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Pragmatism's promise, naturalism's prospects: Fallibilism and the "frieghtage of eternity"

Dissertation
Author: Robert W. Main
Abstract:
This dissertation traces the development of classical American pragmatism in the work of C. S. Peirce and Josiah Royce, and its convergence with the naturalist project that currently dominates anglophone philosophy. I argue that naturalism, as it is typically construed, either neglects or underestimates the importance of a rich and nuanced model of selfhood, one that captures not only the biological, but also the cultural features of human persons; what is needed is an account that shows how culture and human selves are themselves "natural." John McDowell has recently offered a promising line of thought which pursues this intuition, but his model has faced heavy criticism and its viability remains questionable. My project, then, is an alternative account that incorporates the best of McDowell's intuitions, but which is immune to the most common objections brought against his model. I proceed by focusing on one aspect of what it means to be a human person that has enormous significance for all areas of philosophical inquiry and which has a rich, if often overlooked, philosophical history. This is the inherent finitude or ignorance which characterizes human knowledge and practice, what Peirce referred to as "fallibilism." Peirce's notion of fallibilism, which today remains his greatest legacy, tempers philosophical discussions of universal concepts such as truth and "the good" by way of considerations of scope and context, forcing such abstractions to find their place within the practical environments of actual lived existence. I offer that Peirce is perhaps a unique figure in the Western philosophical tradition with respect to the importance he gives to fallibilism and in his understanding the doctrine not only in terms of its negative consequences, but also a positive theory that generates a practical response to the sort of existential crisis introduced by the recognition of human fallibility and finitude. Ultimately, Pierce offers a naturalized model of the self which is both a semiotic artifact and communal in nature. The self is a sign that emerges within an interpretive community and which manifests itself as an individual primarily through its fallibility. As such, the self is a cultural artifact, but Peirce's metaphysics makes this a natural process continuous with those processes studied by natural sciences. As a scientist, he was committed to naturalism but not reductionism; his account, therefore, embraces the work of culture and the importance of cultural idioms which are often left out of modern naturalist projects. In this, Peirce offers a promising way to fulfill McDowell's project of "naturalizing" culture and "re-enchanting" nature, thereby eliminating the gap between "mind and the world." However, despite its importance to his philosophical system, Peirce's explicit treatment of selfhood is notably unfocused. It is therefore necessary to couple his philosophical system with that of another of the classical pragmatists who was deeply influenced by Peirce's philosophy but who extended its development into detailed discussions of selfhood and community. The figure I have in mind is Josiah Royce. Royce's philosophy hinges on two central notions, loyalty and community. Loyalty is, for Royce, the means by which individual selves are connected with communities and moral concerns. For Royce, loyalty is given first and foremost to an individual community. However his development of this concept comes to include loyalty to loyalty itself, thus making an individual's loyalty to a particular community continuous with a loyalty to a global community. Moreover, his account of community picks up on Peirce's semiotic theory of interpretation, and connects his account of the individual with Peirce's metaphysical and epistemological concerns. I read the theory of selfhood Royce develops as providing the crucial element that Peirce's philosophical system requires but does not explicitly provide. Throughout this discussion, I show how this model is a promising direction for the future course of contemporary philosophical naturalism.

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE COPYRIGHT .................................................................................................................... ii ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... iii DEDICATION.................................................................................................................. vi

