Between scientism and conversationalism

Philosophy and Literature 20 (2):455-474 (1996)
Of late, two contrasting departures from the analytic mainstream have become fashionable: the displacement of philosophy by the natural sciences, epitomized by the Churchlands' theme of "neurophilosophy," and the displacement of philosophy by the literary, epitomized by Rorty's theme of philosophy as "just a kind of writing," as "carrying on the conversation" of Western culture. Both are disastrous. My purpose here is to articulate a metaphilosophy which, avoiding both scientism and literary dilettantism, allows a more robustly plausible account of the relation of philosophy to the sciences, and of its relation to literature, than either. In this enterprise, my starting point will be the work of C. S. Peirce. This may come as something as a surprise; for Peirce's avowed aspiration "to rescue the good ship Philosophy for the service of Science from the lawless rovers of the sea of literature" (5.449, 1902), not to mention his unkind remarks about "studying in a literary spirit" (1.33, 1869), might suggest that he is as scientistic, and as hostile to literature, as Rorty is dilettantish, and hostile to science. But, as I shall show, far from being a precursor of those "lawless rovers of the sea of science" among our contemporaries, Peirce points the way to just such a...
Keywords Philosophy  Literature  Science
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DOI 10.1353/phl.1996.0070
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