Notes on Introduction to the Humanities -- Hum A212

William Jamison - Instructor

Lecture 4

Following Quine’s 6 virtues of hypotheses -- this is mercilessly adapted from


Conservatism: Don’t deviate from your established evidence or beliefs unnecessarily.

Modesty: Don’t get carried away too much beyond the evidence you have to work with. 

Extrapolate carefully.

Simplicity: Don’t add things beyond what’s necessary to account for the evidence you are working with. 

Interpolate carefully.

 Generality: Don’t make hypotheses so specific that they only cover the evidence at hand. 

Avoid “ad hoc” hypotheses.


Testability is more a matter of how the hypothesis is treated by the person who holds the hypothesis.

·         Is the person willing to consider contrary evidence, or is potentially contrary evidence always explained away?

·         Article of Faith, rather than hypothesis.


·         Religion: Problem of Evil

·         Santa Claus brings us presents.

·         Horoscopes: “You can make progress if you deal with the right individuals.”  “Hidden assets can be doubled if you play your cards right.”

·         Psychics: If it didn’t happen, it’s because other factors intervened.

 Testability: Don’t be dogmatic.

Take contrary evidence seriously. 



·         Horoscopes:

·         “Love can be yours if you get out today.” 

·         “Observe and you will learn.” 

·         “Pleasure trips will promote romance.” 


Precision: Don’t be excessively vague.


A good hypothesis is one that does well in light of the six virtues of hypotheses. 


Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch works best here:

Following this I presented two movie selections to discuss the nature of Aristotle's conception of tragedy:

The first scene we watched was the scene from "The Two Towers" titled "The White Rider" and discussed the narrative aspect of the piece: resurrection. We then viewed the last scene from "The Passion" and contrasted this with the previous piece from "The Lord of the Rings". (In Truth Beauty and Goodness I often then refer a book as a result of the discussion by selecting James Dunn's book "Jesus Remembered" titled "Postmodernism" to focus on how the dialogue concerning the nature of truth in narratives has taken the linguistic (post-Wittgensteinian) turn. (The link above is to the Google Book page I read in class for TBG).

The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Widescreen Edition)  
The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Widescreen Edition) by Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, and Orlando Bloom (DVD)
The Passion of the Christ (Widescreen Edition)  
The Passion of the Christ (Widescreen Edition) by James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Hristo Jivkov, and Francesco De Vito (DVD)


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