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION AND OUTLINE OF THE PROJECT ...............................1 Naturalism, Fallibilism and the Nature of “Nature” ....................................3 “Subject-Naturalism”: Selfhood and Philosophical Naturalism ..................9 Reuniting Mind and World: John McDowell‟s “Second nature” ..............11 McDowell and his Critics: The Insufficiency of the “Bare Idea of Bildung” ...............................................................................................14 Peirce‟s Prescience: The Case for “Pragmatistic” Naturalism ..................18 2. THE FUTURE OF FALLIBILISM .................................................................25 Pragmatism's Revival .................................................................................25 Putnam has the Wrong Theory of Peircean Truth .....................................27 Peirce‟s Evolutionary Metaphysics and Truth ...........................................30 Peirce‟s Realism.........................................................................................35 Peirce and Dewey‟s opposed Fallibilisms .................................................40 Peirce‟s Fallibilism and the Future of Philosophical Naturalism ..............44 3. PEIRCE'S EXISTENTIALISM AND THE ORIGINS OF FALLIBILISM ............................................................................................50 Unifying Peirce‟s System: The Developmental, “Two-Peirce” and Existential Approaches ........................................................................50 Peirce‟s Treatment of Cartesian Doubt ......................................................53 Peirce‟s Fallibilist Model of the Individual ...............................................57 Peirce‟s “Insurance Theory of Induction” .................................................59 Fallibilism and “Objective Uncertainty” ...................................................64 Consequences of Peirce‟s Existentialism...................................................72 Peirce‟s “Objective Idealism” ....................................................................78 4. “DARWINIANIZED HEGELISM”: FALLIBILISM, PHENOMENOLOGY AND NATURALISM ..........................................82 Peirce and the Sphynx: A Guess at the Riddle ...........................................83 Fallibilism as a Metaphysical Doctrine......................................................85

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Peirce and Darwin: Tychism and the Law of Errors ..................................89 Spontaneity, Law and Growth ...................................................................94 Agapasm and the Growth of Law ..............................................................97 Peirce and Hegel ........................................................................................98 Darwinianized Heglism ...........................................................................103 Fallibilism and Phenomenology ..............................................................104 5. MIND, CONSCIOUSNESS AND PERSONALITY: PEIRCE'S THEORY OF THE SELF ........................................................................110 Signs and Animals: Unifying Peirce's Model of the Self ........................112 The Evolution of Consciousness ..............................................................114 Physiology and the Three Forms of Consciousness ................................120 Childhood Development and Self-Consciousness ...................................126 Personality................................................................................................130 6. JOSIAH ROYCE AND THE EVOLUTION OF PRAGMATICISM ........135 Royce's Pragmaticism ..............................................................................136 Understanding “Mind” .............................................................................141 Personality, Community and the Unity of the Self ..................................147 Truth and Other “Lost Causes” ................................................................152 Pragmaticism Evolved: Lewis and the a priori ........................................158 7. RE-ENCHANTING NATURALISM: MCDOWELL AND PRAGMATICISM ....................................................................................162 Naturalizing Language and Quine's Thesis of Indeterminacy .................163 “Dismounting the See-saw”: Naturalism at the End of the Twentieth Century ...............................................................................................174 Naturalism's Prospects .............................................................................176 Pragmaticism's Promise ...........................................................................179 Constructing the “World of Interpretation” .............................................183 Final Words from a Fallibilist ..................................................................191 BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................192

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND OUTLINE OF THE PROJECT “Our history enables us to suppose that it may be alright to act on the basis of incomplete knowledge if our culture has an effective way of telling us that our knowledge is incomplete, and also of telling us how to act in our state of ignorance.” Wendell Berry 1

Although something akin to an eternal, universal and unchanging truth is the traditional object of our philosophical and scientific inquiry, history seems to indicate that such a truth will remain forever beyond our grasp; the story of human civilization is riddled with crisis and catastrophe, from famines and epidemics to world wars and the current threat of global environmental collapse. One of the principal lessons this history offers is that human beings are finite, their knowledge limited and their practices imperfect. However, despite the long career of its evidence, the consequences of this simple fact are often overlooked. In those cases when it is made central, the result is often a sterile and defeatist skepticism or a religious trust in a realm of being beyond the one in which we (most often, at least) find ourselves. This is because the recognition of the inherent fallibility of human knowledge carries with it a heavy burden: how do we proceed in making the practical decisions we are always faced with (many of them bearing on vital issues) knowing that we will always be acting on imperfect knowledge that is just as likely to be proven wrong in the long run as it is to be vindicated? To

1 Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition (New York: Counterpoint, 2000), 11.

