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49. Peirce


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00052.x


Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) is generally acknowledged to be America's greatest philosopher, although he was never able to secure a permanent academic position and died in poverty and obscurity (see Brent 1993 ). He founded pragmatism, the view that a philosophical theory must be connected to practice. The pragmatic account of truth, for which he is perhaps best known, thus has it that a true belief is one which the practice of inquiry, no matter how far it were to be pursued, would not improve. (See Misak 1991 for an elaboration and defense of this position.) He is also considered the founder of semiotics and was on the cutting edge of mathematical logic, probability theory, astronomy, and geodesy. (See Brent 1993 for an account of Peirce's achievements in science.) Pragmatism is a going concern in philosophy of science today. It is often aligned with instrumentalism (see realism and instrumentalism ), the view that scientific theories are not true or false, but are better or worse instruments for prediction and control. But you will not find in Peirce's work the typical instrumentalist distinction between theoretical statements about unobservable entities (mere instruments) and statements about observable entities (candidates for truth and falsity). For Peirce identifies truth itself with a kind of instrumentality. A true belief is the very best we could do by way ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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