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By A.J. Ayer

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Extra resources for The Origins of Pragmatism: Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James

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We might have to stipulate that A himself need not be conscious of the purpose in question: we should have to distinguish between more immediate and remoter ends: and we should have to make special provision for what might be called the standing factors in any given situation, that is, those that are equally conducive both to the achievement of one's purpose or to its frustration, in the sense that the fact that the earth is still warm enough to support human life is equally conducive to my catching my train or to my missing it, since it is a necessary condition of my doing anything at all.

This is clearly no way of obtaining a general definition of belief, but it might enable us to deal severally with A's belief that p, A's belief that q, B's belief that p and so forth. Since there is no defmite limit to the number of wayward beliefs which might have to be provided for, I do not think that, even in particular cases, we could expect to tell a behavioural story of which we could say that it was necessary that this be true for A to believe that p, but we might expect to be able to tell one that was sufficient.

The theory forbids us to search for the current in the wire, or the leprechaun in the watch. 1 In short, it allows no truck with metaphysics. Its standpoint is very closely akin to that which was later to be adopted by the logical positivists. Peirce's pragmatic maxim is indeed identical, for all practical purposes, with the physicalist interpretation of the verification principle. All the same there are difficulties, especially when one tries to work the theory out in detail. I shall briefly mention a few of the more important ones, and make one or two suggestions as to how they might be met.

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