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borrow a formulation from C.S. Peirce, we can therefore view the primary task of philosophy as the development of a model of “inquiry which produces not merely scientific belief, which is always provisional, but also a living, practical belief, logically justified in crossing the Rubicon with all the freightage of eternity.” 2

This tension, I offer, forms the space in which the most pressing concerns of the bulk of contemporary philosophy in the Western world. At present, philosophy in America (and much of the rest of the world) is dominated by two questions critical to its future development: what, precisely, is the most tenable and promising form of the naturalistic worldview; and, what direction should Anglo-American philosophy pursue in the wake of what seems to be the collapse of the analytic project? The first of these questions is, of course, not limited to philosophy alone; the search for a naturalist or naturalizing idiom which at once squares with the current understanding of scientific investigation and the reality it discloses while also adequately handling the distinctive cultural space that is equally part of the human world, cuts across nearly every discipline. The second question, however, is more specific to the concerns of philosophy and has recently been answered by a renewed interest in Hegel and Hegelian philosophy (which, of course, had fallen into disfavor during the rise of analytic philosophy under the influence of Russell, the Vienna circle and others) and a revival of pragmatism. 3 My project treats these concerns as a set, and I address them through the attempt to secure three interrelated goals, framed in terms of the tension Peirce identifies as the "freightage

2 In citing Peirce‟s published works, I follow the standard conventions among Peirce scholars: Collected Papers (CP volume.paragraph); Essential Peirce (EP volume page); Writings (W volume: page); the reference cited here is EP II 449. 3 Sometimes both, which is unsurprising given the Hegelian themes which are present in the work of such classical Pragmatists as Dewey, Royce and, arguably to a lesser extent, Peirce.

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of eternity": (1) the development of a naturalist idiom that adequately handles distinctions, traditionally treated as disjunctive, which form the poles of our theorizing, practices and human being (e.g., the natural and the cultural, mind and matter, practices and ideals, the finite and the infinite, realism and idealism); the outlines of which are found in (2) a new reading of a historically parochial philosophical movement (pragmatism) which is currently enjoying a global “revival” and is, perhaps uniquely, capable of capturing the best intuitions of the leading philosophical currents (primarily the analytic and continental) and facilitating greater exchange with non-western traditions; by (3) recapturing a central theme of classical pragmatism—fallibilism— which remains perhaps its greatest legacy but which is often misunderstood both in its nature and importance. This final goal not only facilitates the reading of pragmatism I favor, but also emerges as a crucial element in our attempts to address the first theme, viz. the prospects of philsophical naturalism. Naturalism, Fallibilism and the Nature of “Nature” Nearly all of twentieth-century Anglophone philosophy proceeds from a naturalism which, more often than not, is tacitly assumed but rarely articulated. Given this scope, it is no surprise that the question of what naturalism actually entails has become the preeminent concern in most, if not all, of the subfields of Western philosophy. As with any such strategic question, discussion of the matter follows distinctly partisan lines; there is, it seems, no agreed upon definition of “naturalism,” and the accounts put forth by various discussants inevitably do more to advance specific partisan interests (e.g. reductionism, eliminativism, realism, etc.) than to develop a common problematic or discursive space. Perhaps the only common ground in such discussions is the minimal point that what is attempted in philosophical naturalism is a

