If the settlement of opinion is the sole object of inquiry, and if belief is of the nature of a habit, why should we not attain the desired end, by taking any answer to a question which we may fancy, and constantly reiterating it to ourselves, dwelling on all which may conduce to that belief, and learning to turn with contempt and hatred from anything which might disturb it? This simple and direct method is really pursued by many men. I remember once being entreated not to read a certain newspaper lest it might change my opinion upon free-trade. "Lest I might be entrapped by its fallacies and misstatements," was the form of expression. "You are not," my friend said, "a special student of political economy. You might, therefore, easily be deceived by fallacious arguments upon the subject. You might, then, if you read this paper, be led to believe in protection. . . ." I have often known this system to be deliberately adopted. Still oftener, the instinctive dislike of an undecided state of mind, exaggerated into vague dread of doubt, makes men cling spasmodically to the views they already take. The man feels that, if he only holds to his belief without wavering, it will be entirely satisfactory. Nor can it be denied that a steady and immovable faith yields great peace of mind. It may indeed give rise to inconveniences, as if a man . . . would be eternally damned if he received hist ingest otherwise than through a stomach-pump. But then the man who adopts this method will not allow that it's inconveniences are greater than it s advantages. He will say, "I hold steadfastly to the truth, and the truth is always wholesome." And in many cases it may very well be that the pleasure he derives from his calm faith overbalances any inconveniences resulting for its deceptive character. (From Pragmatism: A Reader, ed. by Louis Menand, p. 15-16)
Peirce talks about how we don't like the unsettled feeling of doubt, so we adopt different strategies to remove it. So in his essay "The Fixation of Belief", from which the excerpt above was taken, he does a kind of phenomenology of the ways in which humans deal with doubt by finding different psychological methods to get rid of it. The goal is to reach a state of stability that seems safe from the unsettling feeling of being in doubt.
One method, the one illustrated in the excerpt above, is the method of 'tenacity'. The others are 'authority' 'a priori', and 'science'. I'm going to look at each one in different posts, but I would point out here that for Peirce 'science' is just a way of believing, with its own advantages and disadvantages. So while we may recognize with some sense of superiority people we know who have adopted the method of 'tenacity, he ends the discussion on it by saying,
It would be an egotistical impertinence to object that his procedure is irrational, for that only amount to saying that his method of settling belief is not ours. He does not propose to himself to be rational, and, indeed will often talk with scorn of man's weak and illusive reason. So let him think as he pleases.
Climate change deniers and anti-Darwinians, nothwithstanding, I suppose Peirce would say, that reality will soon enough teach them from hard experience the error of their ways, and if it doesn't, who cares? But aren't there some situations in which we need to be tenacious in the face of the evidence? I'll look into that in future posts. And then there's a part of me that will always have a warm spot for Tertullian's credo quia absurdum. As D.T. Suzuki said of him:
"A noted Christian Father of the early Middle Ages once exclaimed: "O poor Aristotle! Thou who has discovered for the heretics the art of dialectics, the art of building up and destroying, the art of discussing all things and accomplishing nothing!" So much ado about nothing, indeed! See how philosophers of all ages contradict one another after spending all their logical acumen and analytical ingenuity on the so-called problems of science and knowledge. No wonder the same old wise man, wanting to put a stop once for all to all such profitless discussions, has boldly thrown the following bomb right into the midst of those sand-builders: "Certum est quia impossible est"; or, more logically, "Credo quia absurdum est." I believe because it is irrational; is this not an unqualified confirmation of Zen?" (from Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, p. 68.)
I should add that I am not a fideist. My project is to make the ground of my beliefs plausible to the late modern mind. But as I've long argued here, we all start, no matter how rational we think we might be, with assumptions that are grounded in the irrational. And so the argument I want to make in the long run is that the most important criteria for anyone's choosing what he or she believes should be whether it opens up greater possibilities for becoming more deeply human. If we accept that as the basic framework for argument, irrationally grounded though it might be, then Christians have some important things to contribute to the conversation.