In many diagrams one seems to perceive necessity – one sees not only that something is so, but that it must be so. That conflicts with a certain empiricism largely taken for granted in contemporary philosophy, which believes perception is not capable of such feats. The reason for this belief is often thought well-summarized in Hume's maxim: ‘there are no necessary connections between distinct existences’. It is also thought that even if there were such necessities, perception is too passive or (...) localized a faculty to register them. We defend the perception of necessity against such Humeanism, drawing on examples from mathematics. (shrink)
This article is concerned with developing a philosophical approach to a number of significant changes to academic publishing, and specifically the global journal knowledge system wrought by a range of new digital technologies that herald the third age of the journal as an electronic, interactive and mixed-media form of scientific communication. The paper emerges from an Editors' Collective, a small New Zealand-based organisation comprised of editors and reviewers of academic journals mostly in the fields of education and philosophy. The paper (...) is the result of a collective writing process. (shrink)
Charles Peirce's diagrammatic logic — the Existential Graphs — is presented as a tool for illuminating how we know necessity, in answer to Benacerraf's famous challenge that most ‘semantics for mathematics’ do not ‘fit an acceptable epistemology’. It is suggested that necessary reasoning is in essence a recognition that a certain structure has the particular structure that it has. This means that, contra Hume and his contemporary heirs, necessity is observable. One just needs to pay attention, not merely to individual (...) things but to how those things are related in larger structures, certain aspects of which relations force certain other aspects to be a certain way. (shrink)
Robert Brandom’s expressivism argues that not all semantic content may be made fully explicit. This view connects in interesting ways with recent movements in philosophy of mathematics and logic (e.g. Brown, Shin, Giaquinto) to take diagrams seriously - as more than a mere “heuristic aid” to proof, but either proofs themselves, or irreducible components of such. However what exactly is a diagram in logic? Does this constitute a semiotic natural kind? The paper will argue that such a natural kind does (...) exist in Charles Peirce’s conception of iconic signs, but that fully understood, logical diagrams involve a structured array of normative reasoning practices, as well as just a “picture on a page”. (shrink)
This entry explores Charles Peirce's account of truth in terms of the end or ‘limit’ of inquiry. This account is distinct from – and arguably more objectivist than – views of truth found in other pragmatists such as James and Rorty. The roots of the account in mathematical concepts is explored, and it is defended from objections that it is (i) incoherent, (ii) in its faith in convergence, too realist and (iii) in its ‘internal realism’, not realist enough.
Charles Peirce famously divided all signs into icons, indices and symbols. The past few decades have seen mainstream analytic philosophy broaden its traditional focus on symbols to recognise the so-called essential indexical. Can the moral now be extended to icons? Is there an “essential icon”? And if so, what exactly would be essential about it? It is argued that there is and it consists in logical form. Danielle Macbeth’s radical new “expressivist” interpretation of Frege’s logic and Charles Peirce’s existential graphs (...) are mobilized in support of this claim. (shrink)
Pragmatism’s heartening recent revival (spearheaded by Richard Rorty’s bold intervention into analytic philosophy Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature) has coalesced into a distinctive philosophical movement frequently referred to as ‘neopragmatism’. This movement interprets the very meaning of pragmatism as rejection of metaphysical commitments: our words do not primarily serve to represent non-linguistic entities, but are tools to achieve a range of human purposes. A particularly thorough and consistent version of this position is Huw Price’s global expressivism. We here critically (...) appraise Price’s understanding of a commitment to pragmatism as a rejection of metaphysics, and argue that such rejection is not as easy or desirable as Price claims. First we argue that Price’s global expressivism itself draws on significant metaphysical assumptions (a ‘word-world’ dualism, and a nominalism concerning the meaning of general terms). Then we seek to resolve neopragmatist anxieties about metaphysics by arguing that metaphysics is indispensable for pragmatist philosophizing insofar as it seeks ways for human beings to realise themselves through practices of understanding reality and their place in it. If, as we argue, metaphysics consists in a maximally general inquiry into the nature and structure of reality, to try to block it seems a puzzling exercise in epistemic self-harm. (shrink)
