As you might have noticed by peeking at the sidebar, I’m currently reading The Web of Belief (W.V.O. Quine & J.S. Ullian). It is a little study of rational belief. What makes us believe this or that is true? How are our beliefs held together? What makes us give up one belief for another?
Truth and even reasonable beliefs cannot be deduced solely from observation or self-evident truths. In science as well as everyday life, we frame hypotheses to help hold together our web of beliefs. A hypothesis would explain, if it were true, some things that we already believe.
Hypothesis, where successful, is a two-way street, extending back to explain the past and forward to predict the future. What we try to do in framing hypotheses is to explain some otherwise unexplained happenings by inventing a plausible story, a plausible description or history of relevant portions of the world.
Five virtues count in favor of a hypothesis:
- conservatism of existing beliefs
- modesty – as opposed to extravagance
I find these are interesting criteria to measure one’s beliefs about the world upon.