ST Map of Cognitive Process LO5752

John Paul Fullerton (
Tue, 20 Feb 1996 13:50:29 +0000

Replying to LO5678 --

Responding to comments from Rick
reponding to a question from Steven Metzmacher in LO5678

Steven asked
> Has anyone seen or tried to devise a systemic diagram of the human mind's
> thought processes

and Rick responded
> Charles S. Peirce wrote about the dynamics of how we come to believe the
> things that we believe. In "The Fixation of Belief" (recommended by John
> Warfield), Peirce argues that a state of doubt is uncomfortable, that
> tend quickly to fix on a belief to end the doubt, and that we fix on
> beliefs that propel us towards what we want, at least that seem to, in
> the short run.

When Dr. Warfield recommended the essay as one of the most significant
products of American philosophy - if I'm remembering - it prompted me to
be more attentive to Peirce.

Four seemingly - and may well be - unrelated points of information before
my comment. The professor who taught American Philosophy here at A&M said
that Peirce had two hopes in life, that he would get his doctorate and
that people would say his name correctly. Usually he was newly greeted
with the salutation "Dr. Peerce" - his name is pronounced "Purse". Point
three is that one introduction to some of his writing acknowledges that in
certain passages of his work, it is impossible not to hear his bitterness.
He seems to have not been treated as well by Harvard as he would have
liked. And the last point is like the third, that for something as often
sober as philosophy, his apparent wrestling against what other people have
said to him seems unphilosophical to me. Maybe this is telling in the
context of him saying that thought is the response to the turmoil of
doubt. Perhaps this is stupid of me to say it, but I was thinking of the
passage in the Bible where David says, "the fool has said in his heart,
there is no God." I got to the point where I thought of the interpretation
that a person who was behaving foolishly may have thus impressed upon
someone else's heart that there is no God. Certainly, foolish things
happen, and someone may say that they're doing it for God. Peirce
undoubtedly found himself in conflict from time to time in the late 1800's
in New England.

My comment.

Doubt explaining thought doesn't seem particularly relevant to me. It
certainly doesn't seem profound or a reflection of something I had thought
and not so well expressed. For example, sometimes when I'm walking in a
contented state of mind, a seemingly chance thought may come to mind,
maybe something having to do with where I work, maybe having little to do
with a particular interest or direct focus, just an idea that reflected in
that direction. Sometimes a sequence of thoughts may appear that have to
do with a project that seems complicated to me. Usually, good thoughts, or
thoughts that I fully welcome, do not come right out of conflict or the
state of troubled doubt. To make the example more explicit, when I worked
on a computer program based on the life algorithm (1) sometimes processes
that seemed very difficult to think through on purpose sorted themselves
out and appeared in my thoughts as solved and simpler. The nearest thing
to doubt would have been my uncertainty that I could reach a solution and
the uncertainty that my approach was right. Yet there wasn't a troubled
state of mind, and partly I responded by not working on the project during
times when I didn't know the answer.

Admittedly, that's not very definitive!

Another, even less conflicting, example was a response to a Christmas
display with a Christmas tree, and three cartoon-like animals. The animals
were the recipients of the gifts, I guess, and their expressions didn't
seem to convey the appropriate response to being imaginary creatures in a
scenario designed for their benefit. So, it got me going. After a few
steps, some better explanation came to mind, in my opinion, and my
thinking calmed down, or I in my thinking calmed down. That resounds with
some of the sense of what Peirce talked about. However, it may be that we
have some positive perception of "something better" that means something
to us, and so we pursue it, rather than being in a comparatively negative
state of just being unconvinced.

I'm not sure that I hope that this conversation will continue :)

Have a nice day
John Paul Fullerton

(1) available freely at

"John Paul Fullerton" <>

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