Indubitability and Truth in Peirce's Epistemic Methodology
Universityof Californiaat Santa Barbara
Advisor(s): Joseph Ransdell, Paul Wienpahl (Chairman)
Source: Worldcat; advisors
Peirce's approach to what is usually called "epistemology" is a special one; although his concerns are indeed epistemological in character, they diverge considerably from standard contemporary treatments. He is not, for example, primarily interested in an analysis of "x knows that p," or in generating an account of the generic truth conditions for epistemic claims, or, for that matter, in the question "What is knowledge?" considered as a request for a definition. Rather, he lays emphasis upon such matters as the kind of enterprise in which we are engaged when we seek knowledge, what prompts us to initiate this engagement, the presuppositions of inquiry, the nature of coming-to-know, and the methods of attaining a posture conducive to knowing. His is a study of epistemic enterprises, means, goals, commitments and the like; a study of that remarkably human form of life constituted by the search for knowledge.
For these reasons I believe we best capture the full richness and flavor of Peirce's work under the heading of "the Peircean epistemic methodology." Understanding the search for knowledge—inquiry—involves an understanding of belief and doubt since inquiry is, in Peirce's view, a transition from belief to belief which is mediated by intervening doubt. I am centrally concerned here with the question of whether indubitability plays a role within the Peircean epistemic methodology. That is, does Peirce contend that there is such a thing as the indubitable; and, if so, in what sense and why? My analysis shows that, contrary to the opinion of other Peirce commentators, indubitability plays no role within the Peircean epistemological framework, unless "indubitability" be understood in certain non-ordinary senses. That is, there are for Peirce a variety of kinds of indubitability, but only some of them are granted epistemic status, and those that are granted such status are not indubitable in the way indubitability is usually conceived in epistemological matters. The questions of precisely what these kinds of indubitability are and the special kind of status they have constitutes the burden of my thesis. The first two chapters are concerned with providing a proper context for this analysis by establishing some basic preliminary facts concerning the nature of doubt, belief, their relation to one another, and to inquiry as Peirce conceived it. The remaining chapters are concerned with isolating the various types of indubitabilities and their varying status in epistemic and non-epistemic contexts. In the concluding section of the final chapter, Peirce's concept of truth is considered in light of the foregoing considerations.