The Fixation of Belief: The Four Methods

Charles Sanders Pierce, an American philosopher and scientist who has been labeled as the father of pragmatism, wrote an essay called “The Fixation of Belief” in 1877 as part of his series of discussions about the logic of science. It examined how people acquire and hold on to beliefs or their principles, opinions, viewpoints, dogmas, and attitudes, among others.

The essay also explained the difference between belief and doubt, in which the former produces a calm and satisfying state while the latter leave an individual in a state of distress and a feeling of dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, Pierce identified and defined four basic methods people use to fixate or settle on their beliefs.

The Fixation of Belief: The Four Methods According to Charles Sanders Pierce

1. Method of Tenacity

The first method identified by Pierce is the method of tenacity. It essentially involves an individual resisting other principles, opinions, viewpoints, dogmas, or attitudes that challenge his or her belief. He or she simply wastes no time in trying to make up his or her mind. Thus, this individual is stubborn, unyielding, and close-minded.

2. Method of Authority

In the method of authority, an individual looks up to a figure such as an individual or institution he or she deems as an authority to determine which beliefs they are going to accept. Examples of these figures include parents, teachers, religious leaders and religious institutions, celebrities, and politicians and their political party.

3. Method of Taste

Pierce called the method of taste as the a priori method. In this one of the four methods of explaining fixation of belief, the individual chooses principles, opinions, viewpoints, dogmas, and attitudes that sound good to him or her or that could bring forth personal benefits. In some instances, it also explains the tendency of others to cherry-pick from established dogmas.

4. Method of Science

The fourth method for fixing belief is called the method of science. Essentially, it involves accepting an assumption as true for the simplest reason that it sounds logical or reasonable, although it remains untested or unproven. The assumption is believable because it works to certain real and regular laws, or that it simply makes sense.

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