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Genuine Belief and Genuine Doubt in Peirce

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The well-known Peircean claim that belief and doubt oppose each other is typically taken to imply that nobody can be in a state of genuine doubt and genuine belief with respect to the same proposition at the same time. This paper tries to raise some genuine doubts about that implication. After showing that discussions of Peirce’s theory of inquiry often slip from a weak to a strong reading of the doubt-belief contrast without argument, the paper acknowledges and tries to disarm some textual evidence on behalf of the strong reading. It then tries to show that the text of “The Fixation of Belief” permits and even encourages the compatibility of genuine belief and genuine doubt. Peirce’s discussion of weight of evidence and appropriate feelings of belief is invoked to make plausible the suggestion that felt doubt can coexist with genuine belief.


Jeff Kasser    
Colorado State University
United States


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