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more or less comprehensive idiom that adequately handles both the natural world, as it is conceived of existing independently of human thought and culture, as well as the intentional and normative structures that arise within the domain of human concerns, in a manner that does not introduce unbridgeable “gaps” between the two or any other metaphysical dualism. Such an idiom begins from the assumption that reality is mind- independent but intelligible, and that human persons and practices are, in some fashion, continuous with the natural world. Although there is nothing that approaches an orthodox description or even history of what can rightfully be gathered under the heading “naturalism,” any attempt at its characterization must be able to define its central concept: the natural. Answering this demand is, of course, no simple task. Notions such as truth, the mental, the ethical and the like have always been fundamental to human practices, but it remains unclear as to how, exactly, they might be fitted to a discourse that only makes reference to the “natural” world. Typically, attempts to do so have been modeled after the natural sciences, the idea being that scientific investigation discloses a world that is not dependent upon any supernatural elements or principles, and given its successes, appears to be a promising standard for any inquiry. Thus, a naturalist account following these lines grants a certain preeminence to the world as science reveals it; the cultural, the intentional and the normative are appropriate subjects of discussion only insofar as they are able to show themselves as proper objects of this scientific investigation. This line of thought is perhaps best exemplified in the work of W.V.O. Quine, Wilfrid Sellars, Jaegwon Kim and Daniel Dennett. This form of naturalism has its roots in a long-standing traditional view of the relationship between nature and human practices. Consider, as representative of this

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view, William James' 1912 essay, “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” in which he describes a trip to rural North Carolina: Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor. The settler had in every case cut down the more manageable trees, and left their charred stumps standing. The larger trees he had girdled and killed, in order that their foliage should not cast a shade. He had then built a log cabin, plastering its chinks with clay, and had set up a tall zigzag rail fence around the scene of his havoc, to keep the pigs and cattle out. Finally, he had irregularly planted the intervals between the stumps and trees with Indian corn, which grew among the chips; and there he dwelt with his wife and babes — an axe, a gun, a few utensils, and some pigs and chickens feeding in the woods, being the sum total of his possessions. 4

It is clear in this passage that James takes a dim view of the “cultivation” he sees on the squatter's farm, a sentiment which follows from his understanding of the value of nature. James betrays his prejudices, likely influenced by the American Transcendentalist tradition, a romantic view in which nature is best left “natural,” and valued as a source of sublime beauty or carefully and artistically molded into a New Englander's pastoral vision. James continues his account through an aesthetically-oriented discussion of the use of nature and the value of culture, descrying the work of the farmer as a sort of devolution: The forest had been destroyed; and what had ' improved' it out of existence was hideous, a sort of ulcer, without a single element of artificial grace to make up for the loss of Nature's beauty. Ugly, indeed, seemed the life of the squatter, scudding, as the sailors say, under bare poles, beginning again away back where our first ancestors started, and by hardly a single item the better off for all the achievements of the intervening generations.

4 William James, “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” in Talks to Teachers on Psychology: And to Students on Some of Life's Ideals, (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1912), 231-2.

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Talk about going back to nature! I said to myself, oppressed by the dreariness, as I drove by. Talk of a country life for one's old age and for one's children! Never thus, with nothing but the bare ground and one's bare hands to fight the battle! Never, without the best spoils of culture woven in! The beauties and commodities gained by the centuries are sacred. They are our heritage and birthright. No modern person ought to be willing to live a day in such a state of rudimentariness and denudation. 5

The crux of the story and the moral which James wishes to express in the piece comes immediately after this diatribe: Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, "What sort of people are they who have to make these new clearings ? " " All of us," he replied. "Why, we ain't happy here, unless we are getting one of these coves under cultivation." I instantly felt that I had been losing the whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the clearings spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell no other story. But, when they looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat, persistent toil and final reward. The cabin was a warrant of safety for self and wife and babes. In short, the clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very paean of duty, struggle, and success. I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge. 6

James is here endorsing a sort of pluralism in aesthetic and ethical discourse, the lesson being that the ideals pursued by actual persons are contingent upon disparate cultures and perspectives and that we would do well to recognize this fact and so overcome “a certain blindness” which afflicts all peoples. More important for our purposes, however, is the conception of nature he employs, which is evident both in his initial, unreflective judgment of the farm as well as the position expressed by his guide.

