrote a famous reply to Clifford, called “The Will to Believe.” James advocated a philosophy called Pragmatism.

James characterized pragmatism (from the Greek word pragma, meaning “action”) as a method for settling philosophical disputes.

The method was based on a distinctive theory of truth, called the pragmatic theory of truth.


According to the pragmatic theory of truth, some position p is true if and only if that “p is true” works.

“And what does works mean?” you ask.

James used words like “useful,” “adaptive,” “serviceable,” “satisfying,” “verifiable,” and “agreeing with reality.”

He also asserted that for any position to “work” and hence to be taken as true, it must be consistent with what we already take to be true, and it must be in agreement with our sense experience.

Thus, my belief that “my fat blind cat is on the rug by the fire” works as long as it is consistent with my other beliefs (he is not outside or in the kitchen eating my dinner or swimming in the fish pond, etc.), and when I look at the rug, I get “fat-blind-cat” type sensations.

theories of truth
  • PRAGMATIC – True assumptions are those which provoke actions with desirable results.
  • CORRESPONDENCE – p is true if and only if p corresponds to the facts; if there is no “verifiable fact” out there to prove p is true, it does not matter what you believe or do. If you tell me “The cat is on the rug,” that statement is true only if there actually is a cat on an actual rug at the actual time you tell me that.

3) COHERENCE – p is true only if it is consistent and “harmonious” with other true statements in a specified system (such as math or science). For example, the truth of the statement “My fat blind cat is on the rug” depends upon a whole host of other statements also being true, such as “I have a cat,” “My cat is blind,” “My cat is fat,” “The rug exists,” and so forth.


William James, and other pragmatic American philosophers, were tired of the rationalist and empiricist games of the European intellectuals.

Frankly, they didn’t care how many angels could dance on a pinhead (or if you could “prove” they exist). The outcome of such a debate wouldn’t make a difference in people’s lives.

James accused both the Correspondence and Coherence theories of being useful only to intellectuals and related to truths only if these “truths” existed prior to and independent of inquiry and investigation. For example, all those “other questions” in the Coherence theory would have to already be true before I could even begin to ask if the statement “My fat blind cat is on the rug.”

For James, truth is something dynamic (not static) – something that happens to ideas when they lead humans into even more satisfactory experiences.


Pragmatism, our American philosophers hoped, might provide an end to empty speculation about useless things (such as counting angels).

Pragmatism was a conscious rejection of what seemed to be the stagnant methods of philosophy.

It was a turning away from abstraction and a turning “towards concreteness and adequacy, towards fact, towards action, towards power.”

KEY IDEA: Knowledge and action for practical living.

Knowledge is guided by our interests and values, and, thus, truth is “value-instantiated.” Values are intelligently appropriated by us to the extent that they satisfactorily resolve problems and are judged worth retaining.


James wrote, “Ideas become true just so far as they help us get into satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience.”

He rejected the traditional idea of truth as being fixed and unchanging – truth is the unfolding meaning of “lived experience” (yes, that is Kierkegaard’s phrase).

William James

Truth becomes true, is made true, by events. It is revealed

through lived experience rather than through logical proofs

or laboratory experiments.


Grant an idea or belief to be true, what concrete difference will

its being true make in any one’s actual life?...What, in short,

is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms? (James)

Whether the earth is flat or not may not make much difference to me, but whether you love me or not certainly does; the latter has a “cash-value” in terms of my lived experience.

Pragmatists care more about the results than the theories; something is true, James says, if it makes a difference, if its power to explain clarifies our understanding and changes our lives.


Being an agnostic is not a choice for James; to believe or not is “a live, forced, momentous option.” Agnostically sitting on the fence is impossible.

James complained that Clifford’s Evidentalism was based on static epistemic standards and that Clifford’s refusal to admit practical standards not only denies the reality of how human beings come to hold many of their beliefs but also restricts us to a very limited number of beliefs that we can know are true.

Clifford’s Evidentialism forbids us to have beliefs about some of the most important matters that make human life worth living.


On at least three different occasions, James contended that “Belief beyond the evidence is justified.”

  • When you are confronted with what he called a “genuine option” that cannot be decided on evidential grounds, you have a right to decide the issue according to you “personal nature.”

(2) When faced with a situation when belief in a fact is necessary for the existence of that fact, you have a right to believe beyond the evidence.

(3) In a situation when belief in a true proposition is necessary for getting the evidence of its truth, you are entitled to believe.


In his article, James writes:

The thesis I defend, briefly stated, is this:Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say, under such circumstances, ‘Do no decide but leave the question open’ is itself a passional decision – just like deciding yes or no – and is attended with same risk of losing the truth...(280).

James thinks that it is better to “let truth take a chance” than, as Clifford recommends, to believe nothing and “keep you mind in suspense forever” rather than “incur the awful risk of believing lies” (281). Without taking the risk of believing, there also will be no opportunity for “the blessings of real knowledge” either (281).



Any Questions?