Peirce on Pragmaticism, 1

In “The Maxim of Pragmatism” Peirce works to distinguish his view of pragmatism from the new pragmatists that take the pragmatic maxim as the “sublime principle of speculative philosophy.” Peirce thinks the new pragmatists are too “lively,” which is to say uncritically exuberant in assigning the maxim too much power and work in their thinking. For Peirce, the pragmatic maxim is only a maxim of logic – it does not extend to metaphysical speculation.

Here is Peirce’s formulation:

Consider the effects that might conceivably have practical bearings we conceive the object of our conception to have: then, our conception of those effects is the whole of our conceptions of the object.

Peirce is at pains to show in a subsequent example about betting that high probability and practical efficacy, usefulness in effects, efficiency of explanation, etc. do not amount to full philosophical rigor. This must be criticized and checked against experiences, usually of others, and over a long period of time. The result of his train of reasoning in this lecture is to mark the chain of dependency which must be observed in pragmaticism as inquiry: logic–>ethics–>esthetics. Thus, it is not enough to make pragmatism about an individual’s immediate conceptions of objects and their consequences for practical action (logic and ethics) – they must be tempered by what actually happens in experience (esthetics). The upshot of this is that pragmatism cannot be a matter of psychology and action – it must deal with and be reconciled with the reality of objects in the world.

As you may recall, this is what Kant discovers analytically in his Critiques: your metaphysics depends on your logic (CPR); your logic depends on your ethics (CPrR); and it all depends on your aesthetics (CPJ). Peirce ends by talking about Phenomenology, which will be defined specifically to evade the Hegelian idea of it, and renamed “phaneroscopy.”

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