Scientific Creativity

Part of the Martinus Nijhoff Philosophy Library book series (MNPL, volume 27)


Since I intend to argue analogically, through difference and similarity, from Peirce’s idea of scientific creativity to his idea of artistic creativity, it is important that I begin with a thorough description of Peircean scientific creativity. That Peirce believed in scientific creativity seems indisputable; indeed, at times it seemed the idea that most held his attention in studying the ways of scientific inquiry. In 1896 Peirce wrote the following note:

When a man desires ardently to know the truth, his first effort will be to imagine what that truth can be He cannot prosecute his pursuit long without finding that imagination unbridled is sure to carry him off the track. Yet nevertheless, it remains true that there is, after all, nothing but imagination that can ever supply him an inkling of the truth. He can stare stupidly at phenomena; but in the absence of imagination they will not connect themselves together in any rational way. Just as for Peter Bell a cowslip was nothing but a cowslip, so for thousands of men a falling apple was nothing but a falling apple; and to compare it to the moon would by them be deemed ‘fanciful’ (1.46).


Scientific Reasoning Artistic Creativity Major Premiss Abductive Reasoning Scientific Creativity 
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    William Davis, Peirce’s Epistemology ( The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1972 ), p. 22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Ross translates this as “reduction.” See W. D. Ross, The Works of Aristotle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), vol. 1.Google Scholar
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    This example, as others Peirce uses, involves some difficulty. If gravity is present in the universe in 1600, it should also be in 1905. This is understandable if “Einsteinian gravity” incorporates “Newtonian gravity” as a special case. If not, however, then Peirce would have to say that the law, as a concept, was implicit in the history of ideas and not that gravity, as a real force, was present in nature.Google Scholar
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    Nicholas Rescher provides a schematism which nicely describes Reilly’s view. However, his discussion of the issue makes the necessary distinctions and thus overcomes the problem of the schematism itself. What the source of his model is is not clear. Rescher, Peirce’s Philosophy of Science (Notre Dame, Indiana: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1978 ), p. 41.Google Scholar
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    In 1893 Peirce gave an account of inference in which he argued that an inference may have only one premiss. If one wants to argue that the interpretation we are examining reduces abduction to one premiss, a view N.R. Hanson suggests, such a claim need not conflict with the belief that abduction is still an inference (2.442). Hanson, “Notes Toward a Logic of Discovery,” in Perspectives on Peirce, ed. Richard Bernstein (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1965 ).Google Scholar
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    To be sure, the historical context of all creative abductions is important. History of science suggests that Newton’s concept of gravity evolves from related predecessors. Nevertheless, Newton is generally held as founder of the specific theory of gravity, and even if it were argued that someone else is the source, the important point of the creation of a new idea might still obtain. A similar problem attends to attributing Darwin with the discovery of biological evolution.Google Scholar
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    Of course, Peirce did extensive work on the nature of induction and this should not be overlooked in any comprehensive study of his philosophy of science.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wittenberg UniversityGermany

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