Mainstream philosophy has seen a recent flowering in discussions of intellectualism which revisits Gilbert Ryle’s famous distinction between ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing that’, and challenges his argument that the former cannot be reduced to the latter. These debates so far appear not to have engaged with pragmatist philosophy in any substantial way, which is curious as the relation between theory and practice is one of pragmatism’s main themes. Accordingly, this paper examines the contemporary debate in the light of Charles Peirce’s (...) habit-based epistemology. We argue both that knowing-that can be understood as a particularly sophisticated form of knowing-how, and that all bodily competencies—if sufficiently deliberately developed—can be analysed as instantiating propositional structure broadly conceived. In this way, intellectualism and anti-intellectualism are seen to be not opposed, and both true, although Peirce’s original naturalistic account of propositional structure does lead him to reject what we shall call ‘linguistic intellectualism’. (shrink)
Charles S. Peirce’s semiotics uniquely divides signs into: i) symbols, which pick out their objects by arbitrary convention or habit, ii) indices, which pick out their objects by unmediated ‘pointing’, and iii) icons, which pick out their objects by resembling them (as Peirce put it: an icon’s parts are related in the same way that the objects represented by those parts are themselves related). Thus representing structure is one of the icon’s greatest strengths. It is argued that the implications of (...) scaffolding education iconically are profound: for providing learners with a navigable road-map of a subject matter, for enabling them to see further connections of their own in what is taught, and for supporting meaningful active learning. Potential objections that iconic teaching is excessively entertaining and overly susceptible to misleading rhetorical manipulation are addressed. (shrink)
Much mainstream analytic epistemology is built around a sceptical treatment of modality which descends from Hume. The roots of this scepticism are argued to lie in Hume’s (nominalist) theory of perception, which is excavated, studied and compared with the very different (realist) theory of perception developed by Peirce. It is argued that Peirce’s theory not only enables a considerably more nuanced and effective epistemology, it also (unlike Hume’s theory) does justice to what happens when we appreciate a proof in mathematics.
Philosophical discussion of truthmaking has flourished in recent times, but what exactly does it mean to ‘make’ a truth-bearer true? I argue that ‘making’ is a concept with modal force, and this renders it a problematic deployment for truthmaker theorists with nominalist sympathies, which characterises most current theories. I sketch the outlines of what I argue is a more genuinely realist truthmaker theory, which is capable of answering the explanatory question: In virtue of what does each particular truthmaker make its (...) particular truthbearer true? I do this by drawing on recent work by Frederik Stjernfelt on Charles Peirce’s account of the proposition as having a ‘particular double structure’, according to which a proposition not only depicts certain characters of an object, it also depicts itself claiming those characters to pertain to the object. This double structure, I shall argue, also resolves important issues in analytic philosophers’ truthmaker theory, including the proper distinction between reference and truthmaking, and a dilemma concerning an infinite regress of truthmaking. (shrink)
Much discussion of meaning by philosophers over the last 300 years has been predicated on a Cartesian first-person authority (i.e. “infallibilism”) with respect to what one’s terms mean. However this has problems making sense of the way the meanings of scientific terms develop, an increase in scientific knowledge over and above scientists’ ability to quantify over new entities. Although a recent conspicuous embrace of rigid designation has broken up traditional meaning-infallibilism to some extent, this new dimension to the meaning of (...) terms such as “water” is yet to receive a principled epistemological undergirding (beyond the deliverances of “intuition” with respect to certain somewhat unusual possible worlds). Charles Peirce’s distinctive, naturalistic philosophy of language is mined to provide a more thoroughly fallibilist, and thus more realist, approach to meaning, with the requisite epistemology. Both his pragmatism and his triadic account of representation, it is argued, produce an original approach to meaning, analysing it in processual rather than objectual terms, and opening a distinction between “meaning for us”, the meaning a term has at any given time for any given community and “meaning simpliciter”. the way use of a given term develops over time (often due to a posteriori input from the world which is unable to be anticipated in advance). This account provocatively undermines a certain distinction between “semantics” and “ontology” which is often taken for granted in discussions of realism. (shrink)
