May the real Charles Sanders Peirce please stand up? Part 2

For Hilary Putnam, pragmatism is not just a theory of truth. The theories of truth he explicitly rejects. (Not so in his internal realist period. But later he stated that this was a mistake.) Truth is not just justification, not even for a ideal speech community. There are two different points that Putnam emphasizes in Peirce’s writings: anti-scepticism and fallibilism. He writes:truth-166853_960_720

Indeed, from the earliest of Peirce’s Pragmatist writings, Pragmatism has been
characterized  by  antiscepticism:  Pragmatism  hold  that  doubt  required
justification as much as belief (Peirce drew a famous distinction between “real”
and “philosophical” doubt); and by fallibilism: Pragmatists hold that there are no
metaphysical guarantees to be had that even our most firmly-held beliefs will
never need revision. That one can be both fallibilistic and antisceptical is perhaps
the basic insight of American Pragmatism. (Putnam, 1995 S. 20f.)

We can never doubt everything like Descartes thought we can. We always have to start our inquiries with some undoubted propositions. That is also how Peirce defended his believe in the scientific method. We don’t really have any substancial evidence that the scientific mehtod does not give us true believes. Science evolved out of a common sense understanding of the world. Betweend practical questions, like how I get from A to B fastest, and scientific questions there is only a difference in degree.

Of cause, for Rorty, concept like representation, truth and rationality are problematic, because he inherits philosophical problems. But actually, Peirce points into another direction. We have to leave classical philosophical theories behind. But that does not mean that we abandon philosophy. That only means that we have to answer philosophical questions in the context in which the real doubts arise. That may be a scientific context when we ask about believes and meaing in cognitive science. Or a mathematical context when we consider what mathematical truth could be.

That is the programm that Peirce inspired in Putnams works. Rorty maybe right in claiming that philosophical theories made huge mistakes up to this date but he is wrong when he claims we should therefore abandon philosophy completely.


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