5 Ibid., 232-3. 6 Ibid., 233-4.

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On this view, nature is that which is wholly independent of human influence or cultural, and the latter are seen as artificial productions; James mourns the loss of nature's beauty “without a single element of artificial grace to make up” for it. 7

This view informs one variety of naturalism, indicative of a dominant intuition behind responses to the question, “what is the natural?” Traditional accounts—in the form of both reductive scientisms such as those explored by Richard Rorty, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, as well as current “preservationist movements”—see the question as based upon the dichotomy between the natural and the artificial. On this account, the natural world is decidedly materialistic; it is characterized by being relatively fixed, law-like and is that which is completely devoid of human or cultural influence. As such, human cultures, practices, norms and the like are artificial constructs that are best explained away if science is to progress. We can follow John McDowell (who, in turn, borrows from Max Weber) and refer to this as a “disenchanted” picture of nature. There is, however, a competing species of naturalism, one that takes those elements which are the source of artificiality according to the first naturalism to be themselves parts of a “re-enchanted” nature. This understanding replaces the contrast term “artificial” with the notion of “artifactuality,” a concept meant to show the continuity between the natural and the cultural worlds. This line of thought, advocated by Joseph Margolis, John McDowell and the classical pragmatists, takes the primary concern of philosophical naturalism to be the analysis of the human person. 8

I follow these thinkers and argue that the dominant trend in philosophical naturalism either

7 Ibid., emphasis added. 8 See, especially, Joseph Margolis, The Arts and the Definition of the Human: Toward a Philosophical Anthropology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).

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neglects or underestimates the importance of an ample and nuanced model of selfhood, one that captures not only the biological, but also the cultural features of human persons. What is needed is an account that shows how culture and human selves are natural. My project is, first, an articulation of such an account that focuses on one aspect of what it means to be a human person that has enormous significance for all areas of philosophical inquiry and which has a rich, if often overlooked, philosophical and theological history. This is the inherent finitude or ignorance which characterizes human knowledge and practice, what the father of American Pragmatism, C. S. Peirce, referred to as “fallibilism.” Peirce‟s notion of fallibilism, which today remains perhaps his greatest legacy, tempers philosophical discussions of universal concepts such as truth and “the good” by way of considerations of scope and context, forcing such abstractions to find their place within the practical environments of actual lived existence. The principal case in which such ideals function is Peirce's characterization of truth in the terms of infinite inquiry and the strong fallibilism which follows from it. Peirce famously offers a definition of truth as that which an infinite community of inquirers, over the course of an infinite inquiry, is fated to believe. However, while the definition of truth that Peirce offers is cast in ideal terms, the characterization of truth that is most often operative in his philosophy is qualified by his notion of fallibilism. Peirce arrives at this point through his emphasis on the finite and fallible characteristics of the human individual. For Peirce, then, the theory of the self and the theory of truth are inseparable; he is led to a discussion of selfhood through his account of truth and knowledge. In this, he offers a promising way to “naturalize” culture and “re-enchant” nature, thus eliminating the gap between “mind and the world,” both principal goals in the development of a naturalist idiom as well as in determining the future course of American philosophy.

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“Subject-Naturalism”: Selfhood and Philosophical Naturalism The nature and importance of the individual self has been a perennial obstacle faced by all attempts at naturalism. The self, like aesthetic and religious objects, seems to defy reduction; as such, any workable naturalism must be able to adequately handle its intentional and cultural significance. Moreover, as Huw Price has argued, a naturalist characterization of the self and its function in inquiry is a necessary preliminary to the construction of a naturalist model of the objects of inquiry. Price roughly characterizes naturalism as the view that “natural science constrains philosophy,” i.e. that the two disciplines cannot be separated and that “philosophy properly defers to science.” 9 While this account may prove to be too limited (whether it is or not depends upon how broad a definition is granted to “science”), it does lead Price to an illuminating and fruitful distinction. Price distinguishes between a commonly held popular version of naturalism, which he takes to dominate current discussions of the issue, from a more fundamental and conceptually prior naturalism that avoids many of the objections raised by idealist or “anti-naturalist” theorists. The more common form of naturalism, according to Price, involves the position that reality consists solely of that which is the proper object of scientific investigation, and that “all genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge.” 10 Due to its focus on the object of study and knowledge, Price labels this view “object naturalism.” He contrasts this with what he terms “subject naturalism.” This lesser-known version of naturalism takes as its primary focus the nature of human beings, that is, it begins “with what science tells us

9 Huw Price, “Naturalism Without Representationalism,” in Naturalism in Question, ed. David Macarthur and Mario de Caro (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 1. 10 Ibid., 3.

