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Charles Peirce's Theory of Scientific Method$
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Francis E. Reilly

Print publication date: 1970

Print ISBN-13: 9780823208807

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823208807.001.0001

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The Moderate Fallibilism of Science

The Moderate Fallibilism of Science

(p.79) Chapter V The Moderate Fallibilism of Science1
Charles Peirce's Theory of Scientific Method

Francis E. Reilly S. J.

Fordham University Press

This chapter considers how valuable scientific knowledge is, and how certain and permanent is the knowledge gained through this method. Peirce repeatedly and firmly asserts that scientific knowledge is not a completely certain and adequate representation of its object. Science never achieves the final and absolute formulation of the universe. Pierce calls the acknowledgment of this necessary limitation of scientific knowledge “fallibilism.” It is an attitude of reserve toward science, a deliberate withholding of a complete and final commitment toward the achievements of the scientific method. At the same time, there is a spirit of confidence in science, and an assurance that science really does converge on the truth. Peircean fallibilism, then, is not a complete distrust of scientific knowledge. Rather it is tempered by the reasoned conviction that scientific knowledge is the best knowledge we have, and that the method of the sciences is the only reliable method of settling opinion, hence why his attitude is considered a “moderate fallibilism.” This chapter considers the moderate fallibilism of science as a consequent of the method of the sciences, and of the object which the sciences study, namely, the universe.

Keywords:   fallibilism, moderate fallibilism, Peircean fallibilism, scientific knowledge, universe, scientific method

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