Strange Attraction: C. S. Peirce, Chaos Theory and the Reclamation of Pragmatism
Darin Michael Mcnabb
; 0016 Boston College
Advisor: Adviser: Richard Cobb-Stevens
Source: DAI, 58, no. 12A, (1997): 4687
The thought of C. S. Peirce was postmodern before its time. The pragmatic maxim and his foundational work in semiotics offer potent challenges to traditional Cartesian epistemology. The first three chapters of this dissertation examine Peirce's challenge to Descartes and his transformation of Kant. However, Peirce tempered this success with thoughts on normativity, metaphysics, and the Real. His thought, then, is poised between a modernist metaphysics and a postmodern epistemology. As such my thesis concerns the success with which he was able to do this. I conclude that he was successful and my fifth chapter adduces the insights of chaos theory to help illustrate this.
Chapter One introduces his critique of Cartesian Intuitionism. By conceiving of thought as inferential and as carried out by a community of inquirers he reoritented the concepts of judgment and truth to a publicly open future mediated by the praxis of scientific method.
Chapter Two examines the structure of inquiry in his conception of sign use. I compare his conceptions of signs to that of Saussure's and examine the derivation of his categories as the basis for his semiotic.
Chapter Three introduces the pragmatic maxim by which Peirce gave teeth to the course of inquiry and by which meaning was severed from its Cartesian trappings. I examine the way in which a superficial understanding of the maxim leads to the nominalism which Peirce despised. His attempt to amend it leads to the fourth chapter.
Here I discuss the trio of his normative sciences--logic, ethics, and aesthetics, which he conceives as indispensable in the approach inquiry makes to the Real.
Chapter Five concerns a discussion of chaos theory, whose conception of the strange attractor clearly models the structure of the Real as given in Peirce's metaphysics. It also provides a form of justification for Peirce's insights.
Chapter Six presents Peirce's conception of an evolving cosmos mediated by the relation between law and spontaneity. The Real is seen to be neither absolute nor relative but of a character which answers both the postmodern insights of his epistemology and the more traditional notions of truth and reality.
Accession No: AAG9818611