Table of Contents


9.   Communicative Deficits and Pragmatic Truth: One More Peircean Take on the Post-truth Debates
Mats Bergman

In spite of the oft-lamented flaws of the concept of “post-truth”, there is a steadily growing body of academic work analysing its significance and wrestling with its potential implications. Still, this discussion has tended to be somewhat one-sided. A review of the numerous books, articles, and commentaries published over the last three years or so reveals that the focus of the debates has been on identifying the root causes of the malady and appropriate remedies. The purported culprits have included technological transformations, broad social trends, media logics, political and economic machinations, and even insidious intellectual movements. Although these analyses differ in many ways, the vast majority agree in construing post-truth as an informational ailment that needs to be combatted rather than as something worthy of serious consideration.

However, contrary views have also begun to be articulated – positions that treat post-truth not as a malady to be cured but rather as a reasonable reaction to communicative deficits, epistemic inequalities, and hidden political assemblages. One approach within communication studies sets out from the relatively familiar criticism of the neoliberal overtake of the public sphere and the democratic shortfalls that have ensued. Here, the upshot is not a negation of post-truth, but rather a call for a radicalisation of democracy. However, in what is probably the most sustained advocacy of post-truth on the market, STS scholar Steve Fuller interprets some of the very same factors rather differently, in effect portraying post-truth as a justified reaction to authoritarian attempts to quell open communication and inquiry. In this case, the outcome is a neoliberal argument for greater democratisation. Yet, although these approaches are obviously opposed in rather decisive respects, they are nonetheless largely aligned in their negative appraisals of purported norms of truth and consensus.

In this article, I review and assess the principal motivations behind and possible implications of this critique, focusing in particular on Fuller’s explicit advocacy of what he considers to be a post-truth mindset. I will therefore take note of how Fuller rhetorically frames his account as a game or struggle between “truthers” (aka “veritists”) and “post-truthers”, leaving us with a binary choice. But there are other options. Here, I turn to the epistemic account of truth of the classical pragmatists, especially as articulated by C. S. Peirce. I argue that an adoption of this Peircean view of truth does not lead to the dreaded tyranny of consensus. Rather, the pragmatist account of the emergence of truth as a consequence of attempts to fixate beliefs does requires a recognition of the fallible nature of all truth-pursuits and the public nature of truth. And finally, I contend that this inquiry-laden conception of truth provides us with a better epistemic outlook for communicative practices such as journalism than Fuller’s dichotomy between truthers and post-truthers.


8.   Peirce’s Concept of Abduction (Hypothesis Formation) across His Later Stages of Scholarly Life
Martin Potschka

The subject of this communication is Peirce’s ideas about abduction which is just one step in his larger scheme of evidence- based hypothetico-deductive epistemology. Since Peirce repeatedly changed his mind, the aim is to construct a “definitive Peirce” on this particular subject. A short list of quotations from the large corpus of Peirce was assembled (some 440 items extracted from 122 bibliographic units have been documented) and this annotated bibliography was used to interpret Peirce’s intentions. Several stages in the development of his ideas can be demarcated. A classification of his late life into a methodological stage (logic of discovery), and a noetic stage (psychology of discovery) is confirmed. Peirce gives up on applying syllogistic inference to abduction in preference of Socratic interrogations, but this development is overlaid by ever increasing emphasis on a guessing instinct. Peirce’s contradictions are best rendered as tetralemma; like fibers in a rope extending in time and not unicursal stages. His ideas about creativity turn from historical (breaking new ground) to psychological (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) and reveal much of his personality and health. Peirce’s epistemology is compared with that of Popper, who was a nominalist. My study also sheds light on a number of related issues: Peirce anticipates Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic fields, whereas he was still unaware of chaos theory. Nor did he recognize that behind instinctual guidance some inference via 2nd order variations is at work. The status and reality of hypothetical entities will be discussed briefly. In spite of Peirce’s emphasis on evidence, verisimilitude remains to be negotiated.


