Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Peirce on fixing belief

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Peirce writes the following in "The Fixation of Belief'', 

The irritation of doubt is the only immediate motive for the struggle to attain belief. It is certainly best for us that our beliefs should be such as may truly guide our actions so as to satisfy our desires; and this reflection will make us reject any belief which does not seem to have been so formed as to insure this result. But it will only do so by creating a doubt in the place of that belief. With the doubt, therefore, the struggle begins, and with the cessation of doubt it ends. Hence, the sole object of inquiry is the settlement of opinion. We may fancy that this is not enough for us, and that we seek, not merely an opinion, but a true opinion. But put this fancy to the test, and it proves groundless; for as soon as a firm belief is reached we are entirely satisfied, whether the belief be true or false. And it is clear that nothing out of the sphere of our knowledge can be our object, for nothing which does not affect the mind can be the motive for mental effort. The most that can be maintained is, that we seek for a belief that we shall think to be true. But we think each one of our beliefs to be true, and, indeed, it is mere tautology to say so. That the settlement of opinion is the sole end of inquiry is a very important proposition. 

The major conclusion of the argument is this: Truth is not the end of inquiry; only the fixation of belief is the only end of inquiry. What is Peirce's argument for this claim? 

Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce