The idealism of Charles S. Peirce

ELSEWHERE WE HAVE ARGUED that Peirce's later thought manifests a commitment to the thesis that there is a world of physical objects whose existence and properties are neither logically nor causally dependent upon the noetic act of any number of finite minds. 1 In other words, we have argued that Peirce's later thought satisfies the definition of metaphysical realism as classically defined. 2 There are, however, a number of texts which might be cited to support the claim that, for Peirce, the existence and properties of physical objects are causally, and therefore logically, dependent upon the noetic act of the sum of finite minds identified as the community of scientific inquirers. If this latter claim can be substantiated it would seem to follow that either (a) Peirce was fundamentally inconsistent in simultaneously espousing two mutually exclusive doctrines or (b) in his later writings Peirce was not a metaphysical realist at all and that the doctrine on externality can be subsumed into a metaphysical idealism in which the notion of 'external object' does not imply causal or logical independence of the noetic act but rather the experience of duality or otherness. In other words, if the claim that the later Peirce was a metaphysical idealist can be supported, then Peirce was either hopelessly inconsistent or merely trying to account for realistic distinctions within an idealistic framework such as to...
Keywords Charles S. Peirce  Realism  Idealism
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2008.1453
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