Fixing Beliefs


Fixing Beliefs Essay, Research Paper

 P. 1

Fixing Beliefs: A summary of C. S. Peirce

In ?The Fixation of Belief? Charles Sanders Pierce discusses logic, knowledge, reason,

and how we come about to believe what is true and what is not. He also describes four methods

of fixing beliefs, which is the main focus of his article.

Pierce first describes to his readers what believing and doubting are. He suggests that

believing is a feeling of satisfaction and serenity, while doubt is one of unrest and dissatisfaction.

And that a state of doubt is simply one in which we struggle to pass from into a state of belief. He

calls this struggle inquiry. And he states that the sole object of inquiry is the settlement of opinion.

As humans we tend to have one problem though; as soon as we reach a firm belief, we tend to

adhere to it wether it?s false or not, mostly because of our then satisfied state.

Here he goes into the first method of fixing beliefs: tenacity. This is a method in which

people believe that if they cling to their views and never stray from their system of beliefs, they

will forever be satisfied thus acquiring a great peace of mind. This method however, has a great

flaw: social interaction tends to disprove false beliefs no matter how strongly the person believes

them. People are influenced by others. And doubt, no matter how small begins to seep in and the

person will take note of others? beliefs and will become more and more susceptible to the truth (or

what others believe to be the truth). The only way to avoid this is to live a totally isolated life.

P. 2

The next method discussed is that of authority. This method resembles tenacity is its

fundamental approach, but is somewhat more effective. In this method an authority figure

(government, church/religion) more or less dictates a set of beliefs which its people and/or citizens

are to follow with the threat of punishment for nonconformists. To the rational man?s eyes, this

system is always accompanied by cruelties, which in turn can become atrocities when consistantly

carried out. This method does have somewhat of a positive side though. It is evident that in every

case the system of beliefs and values changes over time, but this takes place so slowly, it would be

impossible to recognize in one?s lifetime.

The third method of fixing beliefs is a priori which means agreeable to reason. Peirce says

that ?it does not mean that which agrees with experience, but that which we find ourselves

inclined to believe? is an apt expression of this method. As in the first two methods, truth is?nt the

primary concern, just the feeling of peaceful satisfaction.

The final method is that of science. Peirce calls it a method to satisfy our doubts and th

only one to make a distinction between a right and a wrong way. The only test on the first three

methods is what the individual or state or whoever thinks, but using the scientific method, all

people can come to the same conclusions, therefore those conclusions must be true. And

experience of the method hasn?t cause people to doubt it, but to believe it because it settles

opinions beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore truth and true knowledge can come into existence

for all humans who chose to believe in the scientific method. But we all use this method for a

variety of every day observations, so in truth we all use this method, but not everyone believes

that they believe in it.

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