Peirce's Scientific Metaphysics is the first book devoted to understanding Charles Sanders Peirce's (1839-1914) metaphysics from the perspective of the scientific questions that motivated his thinking. While offering a detailed account of the scientific ideas and theories essential for understanding Peirce's metaphysical system, this book is written in a manner accessible to the non-specialist.
In the nineteenth century protozoology and early cell biology intersected through the nexus of Darwin's theory of evolution. As single-celled organisms, amoebae offered an attractive focus of study for researchers seeking evolutionary relationships between the cells of humans and other animals, and their primitive appearance made them a favourite model for the ancient ancestor of all living things. Their resemblance to human and other metazoan cells made them popular objects of study among morphologists, physiologists, and even those investigating animal behaviour. (...) The amoeba became the exemplar of the new protoplasmic cell concept of mid-century and because its apparent simplicity made it widely generalizable it became a popular subject in a breadth of experimental investigations and theoretical speculations. It was able to do this because "the amoeba" denotes not a particular organism, but a general type of behaviour common to the cells of a range of protozoa, simple plants and higher animals. Its status as an exemplary cell also rested upon auxiliary philosophical assumptions about what constitutes a primitive characteristic and the thesis that evolution is a progressive development of order from chaos. (shrink)
The cell theory—the thesis that all life is made up of one or more cells, the fundamental structural and physiological unit—is one of the most celebrated achievements of modern biological science. And yet from its very inception in the nineteenth century it has faced repeated criticism from some biologists. Why do some continue to criticize the cell theory, and how has it managed nevertheless to keep burying its undertakers? The answers to these questions reveal the complex nature of the cell (...) theory and the cell concept on which it is based. Like other scientific ‘laws’, the assertion that all living things are made of cells purchases its universality at the expense of abstraction. If, however, this law is regarded merely as a widely applicable empirical generalization with notable exceptions, it still remains too important to discard. Debate about whether the cell or the organism standpoint provides the more correct account of anatomical, physiological, and developmental facts illustrates the tension between our attempts to express the truth about reality in conceptual terms conducive to a unified human understanding. (shrink)
Peirce is often credited with having formulated a pragmatic theory of truth. This can be misleading, if it is assumed that Peirce was chiefly interested in providing a metaphysical analysis of the immediate conditions under which a belief or proposition is true, or the conditions under which a proposition or belief is said to be madetrue. Cheryl Misak has exposed the subtleties in Peirce's discussion of truth, especially showing the difficulties faced by any ascription to him of an analytic definition (...) of truth. In this paper I follow Misak in urging that Peirce's contribution to the philosophical discussion about the nature of truth was not of that kind. What makes his pragmatic approach distinctive is that rather than attempting to state the nature of truth per se, it attempts to uncover the beliefs and expectations we commit ourselves to when we make specific claims that such and such is true or is the case. (shrink)
This is a collection of eight essays plus one short “ afterthought,” all but one of which have been previously published in the 1990s. The theme running throughout is a plea for a less professional, less exclusive, less technical, less abstract approach to philosophy than the commonly labelled “analytic” approach. Solomon’s complaint against analytic philosophy is that when it does not outright ignore the philosophical problems that concern the day-to-day lives of regular people, it turns them into abstract “brain-teasers” void (...) of any real-life context. Philosophy then becomes an opportunity for an elite group to show off how smart they are. Analytic philosophers tend to abstract away all the rich detail of the real life contexts in which most of our impulses to philosophize arise. What is thus gained by eliminating supposedly extraneous details, so as to arrive at the essential—and timeless?—“thin” conceptions of such things as reason, justice, personal identity, and a meaningful life, is offset by the inability of people to apply the results to what is significant in their own lives. Small wonder then if most North Americans think philosophy is useless and irrelevant. Solomon warns, “[I]t is only a matter of time before more parents, taxpayers, readers, and administrators start to ask, Why should we pay for this? Is this what our kids should be learning? Is this philosophy?”. (shrink)
“Historicism” has become a ubiquitous and equivocal term. A classification is given here of five separate uses of the term currently in vogue, each provided with a unique qualifying adjective to help keep them distinct. I then offer a few objections to some of the more radical conclusions which have been drawn by proponents of a specific version of historicism, one associated with “postmodernism “. The positions of Rorty and Putnam are contrasted as examples of strong and weak degrees of (...) historicism, respectively. (shrink)
In September of 1869, while studying sponges off the Norwegian island of Gisoe, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) discovered a tiny, flagellated ball-shaped organism swimming about in his samples. Appearing first to be the planula larva of an invertebrate marine animal further observation revealed it to be a colony of flagellated cells with a complex life cycle transitioning between multicellular and single-cell stages and several distinct forms of protozoa. Haeckel named it Magosphaera planula (the "magician's ball") and it eventually assumed a central (...) role in his theories of animal evolution, appearing as the modern exemplar of the blastaea stage in his gastraea theory of metazoan evolution. Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth it was an object of considerable scientific interest, and yet it was only ever observed by Haeckel himself and then only the once. Eventually it faded altogether from scientific discussion. This paper traces the rise and fall of Magosphaera as an important epistemic object in the theories of Haeckel and other biologists, and an attempt is made to identify what exactly the organism (or organisms!) was that Haeckel observed in the fall of 1869. (shrink)