The Normative Thought of Charles S. Peirce

By Cornelis De Waal; Krzysztof Piotr SkowroŃski | Go to book overview
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Is Agreement Important for Truth?
Mateusz W. Oleksy

Mateusz W. Oleksy

Traditionally, Peirce has been regarded as the father of the “consensus” theory of truth. On the received view, Peirce’s account of truth forms an integral component of his scholastic realism, which explicates both truth and reality in terms of agreement at the ideal limit of inquiry. As one classical commentator puts it, “The real is what the community of thought construes it to be; consensus, common confession, is our one reliable interpretation of reality” (Thayer 1968, 124). Since on the received view, reality is identified by Peirce with “the immediate object of thought in a true judgment” (W 2:472), and a true judgment on a given subject with the final-ideal consensus on that subject—i.e., the proposition that would be agreed upon by the community of inquirers in the infinitely long run—it follows that for Peirce truth and reality are merely two sides of the same coin.

This received view on Peirce’s account of truth has been challenged by later commentators, who assert that Peirce’s pragmatistic theory of inquiry embraces a distinct conception of truth, which does not depend on the notions of ideal limit of inquiry and ideal community of inquirers or interpreters. Cheryl Misak, the most outspoken partisan of the nontraditional reading of Peirce’s account of truth, argues in a number of works


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