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A Review
William James'
Some Problems of Philosophy
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review

ISM Extremes

Dedication Introduction Note


Move to any Chapter of William James' Some Problems of Philosophy,
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Appendix.................Faith and the Right to Believe


(Most quotes verbatim William James, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)


"'Intellectualism' is the belief that our mind comes upon a world complete in itself, and has the duty of ascertaining its contents; but has no power of re-determining its character, for that is already given.

"Among intellectualists two parties may be distinguished. Rationalizing intellectualists lay stress on deductive and 'dialectic' arguments, making large use of abstract concepts and pure logic (Hegel, Bradley, Taylor, Royce). Empiricist intellectualists are more 'scientific,' and think that the character of the world must be sought in our sensible experiences, and found in hypotheses based exclusively thereon (Clifford, Pearson).

"Both sides insist that in our conclusions personal preferences should play no part, and that no argument from what ought to be to what is, is valid. 'Faith,' being the greeting of our whole nature to a kind of world conceived as well adapted to that nature, is forbidden, until purely intellectual evidence that such is the actual world has come in.

[James' son's (Henry, Jr.) editorial footnote on James' manuscript:] "The following pages, part of a syllabus printed for the use of students in an introductory course in philosophy, were found with the MS. of this book, with the words, 'To be printed as part of the Introduction to Philosophy,' noted thereon in the author's handwriting. ED."

(Our bold and color emphasis. Our brackets on James' son's footnote.)

In our opinion, this is a simplistic view shared by most (including 'scientific') monist fundamentalists (Rush "...ought to be." Dimbaughlb being one of their most prominent promulgators of "absolute the truth" at Millennium II's closing.) Such thinking insists on separability, thus denying our and all of actual reality's quantum, sophist cohesion with self via nonactual reality's pure flux (i.e., our Quantonic metaphor: Planck rate vacuum iso-energy/flux).

"Even if evidence should eventually prove a faith true, the truth, says Clifford, would have been 'stolen,' if assumed and acted on too soon.

"Refusal to believe anything concerning which 'evidence' has not yet come in, would thus be the rule of intellectualism. Obviously it postulates certain conditions, which for aught we can see need not necessarily apply to all the dealings of our minds with the Universe to which they belong.

1. "It postulates that to escape error is our paramount duty. Faith may grasp truth; but also it may not. By resisting it always, we are sure of escaping error; and if by the same act we renounce our chance at truth, that loss is the lesser evil, and should be incurred.

2. "It postulates that in every respect the universe is finished in advance of our dealings with it;

"That the knowledge of what it thus is, is best gained by a passively receptive mind, with no native sense of probability, or good-will towards any special result;

"That 'evidence' not only needs no good-will for its reception; but is able, if patiently waited for, to neutralize ill-will;

"Finally, that our beliefs and our acts based thereupon, although they are parts of the world, and although the world without them is unfinished, are yet such mere externalities as not to alter in any way the significance of the rest of the world when they are added to it."

Pirsig called this 'scientific' behavior a platypus! Thus he is telling us classical 'intellectualism' sees nouveaux phenomena as platypi. Imagine, if you wish, Neandertal or Cro Magnon calling Homo sapiens a "platypus!" J

Even Einstein, for all his classical predilections, insisted that imagination, heuristics, and (Bergsonian) intuition are more Value-able to real thinkers than formal, classical logic and intellect. Detection and careful examination of apparent 'error' is a pathway to enlightenment, not delusion. Pursue 'nonsense,' and 'absurdities,' do not sweep them under a convenient carpet's edge.

Assumes our universe 'pre-existed' only for anthropocentric 'discovery.'

More SOM Boole!

What utter SOM bilge!

More SOM denial of quantum, included-middle commingling.

"In our dealings with many details of fact these postulates work well. Such details exist in advance of our opinion; truth concerning them is often of no pressing importance; and by believing nothing, we escape error while we wait. But even here we often cannot wait but must act, somehow; so we act on the most probable hypothesis, trusting that the event may prove us wise. Moreover, not to act on one belief, is often equivalent to acting as if the opposite belief were true, so inaction would not always be as 'passive' as the intellectualists assume. It is one attitude of will.

"Again, Philosophy and Religion have to interpret the total character of the world, and it is by no means clear that here the intellectualist postulates obtain. It may be true all the while (even though the evidence be still imperfect) that, as Paulsen says, 'the natural order is at bottom a moral order.' It may be true that work is still doing in the world-process, and that in that work we are called to bear our share. The character of the world's results may in part depend upon our acts. Our acts may depend on our religion, on our not-resisting our faith-tendencies, or on our sustaining them in spite of 'evidence' being incomplete. These faith-tendencies in turn are but expressions of our good-will towards certain forms of result."

(Our bold emphasis.)

By believing nothing, we can't be right, or we can't be wrong, until we get one correct SOMitic answer. But quantum reality says we are quanton(right,wrong).