Although certain recent developments in mendacious political manipulation of public discourse are horrifying to the academic mind, I argue that we should not panic. Charles Peirce’s pragmatist epistemology with its teleological arc, long horizon, and rare balance between robust realism and contrite fallibilism offers guidance to weather the storm, and perhaps even see it as inevitable in our intellectual development. This paper explores Peirce’s classic “four methods of fixing belief”, which takes us on an entertaining and still very pertinent tour (...) through tenacity, authority and a priori speculation to the method of science – the only method which is both public and self-correcting. Although in the West we (mostly) proudly self-conceive as living in a ‘scientific age’, I argue that this is premature. Precisely insofar as we treat the misbehavior of governments as a harbinger of doom, we remain trapped in authoritarian modes of thinking which Peirce identified with medievalism, although modernity is increasingly quickening around us in worldwide information-sharing practices that are shaped entirely by mutual help. With this framework in mind, many tactics of recent media are most helpfully seen as belonging not to a post-truth, but a pre-truth stage of human intellectual development. Advice on this is sought from Plato, who of course also faced a world that was ‘pre-academic’. (shrink)
Neopragmatism has been accused of having ‘an experience problem’. This paper begins by outlining Hume's understanding of perception according to which ideas are copies of impressions thought to constitute a direct confrontation with reality. This understanding is contrasted with Peirce's theory of perception according to which percepts give rise to perceptual judgments which do not copy but index the percept (just as a weather-cock indicates the direction of the wind). Percept and perceptual judgment thereby mutually inform and correct one another, (...) as the perceiver develops mental habits of interpreting their surroundings, so that, in this theory of perception, as Peirce puts it: “[n]othing at all…is absolutely confrontitional”. Paul Redding has argued that Hegel’s “idealist understanding of logical form” ran deeper than Kant’s in recognising that Mind is essentially embodied and located, and therefore perspectival. Peirce’s understanding arguably dives deeper still in distributing across the space of reasons (and thus Being) not just Mind’s characteristic features of embodiedness and locatedness, but also its infinite corrigibility. (shrink)
Necessity is a touchstone issue in the thought of Charles Peirce, not least because his pragmatist account of meaning relies upon modal terms. We here offer an overview of Peirce’s highly original and multi-faceted take on the matter. We begin by considering how a self-avowed pragmatist and fallibilist can even talk about necessary truth. We then outline the source of Peirce’s theory of representation in his three categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness, (monadic, dyadic and triadic relations). These have modal (...) purport insofar as the first category corresponds to possibility, the second to mechanical necessity and the third to a kind of semantic or intentional necessity. We then turn to Peirce’s explicit modal epistemology and show how it began as information-relative, with different modalities (e.g. logical, physical, practical) distinguished in terms of respective ‘designated states of information’, and shifted later in his life towards a more robust realism founded in direct perception of ideas in their relations. We then turn to Peirce’s formal logic, focusing on his diagrammatic system of Existential Graphs where he did his most serious logical research. Finally we discuss Peirce’s modal metaphysics and its implications for determinism and realism about universals. (shrink)
This paper seeks an explanation for the challenges faced by Semantic Web developers in achieving their vision, compared to the staggering near-instantaneous success of the World Wide Web. To this end it contrasts two broad philosophical understandings of meaning and argues that the choice between them carries real consequences for how developers attempt to engineer the Semantic Web. The first is Rene Descartes’ ‘private’, static account of meaning (arguably dominant for the last 400 years in Western thought) which understands the (...) meanings of signs as whatever their producers intend them to mean. The second is Charles Peirce’s still relatively unknown ‘public’, evolutionary account of meaning, according to which the meaning of signs just is the way they are interpreted and used to produce further signs. It is argued that only the latter approach can avoid the unmanageable attempts to ‘preprocess’ interpretation of signs on the Web which have dogged the project in its many stages, and thereby do justice to the scale, rapid changeability and exciting possibilities of online information today. (shrink)
