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  • Conversations on Peirce: Reals and Ideals by Douglas R. Anderson and Carl R. Hausman
  • Sami Pihlström
Conversations on Peirce: Reals and Ideals. Douglas R. Anderson and Carl R. Hausman. New York: Fordham UP, 2012.

In Conversations on Peirce, leading Peirce scholars Doug Anderson and Carl Hausman collect into one volume some of their work on Peirce and his relations to other pragmatists, old and new. Among the twelve chapters (plus one addendum) of the volume, many of which have originally appeared separately, only one (chapter 3) is co-authored by them. Anderson has individually authored seven chapters, more than one half of the volume; two essays [End Page 130] (chapters 5 and 7) are Hausman's individual work; in addition, Anderson's collaboration with Peter Groff (chapter 1) and Michael J. Rovine (chapter 8 and addendum) is included. Given this division of labor, this is an unusual volume. However, it is more unified than one might think. Divided into three different "conversations," it investigates Peirce's views on pragmatism, idealism, and realism (conversation I) as well as perception and inquiry (conversation II), ending up with "cultural considerations" mostly related to religion and nature (conversation III). The third "conversation," however, is completely authored by Anderson.

As the essays cover a range of topics, the book is inevitably selective, and so must this review be. No comprehensive coverage can be aimed at in a volume containing several philosophical and interpretive voices commenting not only on Peirce (in his different periods) but also other pragmatists. In addition to their common critical stance toward neopragmatism (among other things), the authors clearly seek to promote certain Peircean views on realism, inquiry, religion, and other topics. The account of Peirce's religious ideas in chapters 5, 10, and 12 is motivated by the need to offer a reasonable pragmatist alternative to various unphilosophical theisms and atheisms. More historically oriented scholars will enjoy the first chapter on Peirce's reading of Berkeley's "nominalistic Platonism" and the comparisons between Peirce's, Dewey's, and Royce's pragmatisms (chapter 2).

There is, inescapably, a tension between the (main) authors' interpretations of Peirce. Anderson emphasizes Peirce's idealist background, whereas Hausman focuses on Peirce's realism (not only in the sense of scholastic realism about "real generals" but also in the sense of non-idealism) (x). Peirce, indeed, was a unique philosopher in the sense of integrating metaphysical realism with objective idealism (95). In Hausman's words, according to his metaphysical realism, "reality is not construed as wholly constituted by mind or as isomorphic with mind or mentality as such" (80). Peirce's concept of the dynamical object is shown to be fundamental for this form of realism.

Despite their different emphases, the authors find a common enemy in neopragmatist views threatening to deflate Peirce's distinctive realism. Peirce's differences from neopragmatism are examined through two examples, Joseph Margolis (chapter 3) and Richard Rorty (chapter 4); one might wonder why Hilary Putnam's views on realism are not included (apart from a brief comment on page 51). Anderson and Hausman together argue against Margolis's constructivist interpretation of "real generals," suggesting that Margolis "ignores Peirce's conception of conditionality, or the 'would-be' character of generality" (45). Peirce need not follow Margolis into full-blown constructivism, "because [End Page 131] he hypothesizes a condition of constraints on the part of something that is not internal to the constructions," namely, the "dynamical object" (52). Yet, Peirce's realism is not committed to any "independent, pre-established structured reality," and the Peircean convergence of the scientific opinion toward the "final opinion" is not a "convergence toward a pre-fixed structure to be matched, but convergence toward a reality that is dynamic" and constrains inquiry (52). Nor are Peircean "real objects" Kantian "things-in-themselves" (88), even though the ideal limit (convergence) of inquiry may resemble Kant's "transcendental object" (93). Reality is, crucially, an evolutionary process (77); this, in a way, makes Peirce a process philosopher (chapter 5). Hausman also notes, contra Margolis, that "what is real, although it is necessarily related to thought, maintains an independence insofar as it functions as a constraint on what anyone...


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