The Normative Thought of Charles S. Peirce

By Cornelis De Waal; Krzysztof Piotr SkowroŃski | Go to book overview

THREE
CHARLES PEIRCE ON ETHICS

James Liszka

Peirce came rather late in his career to the study of ethics. As a practicing scientist with a broad and deep understanding of philosophy, Peirce was primarily concerned with scientific knowing. He developed a system of logic and a theory of signs to explain how information, inference, and inquiry worked together to produce reliable knowledge. As Peirce recalls the situation in 1903, he realized, sometime around 1883, that logic or semeiotic was dependent on ethics, understood as a study of right conduct. Since logic concerned the correction of thinking toward a standard and was essentially concerned with normative claims about the goodness or badness of reasoning, it should be considered a species of ethics (CP 5.108, 1903; 5.111, 1903). Indeed, there was an analogy between deliberate, self-controlled thinking and ethical, self-controlled conduct in this regard (CP 5.108, 1903). At that point, as he says, he understood “the intimacy of its relation to logic” (CP 2.198, c. 1902).

Consequently, in 1883, he embarked on a broader study of “the great moralists,” as he says, although it was only in the late 1890s that he studied the matter of the relation between logic and ethics intently (CP 2.198,

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