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In theology and philosophy, probabilism (from Latin probare, to test,
approve) holds that in the absence of certainty, probability is the best
criterion. Thus it is applied in connection with casuistry for the view that
the layman in difficult matters of conscience may safely follow a doctrine
inculcated by a recognized Doctor of the Church. This view was originated by
the monk Molina (1528 - 1581), and has been widely employed by the Jesuits.
In philosophy the term is applied to that practical doctrine which gives
assistance in ordinary matters to one who is skeptical in respect of the
possibility of real knowledge: it supposes that though knowledge is
impossible a man may rely on strong beliefs in practical affairs. This view
was held by the skeptics of the New Academy (see skepticism and CARNEADES).
Opposed to "probabilism" is "probabiliorism" (Latin probabilior, "more
likely"), which holds that when there is a preponderance of evidence on one
side of a controversy that side is presumably right.
Academic skeptics accept probabilism, while Pyrrhonian skeptics do not.