In some context, in some quantum isle of truth, it does prove us (contextually) wise!

  • to act or not to act,
  • to be or not to be,
  • to decide or not to decide,
  • to know or not to know,
  • to try or not to try, etc.

In their ludicrous illu-schisms, all or's beg: a quantum, included-middle, both/and reality. To wit, there is no 'or!' There are no Pirsigean 'platypi.' Only in one contrived, tiny-minded 'reality' does 'or' preside, and do nonexistent platypi exist: SOM. Poor bewildered SOM.

We do not think classical intellectualist postulates obtain!

We and Pirsig agree!

We agree, but we see all of reality's 'constituents' desiderating results, not just Homo sapiens.


"Such faith-tendencies are extremely active psychological forces, constantly outstripping evidence. The following steps may be called the 'faith-ladder':

  1. There is nothing absurd in a certain view of the world being true, nothing self-contradictory;
  2. It might have been true under certain conditions;
  3. It may be true, even now;
  4. It is fit to be true;
  5. It ought to be true;
  6. It must be true;
  7. It shall be true, at any rate true for me.

"Obviously this is no intellectual chain of inferences, like the sorites [nested partial syllogisms] of the logic-books. Yet it is slope of good-will on which in the larger questions of life men habitually live.

"Intellectualism's proclamation that our good-will, our 'will to believe,' is a pure disturber of truth, is itself an act of faith of the most arbitrary kind. It implies the will to insist on a universe of intellectualist constitution, and the willingness to stand in the way of a pluralistic universe's success, such success requiring the good-will and active faith, theoretical as well as practical, of all concerned, to make it 'come true.'"

(Our bold emphasis. Our bracketed comments. Our HTML numbered list. Our Bergson 'slope' link.)


  1. Agree! Many truths in many contexts!

  2. This is simply pluralistic quantum reality!

  3. Very quantum, and temporally relativistic!
  4. Locally! (Depending on local axioms/conditions.)
  5. Locally! (Depending on local axioms/conditions.)
  6. Locally! (Depending on local axioms/conditions.)
  7. Locally! (Depending on local axioms/conditions.)

"Intellectualism thus contradicts itself. It is a sufficient objection to it, that if a 'pluralistically' organized, or 'co-operative' universe or the 'melioristic' universe above, were really here, the veto of intellectualism on letting our good-will ever have any vote would debar us from ever admitting that universe to be true.

"Faith thus remains as one of the inalienable birthrights of our mind. Of course it must remain a practical, and not a dogmatic attitude. It must go with toleration of other faiths, with the search for the most probable, and with the full consciousness of responsibilities and risks.

"It may be regarded as a formative factor in the universe, if we be integral parts thereof, and codeterminants, by our behavior, of what its total character may be.

How We Act on Probabilities

"In most emergencies we have to act on probability, and incur the risk of error.

"'Probability' and 'possibility' are terms applied to things of the conditions of whose coming we are (to some degree at least) ignorant.

"If we are entirely ignorant of the conditions that make a thing come, we call it a 'bare' possibility."

(Our bold emphasis.)


"If we know that some of the conditions already exist, it is for us in so far forth a 'grounded' possibility. It is in that case probable just in proportion as the said conditions are numerous, and few hindering conditions are in sight.

"When the conditions are so numerous and confused that we can hardly follow them, we treat a thing as probable in proportion to the frequency with which things of that kind occur. Such frequency being a fraction, the probability is expressed by a fraction. Thus, if one death in 10,000 is by suicide, the antecedent probability of my death being a suicide is 1-10,000th. If one house in 5000 burns down annually, the probability that my house will burn is 1-5000th, etc.

"Statistics show that in most kinds of thing the frequency is pretty regular. Insurance companies bank on this regularity, undertaking to pay (say) 5000 dollars to each man whose house burns, provided he and the other house-owners each pay enough to give the company that sum, plus something more for profits and expenses.

"The company, hedging on the large number of cases it deals with, and working by the long run, need run no risk of loss by the single fires."


"The individual householder deals with his own single case exclusively. The probability of his house burning is only 1-5000, but if that lot befall he will lose everything. He has no 'long run' to go by, if his house takes fire, and he can't hedge as the company does, by taxing his more fortunate neighbors. But in this particular kind of risk, the company helps him out. It translates his one chance in 5000 of a big loss, into a certain loss 5000 times smaller, and the bargain is a fair one on both sides. .It is clearly better for the man to lose certainly, but fractionally, than to trust to his 4999 chances of no loss, and then have the improbable chance befall.