This paper contrasts the scholastic realisms of David Armstrong and Charles Peirce. It is argued that the so-called 'problem of universals' is not a problem in pure ontology (concerning whether universals exist) as Armstrong construes it. Rather, it pertains to which predicates should be applied where, issues which Armstrong sets aside under the label of 'semantics', and which from a Peircean perspective encompass even fundamentals of scientific methodology. It is argued that Peirce's scholastic realism not only presents a more nuanced (...) ontology (distinguishing existence and reality) but also illuminates why scholastic realism is a position worth fighting for. (shrink)
This piece explores the meaning of the following quote from Charles Peirce (1902), ". . . the main reason logic is unsettled is that thirteen different opinions are current as to the true aim of the science. Now this is not a logical difficulty, but an ethical difficulty; for ethics is the science of aims. Secondly, it is true that ethics has been, and always must be, a theatre of discussion for the reason that its study consists in the gradual (...) development of a distinct recognition of a satisfactory aim. It is a science of subtleties, no doubt; but it is not logic, but the development of the ideal, which really creates and resolves the problems of ethics.". (shrink)
Wittgenstein's discussion of rule-following is widely regarded to have identified what Kripke called "the most radical and original sceptical problem that philosophy has seen to date". But does it? This paper examines the problem in the light of Charles Peirce's distinctive "scientific hierarchy". Peirce identifies a phenomenological inquiry which is prior to both logic and metaphysics, whose role is to identify the most fundamental philosophical categories. His third category, particularly salient in this context, pertains to general predication. Rule-following scepticism, the (...) paper suggests, results from running together two questions: "How is it that I can project rules?", and, "What is it for a given usage of a rule to be right?". In Peircean terms the former question, concerning the irreducibility of general predication (to singular reference), must be answered in phenomenology, while the latter, concerning the difference between true and false predication, is answered in logic. A failure to appreciate this distinction, it is argued, has led philosophers to focus exclusively on Wittgenstein's famous public account of rule-following rightness, thus overlooking a private, phenomenological dimension to Wittgenstein's remarks on following a rule which gives the lie to Kripke's reading of him as a sceptic. (shrink)
The somewhat old-fashioned concept of philosophical categories is revived and put to work in automated ontology building. We describe a project harvesting knowledge from Wikipedia’s category network in which the principled ontological structure of Cyc was leveraged to furnish an extra layer of accuracy-checking over and above more usual corrections which draw on automated measures of semantic relatedness.
This paper takes indexicality as a case-study for critical examination of the distinction between semantics and pragmatics as currently conceived in mainstream philosophy of language. Both a ‘pre-indexical’ and ‘post-indexical’ analytic formal semantics are examined and found wanting, and instead an argument is mounted for a ‘properly pragmatist pragmatics’, according to which we do not work out what signs mean in some abstract overall sense and then work out to what use they are being put; rather, we must understand to (...) what use signs are being put in order to work out what they mean. (shrink)
Argument-forms exist which are valid over finite but not infinite domains. Despite understanding of this by formal logicians, philosophers can be observed treating as valid arguments which are in fact invalid over infinite domains. In support of this claim I will first present an argument against the classical pragmatist theory of truth by Mark Johnston. Then, more ambitiously, I will suggest the fallacy lurks in certain arguments for physicalism taken for granted by many philosophers today.
Peirce wrote that Hume’s argument against miracles (which is generally liked by twentieth century philosophers for its antireligious conclusion) "completely misunderstood the true nature of" ’abduction’. This paper argues that if Hume’s argumentative strategy were seriously used in all situations (not just those in which we seek to "banish superstition"), it would deliver a choking epistemological conservatism. It suggests that some morals for contemporary naturalistic philosophy may be drawn from Peirce’s argument against Hume.
