- The Classification of the Sciences and Cross-disciplinarity
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 41, Number 2, Spring 2005
- pp. 271-282
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Jaime Nubiola The Classification of the Sciences and Cross -disciplinarity "Experience of life has taught me that the only thing that is really desirable without a reason for being so, is to render ideas and things reasonable." C. S. Peirce, SamÂ« 20 April 1900 In a world of ever growing specialization, the idea of a unity of science is commonly discarded as an impossible ideal. Nevertheless, cooperative work involving cross-disciplinary points of view is still encouraged, both as a remedy against the conceptual poverty of the scientific reductionism inherited from the Vienna Circle, and at the same time as a way of efficiently tackling the most stubborn problems facing our society today. Within this framework, the aim of my paper is to show Â— with some textual support Â— that Charles S. Peirce not only identified this paradoxical situation a century ago, but he also mapped out some paths for reaching a successful solution. I will pay particular attention to Peirce's classification of the sciences and to his conception of science as a collective and cooperative activity of all those whose lives are animated by the desire to discover the truth. The choice of this topic has to do with my recent research into Peirce, but also with the special circumstances of this event: the twentieth anniversary of a relatively small Philosophy Department in the bosom of a strong technical University. Thinking about what Peirce might have said if he had had the chance of being here today, there came to my mind one of his comments in his review of the volume of the Clark University Decennial Celebration, which he had attended in July 1899. I have chosen three lines ofthat piece as the motto for this paper, and perhaps it is worthwhile to begin by quoting here a longer section of the paragraph in which those lines appear: For in my youth, I wrote some articles to uphold a doctrine I called Pragmatism, namely, that the meaning and essence of every conception lies in the application that is to be made of it. That is all very well, when properly understood. I do not intend to recant it. But the question arises, what is the ultimate Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society Spring, 2005, Vol. XLI, No. 2 272 Jaime Nubiola application; at that time, I seem to have been inclined to subordinate the conception to the act, knowing to doing. Subsequent experience of life has taught me that the only thing that is really desirable without a reason for being so, is to render ideas and things reasonable. One cannot well demand a reason for reasonableness itself. Logical analysis shows that reasonableness consists in association, assimilation, generalization, the bringing of items together into an organic whole Â— which are so many ways of regarding what is essentially the same thing. In the emotional sphere, this tendency towards union appears as Love; so that the Law of Love and the Law of Reason are quite at one. (Peirce 1900, p. 621) It should be apparent now that the peculiar situation of this Department in a strong technical University could be considered Â— in a Peircean vein Â— as an ideal situation for philosophers to fulfill their calling. As all of you remember, (...) the second reason for studying laboratoryphilosophy (...) is that the special sciences are obliged to take for granted a number of most important propositions, because their ways of working afford no means of bringing these propositions to the test. In short, they always rest upon metaphysics. (...) The philosopher alone is equipped with the facilities for examining such "axioms" and for determining the degree to which confidence may safely be reposed in them. (CP 1.129, c.1905) But also, for Peirce science is a cross-disciplinary process in which communication Â— that is to say, love Â— produces new knowledge. I am convinced that the philosophers of this Department not only are persons intellectually equipped to engage in the process of overcoming specialization through the examination of the 'principles' of other sciences, but also from a practical point of view they have hearts big enough to build bridges between the different fields of research studied at this university. In order to...