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about ourselves.” 11 Far from being just one among the set of all objects studied by science, Price argues, the human subject and its self-reflective relation to itself is a concern that inevitably precedes inquiry into the rest of the world. This is so, according to Price, because the position entailed by object naturalism must be “validated” from the position of subject naturalism; the problems addressed from the object naturalist perspective are, he argues, the products of the workings of human linguistic usage. The subject naturalist account begins with the view that language introduces the metaphysical and epistemological issues that object naturalism seeks to resolve; thus, any account that object naturalism might seek to give must answer to the self-reflective concerns from which such problems originate. We need not follow Price in taking deficiencies or limitations of language to be solely responsible for our philosophical problems (as Wittgenstein and Nietzsche have sometimes been read as saying). However, his point regarding the dependence of a naturalist idiom on the understanding of what it is to be a human person (and the importance of language to this relation) is well-taken. As Darwin himself remarked in the concluding remarks to his On the Origin of Species, the “greatest difficulty which presents itself, when we are driven to the above conclusion on the origin of man [the theory of natural selection], is the high standard of intellectual power and of moral disposition which he has attained.” 12 Put in other words, we can say that Darwin is here remarking on the fact that the central problem that faces any attempt at a naturalized model of the human self is how to account for an agent's acting on the basis of reasons. A model of the self which takes it to be just another object in “nature” cannot account for an agent acting on reasons as reasons, but rather sees such

11 Ibid., 4, emphasis in the original. 12 Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), 390.

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as the mechanical operation of natural forces; “ought,” under such an account is reduced to “is” and causal determinism threatens our intuitive distinctions regarding our own nature as persons. John McDowell offers a similar argument in his critique of any philosophical strategy that makes recourse to “the Given”: But it is one thing to be exempt from blame on the ground that the position we find ourselves in can be traced ultimately to brute force, it is quite another thing to have a justification. In effect, the idea of the Given offers exculpations where we wanted justifications 13

The aim of the non-reductive naturalist, then, is to account for how human persons find themselves “already in the space of reasons” (McDowell‟s phrase, borrowed from Sellars), but in a manner that still allows for the constraint of such reasons by reality. Reuniting Mind and World: John McDowell’s “Second nature” In his provocative collection of lectures, Mind and World, McDowell sets himself the daunting task of revising the core intuitions behind the dominant epistemological accounts in the philosophical tradition. He sees this project as an attempt to “reconcile reason and nature” by “looking for a conception of our nature that includes a capacity to resonate to the structure of the space of reasons.” 14 For McDowell, traditional accounts of nature, or “the realm of law,” characterize it as the domain of causal connections in which meaning and purpose have no place. The space of reasons, on the other hand, is the setting of Kantian “spontaneity,” the human subject‟s freedom and relation to categories

