Learning to Read the Signs: Reclaiming the Pragmatism
of Peirce and Royce for American Business
Frank Byron Nahser
Advisor: Director: MANFRED FRINGS
Source: DAI, 56, no. 08A, (1995): 3157
Pragmatism, as it is commonly understood in American business parlance, means: "Do whatever works." American business, therefore, has been called "pragmatic" when, in fact, this is a misunderstanding of the original meaning of pragmatism as formulated by Charles Sanders Peirce, based the logic of scientific inquiry.
Pragmatism is recognized as America's only unique contribution to the history of philosophy, and following Peirce, the philosophy was expanded by Josiah Royce, who was inspired by the logic of early Christian communities; publicized (and partially misunderstood) by William James; and further developed by John Dewey as a method of logical inquiry.
As corporations are looking for better ways to respond to the changing business and social environment, pragmatism offers a unique way of interpreting evidence or signs (which Peirce called semeiotics) to discover the truth of a situation on which to base action. American business practitioners often take one of two positions, which are identified using Royce's terms: (1) a firm hold on conception--beliefs in how the world works, which filter what they see; (2) a quick reaction to perception--responding without beliefs to what they see in the marketplace. Developing the skill of interpretation (pragmatism), which Peirce and Royce saw as the mediating logic between conception and perception, helps practitioners base action on a clearer vision of the truth.
The dissertation describes a way for individuals and groups to better interpret reality by practicing pragmatism. The pragmatic method for corporate inquiry, discovery, interpretation and action, called the Corporantes Pathfinder Notebook, combines holistic depth psychology with Peirce's pragmatism. The method involves investigation, hypothesis, and then testing the hypothesis through action. These inquiries can be best expressed as narrative, which inherently involves the description of virtues and vices.
Seen from this perspective, the medieval monastery and Benedict's Rule are examined as precursors and models to emulate for the practice of virtue in business as the way of human development and service to society.
Included are case histories of corporations practicing the pragmatic method, using the Corporantes Pathfinder Notebook, with particular focus on our advertising agency searching for the answer to the question: "How do we produce advertising that tells the truth?"
BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, GENERAL
EDUCATION, PHILOSOPHY OF
Accession No: AAI9541679