PROBABILISM (from Lat. probare, to test, approve), a term used both in theology and in philosophy with the general implication that in the absence of certainty probability is the best criterion. Thus it is applied in connexion 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 sceptical 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 sceptics of the New Academy (see SCEPTICISM and CARNEADES). Opposed to " probabilism" is " probabiliorism" (Lat. probabilior, more likely), which holds that when there is a preponderance of evidence on one side of a controversy that side is presumably right.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)