“That the settlement of opinion is the sole end of inquiry is a very important proposition. It sweeps away, at once, various vague and erroneous conceptions of proof. A few of these may be noticed here.
Some people seem to love to argue a point after all the world is fully convinced of it. But no further advance can be made. When doubt ceases, mental action on the subject comes to an end; and, if it did go on, it would be without purpose.”
These ideas, I think, are right, or partly so. For it does seem like a very good evolutionary advantage that we try to settle our opinions through inquiry. Though fruitful, Pierce’s picture is, I believe, incomplete. For it doesn’t seem that even when all the world is fully convinced of something, inquiry has, or even will, stop. We may suppose that no more doubt lurks around, and yet, inquiry continues. This appears to be the case all through history. Even if no one ever doubted that the earth was flat at a given point in time, inquiry continued.
If only doubt were to ignite action upon the subject matter, we would not be where we are. We would need a doubt to explain the change from a Flat Earth to a Spherical one, and it would have to appear exactly there where there is none. We need, it seems, something else to start over the engine of inquiry. At the very least, something else, not doubt, to start over generating doubts.
This, I think, stresses the relevance of boredom. For it is exactly then, when all the world is fully convinced of something, that someone gets bored with it. And that is exactly how new doubts may appear, forced by the need to imagine new stories, new accounts, unknown views, something that relieves us of such extraordinary boredom (imagine everyone really being fully convinced of something; sounds scary!). Without boredom we couldn’t move Kuhn’s revolutionary train; without boredom we couldn’t fuel the engine of inquiry. Without boredom, I wouldn’t be thinking, or writing, this.