The Pragmatic Maxim
Essays on Peirce and Pragmatism
University Press 2012
Charles Sanders Peirce was the founder of the philosophical tradition known as pragmatism. He is also the proponent of a distinctive variety of pragmatism that has at its core a logical rule that has come to be known as “the pragmatic maxim.” According to this maxim, the meaning of a concept or a proposition is ultimately to be defined in terms of the “sensible” and “practical” effects it would produce in the course of experimental action. That is, of course, a crude articulation. But, according to Peirce, the view of meaning that the maxim articulates has vast philosophical implications. Peirce’s pragmatism is at once anti-skeptical, fallibilist, verificationist, inferentialist, and realist. Indeed, that looks like a motley crowd of philosophical commitments. How might they be made to hang together?
In his new book, The Pragmatic Maxim: Essays on Peirce and Pragmatism (Oxford University Press, 2012), Christopher Hookway explores the complexities of Peirce’s philosophy. With chapters devoted to topics ranging from Peirce’s fallibilism, his philosophy of language, his views on mathematics, his rejection of psychologism, and his theory of abduction, Hookway presents Peircean pragmatism as a formidable and strikingly contemporary philosophy. Hookway’s book will be of great interest to anyone interested in pragmatism and the history of 20th-century philosophy, but it also has much to offer to those working on current debates in fields like epistemology, philosophy of language, and logic.