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Reviewed by:
  • El Pragmatismo
  • Daniel G. Campos
Charles S. Peirce. El Pragmatismo. Ed. and Trans. Sara Barrena. Madrid: Ediciones Encuentro, 2008. 130 pp.

This book is a Spanish translation of two of Charles S. Peirce's late texts on pragmatism, namely, "What Pragmatism Is" (originally published in The Monist, 1905) and "Pragmatism" (MS 318, 1907).1 The essays are introduced by translator Sara Barrena, who based her edition on the texts published in The Essential Peirce.2 The introduction consists of brief sections that present a biographical sketch of Peirce; an account of his original formulation of pragmatism; a summary of its evolution into his later pragmaticism, including a synthesis of his arguments in the two translated texts; and Barrena's own conclusions about the import of Peirce's pragmaticism in the context of his philosophical system. The publication is part of the ongoing effort by the Grupo de Estudios Peirceanos (GEP) at the University of Navarra, Spain, to introduce Peirce's thought to the Spanish-speaking philosophical community by translating his works.3

The aim of this book is to introduce Peirce's pragmatism and the texts are well selected for that purpose. These two essays offer complementary accounts of Peirce's mature pragmaticism in which his whole philosophical system inheres explicitly or implicitly. Spanish readers previously familiar with Peirce's earlier accounts of pragmatism, starting with the 1877–1878 Illustrations of the Logic of Science (W 3, [End Page 512] p. 242–338)4 which are already available in Spanish translation,5 will now have an opportunity to compare them with Peirce's more fully developed account. Those readers previously unfamiliar with Peirce's pragmatism will find these texts to be a challenging invitation to study his philosophical system in depth. The first essay is in fact largely addressed to readers in their situation.

In "What Pragmatism Is" Peirce provides a general description of his pragmatism—which he renames pragmaticism—, emphasizes its roots in the method of experimental science, and explains his account of scientific inquiry in terms of his conceptions of doubt, belief, habit, truth, and logical self-control. Then Peirce rhetorically addresses an interrogator (reader) previously unfamiliar with his thought but "of rather preternatural perspicacity" (EP 2, p. 338). In the ensuing dialogue, Peirce explains that his pragmaticism is not the doctrine "that a conception is to be tested by its practical effects" (EP 2, p. 338). Peirce restates his pragmatic maxim, and further clarification of his pragmaticism leads him to discuss his notions of generals, reality, and continuity. Peirce thus invites the reader to a study of his philosophical system.

In MS 318 readers will find Peirce emphasizing that pragmatism is a not a doctrine of metaphysics, nor an attempt to determine the truth of things, but a method to clarify the meaning of intellectual concepts (EP 2, p. 400–401). Peirce claims, moreover, that pragmatism is susceptible of rational proof. He does not undertake to give a full proof, but rather "the color of the thought that supports the positive assertion of pragmatism" (EP 2, p. 402). Nevertheless, the "color of thought" that Peirce paints in this manuscript requires a reader as philosophically perspicacious as that of "What Pragmatism Is." In outline, the semeiotic proof begins with the claim that "every thought beyond immediate perception is a sign" (EP 2, p. 402). Next, a phaneroscopic inquiry leads to a scientific definition of "sign" (EP 2, p. 410). With the help of a consideration of the nature of mathematical concepts and of the imaginative process of mathematical experimentation, Peirce finds that the final logical interpretant of a sign is a habit. But a description of this habit consists in stating "the kind of action to which it gives rise, with the specification of the conditions and the motive" (EP 2, p. 418). This description is precisely what the pragmatic maxim prescribes in order to clarify the meaning of intellectual concepts.

I would like to address two of Barrena's general introductory comments about these complex texts. First, in analyzing the evolution of Peirce's account of pragmatism, Barrena claims that his late formulation does not concern the practical effects that a conception actually has, as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9587
Print ISSN
0009-1774
Pages
pp. 512-516
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-12
Open Access
No
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