A peircean pathway from surprising facts to new beliefs

Martin Davies, Max Coltheart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The concept of abduction was extensively analyzed by the pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce more than a century ago. Modern philosophers typically treat abduction as being the same as “inference to the best explanation” and often even attribute this position to Peirce. But this was not his position. For him, abduction involved inference to any possible explanation. He was particularly concerned with how people respond to experiences they were not expecting by acquiring new beliefs which would make such experiences expected. We spell out the eight cognitive steps from unexpected experience to new belief that are implicit in Peirce’s work on abduction, and using a particular historical example we show how promising this theory of belief acquisition is. We identify two lacunae in this theory that will need to be filled in if we are to have a complete theory of how unexpected experiences (“surprising facts”) give rise to new beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-426
Number of pages27
JournalTransactions of the Charles S Peirce Society
Volume56
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Charles S. Peirce
  • Belief Formation
  • Abduction
  • Abductive Inference
  • Inference to the Best Explanation
  • Pursuit-Worthiness

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