Improving Our Habits: <i>Peirce and Meliorism</i>

Mats Bergman

in The Normative Thought of Charles S. Peirce

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242443
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823250769 | DOI:

Series: American Philosophy (FUP)

Improving Our Habits: Peirce and Meliorism

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Peirce is manifestly skeptical of attempts to apply philosophy to concrete human affairs. In his Cambridge Conferences Lectures (1898), Peirce not only seems to advocate a rather sharp distinction between theory and practice as two incompatible forms of life, but also to disparage melioristic conceptions of the philosopher's task. In his expressed view, philosophy is a theoretical science that should not be compromised by concerns with concrete applicability or societal relevance. This chapter shows that, despite appearances, Peircean thought is not only compatible with moderate forms of meliorism, but that it actually is animated by certain melioristic aspirations and ideals, although on a rather abstract and general plane. This is rendered feasible by a focus on critical common-sensism and a reconstruction of the normative disciplines in terms of criticism of habits. On a more basic theoretical level, however, Peirce's pragmatistic account of meaning and habit should not be reduced to mere analysis. By drawing attention to a mostly unexplored division of logical interpretants in his semeiotic, it is suggested that habit-change can be construed as an integral phase of interpretant-development, which in turn constitutes an indispensable part of a dynamic conception of pragmatic signification—one that moves beyond the plain descriptive clarification of meaning in terms of habit.

Keywords: philosophy; human affairs; common-sensism; meaning; habit; semeiotic; pragmatism

Chapter.  9627 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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