As an informational technology, the World Wide Web has enjoyed spectacular success. In just ten years it has transformed the way information is produced, stored, and shared in arenas as diverse as shopping, family photo albums, and high-level academic research. The “Semantic Web” was touted by its developers as equally revolutionary but has not yet achieved anything like the Web’s exponential uptake. This 17 000 word survey article explores why this might be so, from a perspective that bridges both philosophy (...) and IT. (*Also translated into Croatian and republished in Vjesnik bibliotekara Hrvatske 53, 1(2010), 155-206: See external link #2). (shrink)
Integration of ontologies begins with establishing mappings between their concept entries. We map categories from the largest manually-built ontology, Cyc, onto Wikipedia articles describing corresponding concepts. Our method draws both on Wikipedia’s rich but chaotic hyperlink structure and Cyc’s carefully defined taxonomic and common-sense knowledge. On 9,333 manual alignments by one person, we achieve an F-measure of 90%; on 100 alignments by six human subjects the average agreement of the method with the subject is close to their agreement with each (...) other. We cover 62.8% of Cyc categories relating to common-sense knowledge and discuss what further information might be added to Cyc given this substantial new alignment. (shrink)
A commentary on a current paper by Aaron Sloman. Sloman argues that in order to make progress in AI, consciousness, "should be replaced by more precise and varied architecture-based concepts better suited to specify what needs to be explained by scientific theories". This original vision of philosophical inquiry as mapping out 'design-spaces' for a contested concept seeks to achieve a holistic, synthetic understanding of what possibilities such spaces embody. It therefore does not reduce to either "relations of ideas" or "matters (...) of fact" in Hume's famous dichotomy. It is also interestingly opposite to a current vogue for 'experimental philosophy'. (shrink)
This rich book differs from much contemporary philosophy of mathematics in the author’s witty, down to earth style, and his extensive experience as a working mathematician. It accords with the field in focusing on whether mathematical entities are real. Franklin holds that recent discussion of this has oscillated between various forms of Platonism, and various forms of nominalism. He denies nominalism by holding that universals exist and denies Platonism by holding that they are concrete, not abstract - looking to Aristotle (...) for inspiration. (shrink)
Although most contemporary philosophers of language hold that semantics and pragmatics require separate study, there is surprisingly little agreement on where exactly the line should be drawn between these two areas, and why. In this paper I suggest that this lack of clarity is at least partly caused by a certain historical obfuscation of the roots of the founding three-way distinction between syntax, semantics and pragmatics in Charles Peirce’s pragmatist philosophy of language. I then argue for recovering and revisiting these (...) original roots, taking indexicality as a case-study of how certain questions connected with the distinction which are currently considered complex and difficult may be clarified by a ‘properly pragmatist pragmatics’. Such a view, I shall argue, upends a certain priority usually accorded to semantics over pragmatics, teaching that we do not work out what terms mean in some abstract overall sense and then work out to what use they are being put; rather, we must understand to what use terms are being put in order to understand what they mean. (shrink)
Enactivism has influentially argued that the traditional intellectualist ‘act-content’ model of intentionality is insufficient both phenomenologically and naturalistically, and minds are built from world-involving bodily habits – thus, knowledge should be regarded as more of a skilled performance than an informational encoding. Radical enactivists have assumed that this insight must entail non-representationalism concerning at least basic minds. But what if it could be shown that representation is itself a form of skilled performance? I sketch the outline of such an account (...) from the perspective of Peirce’s pragmatist semiotics, which theorises signs as habits of associating specific cues with appropriate acts and schemas of ensuing experience. Within this framework, I argue, a naturalistic account of propositional structure can be constructed which transcends the symbolic – and in some instances even the linguistic – sphere, and offers new insights regarding the Information Processing Challenge, and the Hard Problem of Content. (shrink)
