Title

The quest for reality: Charles S Peirce and the empiricists

Date of Award

1997

Availability

Article

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Philosophy

First Committee Member

Susan Haack, Committee Chair

Abstract

Locke's, Berkeley's and Peirce's conceptions of reality are analyzed, using Peirce's distinction between nominalism and realism as a guideline. These three authors are chosen, first, because Peirce declares for realism in his 1871 review of Berkeley, and does so in opposition to both Berkeley and Locke, and, second, because Peirce's criticism of nominalism runs roughly parallel to Berkeley's criticism of Locke. It is shown that all three conceptions of reality are hypotheses, which provides the criteria to compare and evaluate them: the hypothesis must be either required, or at least valuable, for explaining the origin and regularities of those ideas that are not of our own making. This leads to the following result: Locke's conception of reality also fails on both counts. Berkeley's alternative, though also not required, is explanatorily valuable, but as it appears, this results entirely from a strong presupposition that does all the explaining for him. It is further shown that his approach is based on a denial of matter that is untenable, and that it ultimately fails for the same reasons as Locke's. Peirce' s view of reality as the object of a final opinion, though not required either, can be defended as being explanatorily valuable, but needs some modification, since some things will be real but not part of the final opinion. This leads to a new conception of reality, called the hypothesis of hypothetical realism, by way of a conclusion. This hypothesis has the desired explanatory value, and is safe from the criticisms raised against the previous conceptions.

Keywords

Philosophy

Link to Full Text

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