Charles S. Peirce: Truth, reality and objective semiotic idealism

Michael J Forest, Marquette University


The purpose of this work is to propose Charles Peirce's semiotic idealism as an acceptable middle way between skeptical anti-realism and contemporary mind independent realism. The present debate appears stagnant and entrenched in the rigid dualism of either scientific realism or relativism. It will be argued that this dualism constitutes a false dichotomy, and that idealism offers a coherent solution to this impasse. Much of the trouble engendering the present debate begins with the correspondence theory of truth. The correspondence theory is habitually aligned with the claim that the referent of a true statement is mind-independent reality. In other words, even if there were no minds there to verify its truth, that statement would still be true and its referent would be real. The view of this work is that Peirce's idealism can acceptably qualify the correspondence theory by proposing an idealistic framework in which mind and reality are not seen as two opposing and alien entities. The dissertation contains six chapters. Chapter one begins with Peirce's critique of Cartesian and Modern epistemology. It rejects certain modern notions about intuitions, the locus of certitude, and raises general issues about methodology and argumentation. In chapter two, the critique of intuitions develops into an analysis and exposition of Peirce's semiotic, or theory of signs. This chapter pays special attention to Peirce's semiotic interpretation of mind and cognition. Chapter three is a continuation of Peirce's semiotic and unfolds his theory of Synechism, the evolutionary cosmology of a progressively and continually ordered reality. Chapter four helps the reader to place Peirce's theory by comparing it to other movements in 19th and 20th century idealism and realism. Chapter five continues in the same vein by considering Peirce's semiotic idealism as a viable middle way between contemporary mind-independent realism and skeptical anti-realism. Chapter six provides a brief summary and encapsulation of some major points of the work. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Recommended Citation

Forest, Michael J, "Charles S. Peirce: Truth, reality and objective semiotic idealism" (2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9977728.