Would be fairer to call Peirce’s philosophy of language “extensionalist” or “intensionalist”? The extensionalisms of Carnap and Quine are examined, and Peirce’s view is found to be prima facie similar, except for his commitment to the importance of “hypostatic abstraction”. Rather than dismissing this form of abstraction (famously derided by Molière) as useless scholasticism, Peirce argues that it represents a crucial (though largely unnoticed) step in much working inference. This, it is argued, allows Peirce to transcend the extensionalist-intensionalist dichotomy itself, (...) through his unique triadic analysis of reference and meaning, by transcending the distinction between (as Quine put it) “things” and “attributes”. (shrink)
This paper presents a Peircean take on Wittgenstein's famous rule-following problem as it pertains to 'knowing how to go on in mathematics'. I argue that McDowell's advice that the philosophical picture of 'rules as rails' must be abandoned is not sufficient on its own to fully appreciate mathematics' unique blend of creativity and rigor. Rather, we need to understand how Peirce counterposes to the brute compulsion of 'Secondness', both the spontaneity of 'Firstness' and also the rational intelligibility of 'Thirdness'. This (...) is a written version of a presentation I gave at the “Peirce’s Mathematics” conference, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, November 25-27, 2015, which was organized by Professor Fernando Zalamea. The piece owes much to the inspiration of Prof. Zalamea's writings on philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
Whereas Charles Peirce’s pragmatist account of truth has been much discussed, his theory of perception still offers a rich mine of insights. Peirce presented a ‘two-ply’ view of perception, which combines an entirely precognitive ‘percept’ with a ‘perceptual judgment’ that is located in the space of reasons. Having previously argued that Peirce outdoes Robert Brandom in achieving a hyper-inferentialism (“Making it Explicit and Clear”, APQ, 2008), I now wish to examine his philosophy in the light of inferentialism’s ‘original fount’ – (...) Wilfrid Sellars. Does Peirce’s percept commit him to the Myth of the Given? I argue that it does not, because although the percept is understood as nonepistemic, it is not understood to justify the perceptual judgment. Rather, the perceptual judgement indexes the percept. I explain this original view, then argue that Peirce and Sellars actually have a great deal in common in their rare diachronically mediated yet at the same time direct perceptual realism, and the ‘critical commonsensist’ epistemology to which it gives rise. (shrink)
Commentary on Peter Olen's book "Wilfrid Sellars and the Foundations of Normativity", originally prepared for an 'Author Meets Critics' session organized by Carl Sachs for the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA in Savannah, Georgia, on 5th January, 2018.
"Although I think it is far to say that in what natives of this part of the world call 'downunder,' Peirce is still a minority interest, appreciation of his work appears to be growing slowly but surely...".
This book, officially a contribution to the subject area of Charles Peirce’s semiotics, deserves a wider readership, including philosophers. Its subject matter is what might be termed the great question of how signification is brought about (what Peirce called the ‘riddle of the Sphinx’, who in Emerson’s poem famously asked, ‘Who taught thee me to name?’), and also Peirce’s answer to the question (what Peirce himself called his ‘guess at the riddle’, and Freadman calls his ‘sign hypothesis’).
This substantial book is a highly original and thorough work of synthetic first philosophy. Although it has some recognizable roots in the Kantian/Sellarsian tradition of the Pittsburgh school, it adds a wealth of precise discussion of examples from science and mathematics, made possible by Macbeth's dual training in arts and sciences. It presents a developmental story of human reason bootstrapping itself towards greater power and clarity through the Western tradition (which is the sole purview of the discussion). This development is (...) divided into three distinct stages, which might be summarized very roughly as knowledge of: i) Objects, ii) Concepts applied to Objects and iii) Concepts alone. (shrink)
"From Stimulus to Science" crystallises one of America's most celebrated philosophers' thinking of a lifetime on naturalised epistemology. This slim volume grew out of Quine's Ferrarer Mora Lectures of 1990 at the Universitat de Girona in Catalonia. Its overarching theme can fairly be described as rational reconstruction of the passage to mature, predictive scientific theory from “...the mere impacts of rays and particles on our surfaces and a few odds and ends such as the strain of walking uphill” (p. 16).