De Waal, Cornelis. Peirce: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Chapter one recounts how Peirce's early experiences molded him into a polymath and how tragic circumstances later in life prevented the recognition he deserved. Included in the chapter is an account of the ongoing editorial work of the surviving manuscripts by the Peirce Edition Project.
Chapters two through four explore the first "heuretic" sciences (sciences of discovery) and their classification, according to Peirce. Peirce rejects the standard notion of science as a body of systematized knowledge defined in terms of one specific "scientific" method, for a less restrictive and more practice-based notion which he conceives roughly as a dogged pursuit of truth for its own sake by a group of individuals who share a common interest and method.
Mathematics, which studies purely hypothetical states of things, is the first major division in Peirce's classification, and the focus in chapter two. Here de Waal examines Peirce's view that mathematical reasoning involves observation, experimentation, abstraction, and generalization, as well as the construction of diagrams and proofs; its connection with logic; and how Peirce's notion differs from Kant's view. After mathematics come the positive sciences, whose aim is to increase our knowledge of the actual world we experience; philosophy, which requires no special equipment to do its work of scrutinizing the facts of everyday life as they present themselves to us, is the most basic of these. It further divides into phaneroscopy (phenomenology), the normative sciences (aesthetics, ethics, logic), and metaphysics. After philosophy, Peirce lists the special sciences, such as biology, chemistry and such, which do require specialized equipment in the search for knowledge.
Phenomenology, or that science that deals with all that is present to the mind, is the subject of chapter three. Following the example of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel, Peirce identified the elements of all cognition in terms of categories, but differs from them in postulating only three--firstness, secondness, and thirdness. De Waal examines Peirce's derivation of the categories and his use of graphs to prove their universal presence in all experience.
Chapter four explains how Peirce came to ground logic, the science of right reasoning, on ethics, the science of right action, and eventually on aesthetics, the science of identifying the most admirable ideal (which Peirce concludes is "concrete reasonableness"). The rest of the chapter is devoted to the following themes: reason versus instinct; the relationship between deduction, induction, and abduction; and a concise discussion of what Peirce considered his major contribution--the logic of relatives and the existential graphs. Semeiotics, also identified with logic, is the subject of chapter five, where de Waal provides a lucid account of the different types of sign, interpretant, object, and the resulting trichotomies, numbering in the thousands. As he does throughout the book, de Waal provides illuminating comparisons with other philosophers on the same topic; in this case, Saussure's views are contrasted with those of Peirce.
Chapters six and seven are brief detours covering Peirce's contributions in philosophy of science (especially his notion of inquiry and four ways of fixing belief) and his pragmatic maxim, the regulative principle of his pragmatism, before returning in chapters eight and nine to metaphysics, the third branch of philosophy, which grounds the specialized sciences by providing a general account of the world.
Peirce's Extreme Scholastic Realism, inspired by Duns Scotus's distinction between reality and existence, its relation with idealism, and the theory of truth that results from applying the pragmatic maxim, are covered in brief in chapter eight. The last chapter highlights Peirce's evolutionary cosmology, distinguishing three modes of evolution; his theory of mind which makes mind (and not matter) primordial; and concludes with a look at his philosophy of religion and the novel argument for God's reality.
De Waal's mastery of the difficult thought of this great American genius and his diligence in examining Peirce's concepts from different perspectives and from different types of sources (unpublished manuscripts, letters, and so forth) are always in evidence. The result is an easy to follow and enlightening introductory account that arrives in
time to commemorate the centennial of Peirce's death in 2014.--Rosa Maria Mayorga, Miami Dade College
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|Author:||Mayorga, Rosa Maria|
|Publication:||The Review of Metaphysics|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2014|
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