The Fixation of Belief
Charles S. Peirce
Charles Sanders Peirce was a strikingly
original American Philosopher. Peirce began his career as a physicist.
His experiments with pendulums contributed to the determination of the
density and shape of the earth. He also worked on the measurement of light
waves. In his late twenties he undertook a study of formal logic (especially
the new mathematical logic of George Boole.) For the next twenty years
he lectured on philosophy and logic at Harvard and John's Hopkin's Universities.
to be certain. One only has to be sufficiently vague - C.S.
Peirce is best known for initiating an original
philosophical system, which is now known as pragmatism. One of
Peirce's earliest assertions of pragmatism is developed in his article,The
Fixation of Belief, which was published in Popular Science
Monthly 12 (November 1877), 1-15.
Peirce's ideas had strong influence on William
James and John Dewey, two of the most read American philosophers. As well
as philosophy, Dewey was very influential in American Education. William
James is a major figure in psychology and went on to fully develop the
pragmatic system of philosophy. James characterized truth as the
capacity of a belief to guide one to successful action and proposed that
all beliefs be evaluated in terms of their usefulness in solving problems.
Compare this to Pierce's statement; "The opinion which is fated to
be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate is what we mean by truth
and the object represented by this opinion is the real."
You may also use the printable
copy provided on this site. This commentary is divided into nine sections.
Some of the terms have been linked to a concordance to help you better
understand Peirce's writing. To use the concordance links, position your
cursor on the highlighted word (try it now with the word:
concordance.) The concordance words may appear in a different
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concordance. If this does not work for you, please let me know.
Within the some of the commentary pages
you will also find feedback forms. Use these to express the degree of
confidence you have in understanding the text. It is important to recognize
that the ideas and issues being probed by the philosophers we will investigate
are complex and problematic. The approach we are taking to philosophy
in InterQuest is not a matter of learning a list of facts or proceedures.
The prime objective is to learn something about ourselves: our beliefs,
assumptions, perceptions, values, and defenses. We are using works like
The Fixation of Belief
because they have significant influence upon culture, but also because
they can help open some insights into our own belief systems. Every belief
system has automatic defense mechanisms. A fascinating aspect of such
defense mechanisms is that they are so clever in hiding themselves from
us. Consider your experiences in reading the following article as a counter-move
in the project of uncovering some of your hidden beliefs and their defenses.