Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 W - Wishful thinking


Wishful thinking: The inference of conclusions that conform to one's desires because they conform to one's desires: "It is so, because I desire it to be so; it is not so, because I desire it not to be so."

Inference Scheme of Wishful Thinking: I desire it were true, therefore it is true.

This is the fundamental principle of invalid reasoning, and it should be clear why this is so and why no human being spends a day or an hour without some wishful thinking: Because wishful thinking yields what human beings wish, and gives them satisfaction and pleasure, even if this is merely fantasy, and because human beings desire so much to get what they please that merely imagining that things are as they desire to believe they are is a sufficiently strong motive to make them believe what they desire, and to act on that belief.

It is the real basis of each political ideology and each religion. Normally, it goes together with the active refusal to seriously consider the reasoned arguments of (supposed) opponents.

Here is the 19th Century English mathematician Augustus De Morgan (a good friend of Boole) on the subject and its implications:

"My opinion of mankind is founded upon the mournful fact that, so far as I can see, they find within themselves the means of believing in a thousand times as much as there is to believe in, judging by experience."
   (De Morgan)


See also: Fundamental principles of invalid reasoning, Clifford, Happiness, Power, Willing




 Original: Jul 26, 2004                                                  Last edited:12 December 2011 .   Top