The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to
by all who investigate, is what we mean by the truth,
and the object represented in this opinion is the real.
(CP 5.407, JR’s emphasis).
The key word here is “investigate”. We can read that loosely as any method of fixing belief, but we know that Peirce ranked methods of fixing belief in order of their malleability to the impressions of reality, their aptness to let what is permanent, persistent, “something upon which our thinking has no effect” (CP 5.384) settle the matter once and for all.
This is the question of “convergence”, a question that mathematicians, physicists, systems theorists, etc. have investigated in great detail. As a rule we find that some methods of procedure, of stepping through a sequence of states, will eventually converge on a settled or stable state while others will not. All that is relative, of course, to the mathematical model or theory we have in hand for describing states of information in time. So we never quite escape the question of how to tell whether a model is good and succeeds in its purpose of giving us information about its object or whether it falls short of that object.
- Peirce, C.S. (1877), “The Fixation Of Belief”, Popular Science Monthly 12 (Nov 1877), pp. 1–15. Reprinted in Collected Papers, CP 5.358–387. Online.
- Peirce, C.S. (1878), “How To Make Our Ideas Clear”, Popular Science Monthly 12 (Jan 1878), pp. 286–302. Reprinted in Collected Papers, CP 5.388–410. Online.