Peirce, Psychologism, And the Doubt-Belief Theory of Inquiry
Jeffrey Lee Kasser
Advisor: Chair LOUIS E. LOEB
Source: DAI, 60, no. 05A (1999): p. 1600
Many scholars hold that Peirce came to reject crucial aspects of his best-known and most influential essays, "The Fixation of Belief" and "How To Make Our Ideas Clear." In particular, they claim that Peirce repudiated the doubt-belief theory of inquiry, at least in the form in which he presented it in these papers. The reason most often offered on behalf of this view is that Peirce came to realize that the doubt-belief theory, with its reliance upon such claims as that doubt is irritating and aversive, while belief is calm and satisfactory, amounts to a version of psychologism.
I argue that Peirce rightly regarded his original papers as free of psychologism. I try to provide a clear statement of what Peirce means by a psychological account of logic, paying particular attention to his broad construal of "logic." Once the relevant issues have been clarified, the usually cited evidence of psychologism and of the later Peirce's recognition of psychologism seems much less impressive than it has been taken to be. While Peirce did register a complaint about the role of a psychological premise in the papers, his objection has little or nothing to do with psychologism.
I then try to show that Peirce defended very similar and very robustly antipsychologistic positions long before and long after he published "Fixation" and "How To." The standard view thus faces a serious problem; it seems quite implausible that Peirce would have changed his mind twice (first toward and then back away from psychologism) about a matter which was so important to him.
Finally, I try to explain in some detail how the appearance of psychologism in the two famous essays can be reconciled with Peirce's antipsychologistic writings. I criticize the main interpretations of the doubt-belief theory as psychologistic and provide an alternative account. I suggest that Peirce offers a surprisingly sophisticated naturalistic grounding for norms of inquiry.
Accession No: AAG9929858