2. Method of Authority for Fixation of Belief

In Collected Papers, Peirce (1934) described second the method of authority as a way to resolve doubt. In essence, we believe what we are told to believe by those in power. He writes:

Let an institution be created which shall have for its object to keep correct doctrines before the attention of the people, to reiterate them perpetually, and to teach them to the young; having at the same time power to prevent contrary doctrines from being taught, advocated, or expressed (5:379).

In judging this method of fixing belief, which may be called the method of authority, we must, in the first place, allow its immeasurable mental and moral superiority to the method of tenacity (5:379, italics added).

But no institution can undertake to regulate opinions upon every subject. Only the most important ones can be attended to, and on the rest men's minds must be left to the action of natural causes. This imperfection will be no source of weakness so long as men are in such a state of culture that one opinion does not influence another — that is, so long as they cannot put two and two together (5:381).

Peirce identified four methods of fixation of belief:

  1. Tenacity
  2. Authority
  3. Agreeableness to Reason (a Priori)
  4. Science