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Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E thics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of science Initially, a doctrine developed by the Jesuits in the sixteenth century to determine what one should do when different authorities are found to disagree. The theory claims that if one is willing to perform an action, and that action has some probability in its favor, one has reason to perform that action without being condemned. Here, probable means supported by authority rather than supported by evidence. One may follow a course of action if it is authorized by some authority of the Church. It does not matter how much weight the authority has. The theory has difficulty in making sense of responsibility and was criticized by the Port-Royal Logic. The appearance of probabilism suggests a sense of loss of the certainty that characterized the Renaissance. In another sense, probabilism is any position that requires one to be content with probability because certainty does not obtain or because it is difficult to know whether certainty could obtain. “The first contact of theories of probability with modern ethics appears in the Jesuit doctrine of probabilism. According to this doctrine, one is justified in doing an action for which there is any probability, however small, of its results being the best possible.” Keynes, A Treatise on Probability ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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