The Fixation of Belief

Popular Science Monthly 12 (1):1-15 (1877)
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Abstract

“Probably Peirce’s best-known works are the first two articles in a series of six that originally were collectively entitled Illustrations of the Logic of Science and published in Popular Science Monthly from November 1877 through August 1878. The first is entitled ‘The Fixation of Belief’ and the second is entitled ‘How to Make Our Ideas Clear.’ In the first of these papers Peirce defended, in a manner consistent with not accepting naive realism, the superiority of the scientific method over other methods of overcoming doubt and ‘fixing belief.’” — Robert Burch, “Charles Sanders Peirce,” entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2021 revision) “Pragmatist epistemologies often explore how we can carry out inquiries in a self-controlled and fruitful way. (Where much analytic epistemology centres around the concept of knowledge, considered as an idealised end-point of human thought, pragmatist epistemology centres around the concept of inquiry, considered as the process of knowledge-seeking and how we can improve it.) So pragmatists often provide rich accounts of the capacities or virtues that we must possess in order to inquire well, and the rules or guiding principles that we should adopt. A canonical account is Peirce’s classic early paper ‘The Fixation of Belief‘. Here Peirce states that inquiry is a struggle to replace doubt with “settled belief“, and that the only method of inquiry that can make sense of the fact that at least some of us are disturbed by inconsistent beliefs, and will subsequently reflect upon which methods of fixing belief are correct is the Method of Science, which draws on the Pragmatic Maxim described above. This contrasts with three other methods of fixing belief: i) refusing to consider evidence contrary to one’s favored beliefs (the Method of Tenacity), ii) accepting an institution’s dictates (the Method of Authority), iii) developing the most rationally coherent or elegant-seeming belief-set (the A Priori Method).“ — Catherine Legg, “Pragmatism,” entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2021 revision)

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