Peirce's Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity

SUNY Press
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SUNY Press
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176
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9780791499443
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English
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In recent years, Charles Sanders Peirce has emerged, in the eyes of philosophers both in America and abroad, as one of America's major philosophical thinkers. His work has forced us back to philosophical reflection about those basic issues that inevitably confront us as human beings, especially in an age of science. Peirce's concern for experience, for what is actually encountered, means that his philosophy, even in its most technical aspects, forms a reflective commentary on actual life and on the world in which it is lived.

In Charles S. Peirce: On Norms and Ideals, Potter argues that Peirce's doctrine of the normative sciences is essential to his pragmatism. No part of Peirce's philosophy is bolder than his attempt to establish esthetics, ethics, and logic as the three normative sciences and to argue for the priority of esthetics among the trio. Logic, Potter cites, is normative because it governs thought and aims at truth; ethics is normative because it analyzes the ends to which thought should be directed; esthetics is normative and fundamental because it considers what it means to be an end of something good in itself. This study shows that pierce took seriously the trinity of normative sciences and demonstrates that these categories apply both to the conduct of man and to the workings of the cosmos.

Professor Potter combines sympathetic and informed exposition with straightforward criticism and he deals in a sensible manner with the gaps and inconsistencies in Peirce's thought. His study shows that Peirce was above all a cosmological and ontological thinker, one who combined science both as a method and as result with a conception of reasonable actions to form a comprehensive theory of reality. Peirce's pragmatism, although it has to do with "action and the achievement of results, is not a glorification of action but rather a theory of the dynamic nature of things in which the "ideal" dimension of reality - laws, nature of things, tendencies, and ends - has genuine power for directing the cosmic order, including man, toward reasonable goals.

C.S. Peirce was the founder of pragmatism and a pioneer in the field of semiotics. His work investigated the problem of meaning, which is the core aspect of semiosis as well as a significant issue in many academic fields. Floyd Merrell demonstrates throughout Peirce, Signs, and Meaning that Peirce's views remain dynamically relevant to the analysis of subsequent work in the philosophy of language.

Merrell discusses Peirce's thought in relation to that of early twentieth-century philosophers such as Frege, Russell, and Quine, and contemporaries such as Goodman, Putnam, Davidson, and Rorty. In doing so, Merrell demonstrates how quests for meaning inevitably fall victim to vagueness in pursuit of generality, and how vagueness manifests an inevitable tinge of inconsistency, just as generalities always remain incomplete. He suggests that vagueness and incompleteness/generality, overdetermination and underdetermination, and Peirce's phenomenological categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness must be incorporated into notions of sign structure for a proper treatment of meaning. He also argues that the twentieth-century search for meaning has placed overbearing stress on language while ignoring nonlinguistic sign modes and means.

Peirce, Signs, and Meaning is an important sequel to Merrell's trilogy, Signs Becoming Signs', Semiosis in the Postmodern Age, and Signs Grow. This book is not only a significant contribution to the field of semiotics, it has much to offer scholars in literature, philosophy, linguistics, cultural studies, and other academic disciplines in which meaning is a central concern.

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