We, the Jeffs of the American Mountain West, take pleasure in welcoming you to 
the discussion of Chapter 6 of Kees' book. As you might recall from Gary's post 
of a couple of days ago, I plan to go by "Jeff" and Jeff Downard will take an 
extra syllable for the team and go by "Jeffrey." I write to provide a brief and 
somewhat selective recap of the chapter, and Jeffrey will launch us with some 
discussion questions.

Chapter 6 begins where many of us in the philosophy biz began with Peirce. "The 
Fixation of Belief" almost single-handedly redirected me from ethics to 
epistemology when I encountered it as a graduate student. Kees begins his 
chapter by reminding us how broadly Peirce used "science," viz. to refer to any 
inquiry aimed at ascertaining positive fact. So philosophy of science for 
Peirce will encompass most of what today gets called epistemology.

I'd like to emphasize a point that Kees makes in passing. On p. 94, he notes 
that "Fixation" and "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" remained important papers to 
Peirce throughout his life. "How to" figures centrally in Chapter 7, so I'll 
say little about it here, but I think that Peirce's self-criticism about the 
example of the unscratched diamond, combined with the relative accessibility of 
these papers, the fact that they appeared in *Popular Science Monthly*, and the 
fact that they are the only Peirce papers many thinkers have read, can work 
against these essays. They are as close as Peirce came to popularity, but they 
are no less serious for that, and Peirce scholars should not leave these papers 
to the uninitiated. I won't go into details here, but Peirce remained largely 
committed to his theory of inquiry throughout his life, and I do not think that 
these papers are youthful, naïve, psychologistic or popular in any pejorative 

Kees situates Peirce's theory of inquiry somewhat differently than do most 
introductory presentations. The doubt-belief theory is typically contrasted 
with foundationalism, which is roughly the doctrine that some beliefs or 
belief-like states can serve as justifiers without themselves requiring 
justification. Kees instead contrasts Peirce's view with "epistemic 
agnosticism," which seems to be a thesis primarily about the role of passions 
and prejudices in inquiry. Proponents of epistemic agnosticism think that 
inquiry can and should begin from and remain importantly isolated from the 
passions, prejudices and affinities of inquirers. Peirce, Kees argues, 
considers epistemic agnosticism descriptively unrealistic and (as we'll see in 
a moment) normatively unnecessary. I hope that we will be able to discuss this 
intriguing way of situating the doubt-belief theory.

Kees nicely brings out the modesty of the normative inputs and the majesty of 
the normative outputs involved in the doubt-belief theory. Peirce begins from 
the satisfactoriness of belief and the fact that doubt stimulates toward its 
own removal. He modestly proposes that the removal of doubt and the attainment 
of belief amount to the sole aim of inquiry, and that methods of inquiry are to 
be judged solely in terms of their effectiveness at producing stable belief. I 
will allow myself the following small bit of editorializing: I think that 
there's a lot more to be said about the basic ingredients of Peirce's theory of 
inquiry: what constitutes stability, what makes for a "positive reason" for 
doubting, etc. than we Peirceans have yet reckoned with. Editorializing over. 
"Fixation" is a classic largely because of how much Peirce tries to make out of 
such slight normative resources. Peirce famously argues that the methods of 
authority and tenacity are not effective ways of managing doubt.  Nor is the a 
priori method, which Kees interestingly contrasts with the first two methods; 
some treatments emphasize what is common among the three unsatisfactory 
methods. Only the method of science, Peirce concludes, can be self-consciously 
deployed by those seeking to settle questions about what to believe. A lot of 
ink has been spilled to good effect about whether Peirce can build so much out 
of so little, and there's lots to talk about about how "Fixation" works and how 
well it works. 

Among the puzzling features of the argument of "Fixation" is the extent to 
which it relies on "the social impulse" as a generator of doubt. Kees tackles 
this issue with more charity and more sophistication than can be found in most 
introductory treatments. He emphasizes Peirce's tendency to use earth sciences, 
rather than particle physics, as an exemplary scientific discipline, and he 
emphasizes the extent to which science is, for Peirce, constituted by an 
attitude or moral commitment rather than a method. This approach allows a fresh 
look to be taken at the classic problem of demarcating science from 
pseudo-science, and it raises a host of intriguing questions about how Peirce 
would respond to recent work on the epistemology of disagreement, the 
psychology of belief polarization, and similar matters.

I am sure that I can speak for Jeffrey when I say that we look forward to 
bouncing our beliefs and doubts off of one another concerning these important 

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