4. Method of Science for Fixation of Belief (Disciplined Inquiry)

In Collected Papers, Peirce (1934) described fourth the method of science as a way to resolve doubt. The essence of this method is that it is repeatable by other inquirers, and if the method is properly followed, they should arrive at the same conclusion and hence the same belief.

Peirce wrote:

To satisfy our doubts, therefore, it is necessary that a method should be found by which our beliefs may be determined by nothing human, but by some external permanency — by something upon which our thinking has no effect.... Such is the method of science [disciplined inquiry] (5:384).

Experience of the method has not led us to doubt it, but, on the contrary, scientific investigation has had the most wonderful triumphs in the way of settling opinion (5:384).

The test of whether I am truly following the method is not an immediate appeal to my feelings and purposes, but, on the contrary, itself involves the application of the method (5:385).

The term, disciplined inquiry, is used here in the context of educology, so as not to restrict the method of science exclusively to inquiry about subject matter often referred to as sciences such as physics, biology, and chemistry.

Peirce identified four methods of fixation of belief:

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

Peirce (1877) further explained in Popular Science Monthly:

This [method of science] is the only one of the four methods which presents any distinction of a right and a wrong way. If I adopt the method of tenacity, and shut myself out from all influences, whatever I think necessary to doing this, is necessary according to that method. So with the method of authority: the state may try to put down heresy by means which, from a scientific point of view, seem very ill-calculated to accomplish its purposes; but the only test on that method is what the state thinks; so that it cannot pursue the method wrongly. So with the a priori method. The very essence of it is to think as one is inclined to think. All metaphysicians will be sure to do that, however they may be inclined to judge each other to be perversely wrong.... But with the scientific method the case is different. I may start with known and observed facts to proceed to the unknown; and yet the rules which I follow in doing so may not be such as investigation would approve. The test of whether I am truly following the method is not an immediate appeal to my feelings and purposes, but, on the contrary, itself involves the application of the method. Hence it is that bad reasoning as well as good reasoning is possible; and this fact is the foundation of the practical side of logic. (Section V, para. 11, http://www.peirce.org/writings/p107.html)