7.   Composite Photographs and the Quest for Generality
Chiara Ambrosio

Along with being a visual method of scientific investigation in its own right, the process of composite photography was often invoked, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as a powerful philosophical metaphor. I investigate an early chapter in the life of this metaphor: its reception and use by the American philosopher, logician and scientist Charles S. Peirce. I show how Peirce’s use of composite photography was rooted in his sophisticated understanding of the composite process itself, which had been originally developed by Sir Francis Galton in the late 1870s. I highlight substantial differences in the ways Peirce and Galton drew on the composite process to advance broader epistemological claims - especially claims concerning the nature and reliability of scientific generalisations. I argue that Peirce and Galton’s respective approaches to the issue of generalisation and generality condense deeper epistemological tensions that deserve renewed philosophical consideration. I conclude by arguing that the material dimension of photography as a mode of representation in its own right, and in particular the limitations of the photographic process as an ‘objective’ mode of representation, were ultimately of crucial importance for the ways in which Peirce adopted and articulated the metaphor of composite photography in his philosophical works.

6.   The Purpose of the Essential Indexical
Catherine Legg

This paper takes indexicality as a case-study for critical examination of the distinction between semantics and pragmatics as currently conceived in mainstream philosophy of language. Both a ‘pre-indexical’ and ‘post-indexical’ analytic formal semantics are examined and found wanting, and instead an argument is mounted for a ‘properly pragmatist pragmatics’, according to which we do not work out what signs mean in some abstract overall sense and then work out to what use they are being put; rather, we must understand to what use signs are being put in order to work out what they mean.


5.   From Steps and Phases to Dynamically Evolving Abduction
Sami Paavola

A paper presented at the Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress 2014. Invigorating Philosophy for the 21st Century. Lowell, USA, 16-19 July.

In this paper interplay between Peircean abduction and modern literature on methodology is analyzed. Abduction is used in methodological discussions on qualitative methods, for example, in relation to grounded theory, case study methodology, and ethnography. Basic uses of abduction in this literature are presented. They provide a perspective on abduction treated dynamically besides more traditional outlooks on abduction as specific reasoning steps or as a first phase in methodology. Abduction gives especially means of seeing the role of theorizing and the interaction between theories and observations in methodology. A list of abductive strategies (seven in all) are presented which are in line with a dynamic view on abduction. Peirce provides elements for this kind of an interpretation even though methodeutic was the vaguest and the least developed area of his theory of logic.

4.   1914–2014: One Hundred Years of Editing and Publishing Peirce
André De Tienne

This presentation pays homage to all the major figures who, from the time Josiah Royce saved the Peirce papers from oblivion by getting them shipped to his Harvard office, gave years or decades of their lives to the organization, selection, editing, and publications of Peirce’s writings. The presentation also brings into relief the gradual development and increased sophistication of the methods used in reconstituting and editing Peirce’s texts, up to the present day, with an overview of the work accomplished by the Peirce Edition Project and a preview of the production platform the Project has been developing recently.

Presented at the Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress on July 18, 2014.

3.   A Digital Companion to C. S. Peirce
Mats Bergman, Sami Paavola & João Queiroz

This poster, displayed at the The Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress (University of Massachusetts Lowell, 2014), presents the key features of the new Digital Companion version of Commens, launched in 2014.

2.   The Johns Hopkins Metaphysical Club and Its Impact on the Development of the Philosophy and Methodology of Sciences in the Late 19th-Century United States
Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen & Jean-Marie Chevalier

This memorandum documents some of the most noteworthy facts concerning the Metaphysical Club meetings, which were predominantly presided over by Charles Peirce, and which took place at Johns Hopkins University from October 1879 until March 1885. The Club held the total of 43 meetings, and 110 presentations, of which 33 were principal papers. These facts, some of which are highlighted in the document that follows, testify that the club had an enormous impact on the development of American sciences and methodology.

1.   Capturing Cerberus: The Rhetorical Path to General Semiotics
Mats Bergman

Peirce’s “sop to Cerberus” - the inclusion of a human ingredient in the general conception of the sign - has mostly been interpreted as a momentary lapse. Peirce certainly regretted the need for such a compromised account; and many Peircean semioticians have also contended that a satisfactory theory of the sign must be strictly formal, derivable from a few basic relational principles. This seems to suggest a top-down approach, giving precedence to abstract ideas over concrete semiotic experience. However, a closer study of Peirce’s efforts reveals a far more intricate story, connected to the question of the basic character and motivation of his project. Without denying that Peirce’s ultimate aim was a non-anthropocentric theory of signs, the aim of this talk (originally presented in 2007) was to outline how Peirce may have succeeded in having his cake and eating it too – that is, how he could accommodate the view that the signs of the world must be initially grasped in terms of human (anthropomorphic) semiotic experience and yet be able to plausibly develop a general (non-anthropocentric) conception of the sign.