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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 1, 2012

Peirce’s Semeiotic and the Normative Basis of Inquiry

James Jakób Liszka
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


Peirce's formal rhetoric is the least developed of his three branches of semeiotic. I argue that Peirce intended formal rhetoric to be a general theory of inquiry. Peirce recognized that semeiotic requires a cooperative effort by inquirers guided by certain methodological and normative principles and was thus one of the three normative sciences. Thus formal rhetoric is subject to normative considerations. The purpose of this paper is to give some body to the skeleton outline originally provided by Peirce. I start with an outline of his formal rhetoric and conclude that Peirce appeared to treat three dimensions of inquiry ·. 1) a proper community of inquirers; 2) a proper method of inquiry; and 3 ) the proper goals of inquiry. Each of these three dimensions has a normative aspect which makes the connection between semeiotic and ethics much clearer. The most important factors in scientific inquiry have been the moral ones such as love of truth and recognition of science's social and public nature. These normative factors have an impact on inquiry in at least three respects: 1 ) the ethos of the community of inquiry; 2 ) the cultivation of feelings and sentiments, forms of communication, and the virtues of inquirers; and 3) the goals of inquiry necessary for success in the long run. The normative aspect of inquiry leads to speculative rhetoric which privileges certain forms of communication and certain goals of inquiry. Spelling these out in detail leads to Peirce's novel point that pure reason or pure logic alone is not enough to discover knowledge, but that it requires the effort of a historical community of inquirers, cooperating in the right sort of community

Published Online: 2012-6-1
Published in Print: 2012-6-1

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