13 John McDowell, Mind and World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 8. 14 Ibid., 86, 109.

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of meaning and normativity. McDowell aims to show how these two domains can be reconciled without reducing one to the other. Reductive strategies, which McDowell classifies as either endorsing a “bald naturalism” or a “coherentism,” have led philosophical discussion to an unproductive oscillation, the poles of which are each incapable of adequately accounting for the intuitions central to the other. That is, within such oscillation, we are either left with an account of the world that does not allow for the sui generis character of the space of reasons (“bald naturalism”), or we are adrift in a “frictionless spinning in the void” in which our reasons are not answerable to anything “outside,” viz., reality (“coherentism”). McDowell wants to end this oscillation and “dismount the seesaw,” by introducing what he calls a “minimal empiricism.” His recasting of the relationship between reason and nature turns upon an alternative understanding of experience, one by which experience possesses conceptual content; as such, experience of the world is continuous with the space of reasons. McDowell‟s insight, and a significant source of both his popularity and controversy, is the recognition that bridging the gap between reason and nature, or the space of reasons and the realm of law, requires an adapted characterization of the nature of the inquiring subject. Faced with the “anxiety” that pervades philosophical accounts of our relationship to the world, McDowell claims that: We can return to sanity if can recapture the Aristotelian idea that a normal mature human being is a rational animal, with its rationality part of its animal, and so natural, being, not a mysterious foothold in another realm. The way to do that is to realize that our nature is largely second nature. 15

Full document contains 206 pages
Abstract: This dissertation traces the development of classical American pragmatism in the work of C. S. Peirce and Josiah Royce, and its convergence with the naturalist project that currently dominates anglophone philosophy. I argue that naturalism, as it is typically construed, either neglects or underestimates the importance of a rich and nuanced model of selfhood, one that captures not only the biological, but also the cultural features of human persons; what is needed is an account that shows how culture and human selves are themselves "natural." John McDowell has recently offered a promising line of thought which pursues this intuition, but his model has faced heavy criticism and its viability remains questionable. My project, then, is an alternative account that incorporates the best of McDowell's intuitions, but which is immune to the most common objections brought against his model. I proceed by focusing on one aspect of what it means to be a human person that has enormous significance for all areas of philosophical inquiry and which has a rich, if often overlooked, philosophical history. This is the inherent finitude or ignorance which characterizes human knowledge and practice, what Peirce referred to as "fallibilism." Peirce's notion of fallibilism, which today remains his greatest legacy, tempers philosophical discussions of universal concepts such as truth and "the good" by way of considerations of scope and context, forcing such abstractions to find their place within the practical environments of actual lived existence. I offer that Peirce is perhaps a unique figure in the Western philosophical tradition with respect to the importance he gives to fallibilism and in his understanding the doctrine not only in terms of its negative consequences, but also a positive theory that generates a practical response to the sort of existential crisis introduced by the recognition of human fallibility and finitude. Ultimately, Pierce offers a naturalized model of the self which is both a semiotic artifact and communal in nature. The self is a sign that emerges within an interpretive community and which manifests itself as an individual primarily through its fallibility. As such, the self is a cultural artifact, but Peirce's metaphysics makes this a natural process continuous with those processes studied by natural sciences. As a scientist, he was committed to naturalism but not reductionism; his account, therefore, embraces the work of culture and the importance of cultural idioms which are often left out of modern naturalist projects. In this, Peirce offers a promising way to fulfill McDowell's project of "naturalizing" culture and "re-enchanting" nature, thereby eliminating the gap between "mind and the world." However, despite its importance to his philosophical system, Peirce's explicit treatment of selfhood is notably unfocused. It is therefore necessary to couple his philosophical system with that of another of the classical pragmatists who was deeply influenced by Peirce's philosophy but who extended its development into detailed discussions of selfhood and community. The figure I have in mind is Josiah Royce. Royce's philosophy hinges on two central notions, loyalty and community. Loyalty is, for Royce, the means by which individual selves are connected with communities and moral concerns. For Royce, loyalty is given first and foremost to an individual community. However his development of this concept comes to include loyalty to loyalty itself, thus making an individual's loyalty to a particular community continuous with a loyalty to a global community. Moreover, his account of community picks up on Peirce's semiotic theory of interpretation, and connects his account of the individual with Peirce's metaphysical and epistemological concerns. I read the theory of selfhood Royce develops as providing the crucial element that Peirce's philosophical system requires but does not explicitly provide. Throughout this discussion, I show how this model is a promising direction for the future course of contemporary philosophical naturalism.