On Methods and Belief

March 5, 2012

It is not irrational to steadfastly hold the belief that, for example, your dreams have meaning or that the economies of the world are better off communistically despite contradicting evidences. Some men may go through life with the specific avoidance of any material that may contradict their beliefs. After all, when belief is of the nature of habit and the desired end of a mind, mental action on the subject comes to an end. This, argued Pierce, is one method of what he called belief fixation.

Let’s distance ourselves from our beliefs for a moment to ponder his logical argument. I posted last time about the individualistic nature of men. My supposition rests though on no facts about the world, as individualism has no empirical merit. It is merely a generally accepted belief that has a wide acceptance as being reasonable. Does that make me right? Not so, to Pierce.

It makes my belief merely akin to a similarity that is comparable to taste. Taste, however, like fashion, comes and goes and no fixed agreement is ever reached. The argument follows then why not remove anything that is human in any matter or in an inquiry? We should aim to rid our beliefs from any human causal influences, continued Pierce. And that would be the scientific method. In more familiar language:

There are real things, whose characters are entirely independent of our opinions about them; those realities affect our senses according to regular laws, and, though our sensations are as different as our relations to the objects, yet, by taking advantage of the laws of perception, we can ascertain by reasoning how things really are, and any man, if he have sufficient experience and reason enough about it, will be led to the one true conclusion.

Assuming that there are no doubts about the existence of reality, his belief of the scientific method however contradicts his logic. His reasoning is as follows:

Everybody uses the scientific method about a great many things, and only ceases to use it when he does not know how to apply it. 4. Experience of the method has not led me to doubt it, but, on the contrary, scientific investigation has had the most wonderful triumphs in the way of settling opinion.


Has it really? His language of used clearly demonstrates the effects of contagious agreement. Like a taste, “‘everybody’ has made used of the scientific method” could merely be a fad. The scientific method may have settled a lot of opinions objectively but other methods have too settled matters within an enclave – here, if belief fixation is the primary objective regardless of contradictory evidences.

Should it thus be possible to have a method of testing the method? Or does it even make sense at all to restrict ourselves to a single method that defines our beliefs? Herein is Feyerabend‘s reductio ad absurdum which calls for the eradication of rules that govern epistemological methods. His laissez-faire approach of discovery liberates un- and learned men to venture with no predetermined processes.

He describes science as being obsess with its own mythology and emits an elitist and racist air to the point of being an oppressive ideology. Albeit, his proposal of anything goes for scientific progress radically shifts from the ordinary man’s thinking yet it has been proven to be fundamentally important in shaping our perception of reality.

My supposition of individualism and including Pierce’s position on the scientific method rests on no scientific reasoning yet this conclusive method, and others like it, of arriving to a belief provides us with a pluralistic approach at determining the truth. Siding with Feyerabend, we need not abide to a monistic methodological process when determining the truth. But what is the Truth?