Peirce and Scepticism
In this essay I will show that Peirce’s views of truth as an ideal limit, and of inquiry as an endless approximation to truth are based on three of his doctrines: (1) the doctrine of the self-corrigibility of science, (2) the doctrine of fallibilism, and (3) the doctrine of synechism. Although Peirce’s reflection on these topics seems mainly to be aimed at scientific truth and inquiry, some considerations will show that what Peirce says in this regard, hold also for philosophical truth and inquiry. I will examine some objections and, finally, I will see in what sense Peirce can be called a sceptic.
KeywordsScientific Theory Continuous Approximation Absolute Certainty Ideal Limit Scientific Belief
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- 1.All numerical citations (volume, page) are to Charles S. Peirce, Collected Papers,8 vols., eds. Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Burks (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931–1958).Google Scholar
- 2.Nicholas Rescher, Peirce’s Philosophy of Science ( Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978 ), p. 3.Google Scholar
- 3.Ibid.Google Scholar
- 4.Ibid., pp. 4–6.Google Scholar
- 5.Ibid., pp. 6ff.Google Scholar
- 6.Israel Scheffler,Four Pragmatists (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), p. 72.Google Scholar
- 7.W. V. O. Quine, Word and Object ( Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960 ), p. 23.Google Scholar
- 8.Hilary Putnam, “What is ‘Realism’?” ASP1975–1976. Google Scholar
- 9.Christopher Chemiak, Minimal Rationality(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986), pp. 107–108.Google Scholar
- 10.Rescher, Peirce’s Philosophy, p. 97, n. 31.Google Scholar
- 11.Peirce tells us that he took the word from the Greek word synechismós, which comes from synechés, continuous (7.565).Google Scholar
- 12.Letter to Lady Welby, quoted in Hjalmar Wennerberg,The Pragmatism of C. S. Peirce(Lund/Copenhagen: CWK Gleerup/Ejnar Munskgaard, 1962), p. 179.Google Scholar