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“The Fixation of Belief” Philosophy 1 Spring, 2002 G. J. Mattey.

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Presentation on theme: "“The Fixation of Belief” Philosophy 1 Spring, 2002 G. J. Mattey."— Presentation transcript:

1 “The Fixation of Belief” Philosophy 1 Spring, 2002 G. J. Mattey

2 Charles Sanders Peirce Born 1839 From Cambridge, MA Greatest American philosopher Accomplished scientist Had no permanent university job Died 1914

3 Peirce’s Contributions Pioneer in development of symbolic logic Founder of semiotic, the investigation of signs Made practical consequences the test of the meaningfulness of statements, including those of science and metaphysics Defined truth as the beliefs of the community of science in the long run

4 Logic For the medievals, logic was deduction from what is given by authority Later it was seen that logic must begin with experience The way in which we learn from experience has been refined as science progresses Ultimately, Darwin used statistical methods where causes were unknown

5 Reasoning A valid chain of reasoning yields a true conclusion given true premises It is not affected by how people actually reason Ordinary reasoning is overly optimistic, and we are often frustrated, though we do not learn from this Natural selection may favor logicality in practical matters but illogicality in impractical matters

6 Guiding Principles We draw the conclusions we do in our reasoning on the basis of habit Good habit yields valid reasoning A “guiding principle” of inference is the formulation of habits of reasoning A true principle is one yielding validity True guiding principles are especially useful where there are no established methods Example: what is true of one piece of copper is true of another

7 Logic and Common Sense In investigating logic, we take for granted that there is a transition from doubt to belief The most essential principles would be those implied by the idea of the process We mix the products of logical reflection with those of ordinary thought The assignment of qualities to things is the result of logical reflection, not observation

8 Doubt and Belief We manifest doubt when we ask a question and belief when we make a pronouncement Doubt and belief feel different Beliefs guide our desires and shape our actions, while doubts do not have this effect Doubt is uneasy and restless, while we are satisfied in belief, clinging tenaciously to it

9 Inquiry The irritation of doubt leads to a struggle to find satisfaction in belief This struggle is called “inquiry” We reject beliefs in favor of doubt when they are inadequate in producing results This creates a new struggle The end of the struggle is at best a belief that we think to be true, not true belief

10 Consequences for Reasoning It impossible to stimulate doubt artificially, in the manner of Descartes Reasoning begins from premises that are in fact doubted, not what is indubitable (e.g., general first principles or sensations) It is pointless to argue in favor of something that is already believed

11 The Method of Tenacity One way to attain the satisfaction of belief is to avoid all occasions for doubt Another is to cling tenaciously to the beliefs one already has Immoveable faith gives great peace of mind, which might be greater than the inconvenience it might cause To call this irrational is only to point out that a tenacious believer achieves his ends differently

12 The Method of Authority The method of tenacity has practical shortcomings It is opposed by the social impulse—the fixation of belief takes place at the level of the community But the community can enforce beliefs This is how theological and religious doctrines have been upheld historically It leads to cruel suppression

13 The Limits of Authority Authority is superior to individual tenacity It has greater concrete successes This may be the best method for the great masses of human beings But some people recognize the diversity of beliefs across cultures Doubts arise because they have no reason to think their culture’s authority is superior

14 The A Priori Method To overcome the arbitrariness of authority, people try to discover indisputable facts This is found most clearly in mathematics But what is “agreeable to reason” is only what we find most inclined to believe There is a lot of disagreement about what is “agreeable to reason” Still, some beliefs that do not rest on facts are almost universal (e.g., people only act selfishly)

15 True Induction The a priori method is subject to the whims of changing fashion, and there is never any permanent agreement In this way, it is essentially like authority What fixes our belief should be something upon which our thinking has no effect It should be a permanent touchstone of belief for every person

16 The Method of Science The fundamental hypotheses of the method of science are these: –There are real things whose characters are independent of what we think about them –Although our sensations vary, we can regiment them through laws of perception –This gives rise to true belief about real things

17 Skepticism The scientific method cannot be used to prove its assumption of real things There are three replies: –The method does not collapse through its own practice, as do the others –Everyone admits to this hypothesis, else there would be no reason to believe at all –People use the method ordinarily and fail to use it only when they do not know how –Scientific method has done well in settling opinion

18 Advantages The scientific method establishes a distinction between right and wrong belief Application of the method is the test of it The other methods have their advantages –The a priori method gives comfortable beliefs –Authority is the path of peace –Tenacity is strong, simple and direct But there is no reason to think that belief corresponds with fact as a result of using them

19 The Morality of Belief We should adopt the scientific method, though it means giving up security The integrity of belief is more wholesome than any particular belief one might give up To admit that there is truth but to shrink from the best way to find it is a sorry state of mind One who has made the choice will hold it most worthy, despite the discomfort it causes

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