18 January 2013

Audio of "The Fixation of Belief" by Charles Sanders Peirce

Here's the promised companion piece to James's "The Will to Believe."  I'll confess a preference for this by Peirce.
Few persons care to study logic, because everybody conceives himself to be proficient enough in the art of reasoning already. But I observe that this satisfaction is limited to one's own ratiocination, and does not extend to that of other men.
An audio recording of Charles Sanders Peirce's "The Fixation of Belief," (44:08) first appearing in Popular Science Monthly as part of a series of essays by Peirce (pr. "purse") published in 1877-78.  These essays appeared in book form as Illustrations of the Logic of Science.

"A leading physicist of the 19th Century, Boltzmann, has suggested that the proces of the whole physical universe is like that of a continuous shaking up of a hap-hazard or chance mixture of things, which thus gradually results in a progressively more uniform distribution.  Since Duns Scotus, students of logic have known that every real entity has its individual character (its haecceitas or thisness) which cannot be explained or deduced from that which is uniform.  Every explanation, for example, of the moon's path must take particular existences for granted.  Such original or underived individuality and diversity is precisely what Peirce means by chance; and from this point of view chance is prior to law.

"All that is necessary to visualize this is to suppose that there is an infinitesimal  tendency in things to acquire habits, a tendency which is itself an accidental variation grown habitual.  We shall then be on the road to explain the evolution and existence of the limited uniformities actually prevailing in the physical world....

"The doctrine of primacy of chance naturally suggests the primacy of mind....The principal law of mind is that ideas literally spread themselves continuously and become more and more general or inclusive, so that people who form communities of any sort develop general ideas in common."

--Cohen, Morris R. "Introduction."  Chance, Love, and Logic: Philosophical Essays, by Charles Sanders Peirce.

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