"But for most of our emergencies there is no insurance company at hand, and fractional solutions are impossible. Seldom can we act fractionally. If the probability that a friend is waiting for you in Boston is 1-2, how should you act on that probability? By going as far as the bridge? Better stay at home! Or if the probability is 1-2 that your partner is a villain, how should you act on that probability? By treating him as a villain one day, and confiding your money and your secrets to him the next? That would be the worst of all solutions. In all such cases we must act wholly for one or the other horn of the dilemma. We must go in for the more probable alternative as if the other one did not exist, and suffer the full penalty if the event belie our faith."

228 "Now the metaphysical and religious alternatives are largely of this kind. We have but this one life in which to take up our attitude towards them, no insurance company is there to cover us, and if we are wrong, our error, even though it be not as great as the old hell-fire theology pretended, may yet be momentous. In such questions as that of the character of the world, of life being moral in its essential meaning, of our playing a vital part therein, etc., it would seem as if a certain wholeness in our faith were necessary. To calculate the probabilities and act fractionally, and treat life one day as a farce, and another day as a very serious business, would be to make the worst possible mess of it. Inaction also often counts as action. In many issues the inertia of one member will impede the success of the whole as much as his opposition will. To refuse, e. g., to testify against villainy, is practically to help it to prevail."

The Pluralistic or Melioristic Universe

"Finally, if the 'melioristic' universe were really here, it would require the active good-will of all of us, in the way of belief as well as of our other activities, to bring it to a prosperous issue.

"The melioristic universe is conceived after a social analogy, as a pluralism of independent powers. It will succeed just in proportion as more of these work for its success. If none work, it will fail. If each does his best, it will not fail. Its destiny thus hangs on an if, or on a lot of ifs which amounts to saying (in the technical language of logic) that, the world being as yet unfinished, its total character can be expressed only by hypothetical and not by categorical propositions.

"(Empiricism, believing in possibilities, is willing to formulate its universe in hypothetical propositions. Rationalism, believing only in impossibilities and necessities, insists on the contrary on their being categorical.)

"As individual members of a pluralistic universe, we must recognize that, even though we do our best, the other factors also will have a voice in the result. If they refuse to conspire, our good-will and labor may be thrown away. No insurance company can, here cover us or save us from the risks we run in being part of such a world."

We disagree! We see a new reality as a quantum-networked analogy. (Indeed, it already is, however our current philosophy, metaphysics, and ontology do not see/recognize it yet. In this quantum-networked reality we have Mae-wan Ho's "individual autonomy with global cohesion.")

"We must take one of four attitudes in regard to the other powers: either

  1. "Follow intellectualist advice: wait for evidence; and while waiting, do nothing; or
  2. "Mistrust the other powers and, sure that the universe will fail, let it fail; or
  3. "Trust them; and at any rate do our best, in
    spite of the if; or, finally,
  4. "Flounder, spending one day in one attitude, another day in another.

"This 4th way is no systematic solution. The 2nd way spells faith in failure. The 1st way may in practice be indistinguishable from the 2nd way. The 3rd way seems the only wise way.

"'If we do our best, and the other powers do their best, the world will be perfected' this proposition expresses no actual fact, but only the complexion of a fact thought of as eventually possible. As it stands, no conclusion can be positively deduced from it. A conclusion would require another premise of fact, which only we can supply. The original proposition per se has no pragmatic value whatsoever, apart from its power to challenge our will to produce the premise of fact required. Then indeed the perfected world emerges as a logical conclusion."

(Our superscript HTML. Our bold emphasis.)

A quantum reality is not "perfect." In a most real sense a quantum reality is a quanton(perfection,imperfection). A quantum reality can always be 'better.' We think this is what James means by "eventually possible," e.g., as an asymptote.

We hope James means not classical logic.

"We can create the conclusion, then. We can and we may, as it were, jump with both feet off the ground into or towards a world of which we trust the other parts to meet our jump and only so can the making of a perfected world of the pluralistic pattern ever take place. Only through our precursive trust in it can it come into being.

"There is no inconsistency anywhere in this, and no 'vicious circle' unless a circle of poles holding themselves upright by leaning on one another, or a circle of dancers revolving by holding each other's hands, be 'vicious.'

"The faith circle is so congruous with human nature that the only explanation of the veto that intellectualists pass upon it must be sought in the offensive character to them of the faiths of certain concrete persons.

"Such possibilities of offense have, however, to be put up with on empiricist principles. The long run of experience may weed out the more foolish faiths. Those who held them will then have failed: but without the wiser faiths of the others the world could never be perfected.

"(Compare G. Lowes Dickinson: " Religion, a Criticism and a Forecast," N. Y. 1905, Introduction; and chaps. iii, iv.)."

(Our bold emphasis.)

A la Bergson's "vicious circle." Compare this paragraph of James' with our quantum network description of Mae-wan Ho's quantum reality above. Imagine "leaning" as Value interrelationships. Imagine dancers dancing as both individually autonomous and cohesive. Imagine circle of poles as a metaphor for isoflux and isles of truth.

James' faith circle is almost a quanton, e.g.,

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