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Some excerpts concerning "logical negativism"

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I am reading an essay by Sowa about Peirce. It's generally an essay that is basically trying to promote Peirce's work, and suggests that Peirce has basically been ignored by analytical philosophy. The essay is here: www.jfsowa.com/pubs/csp21st.pdf

But I thought I would post here because of some of the excerpts and quotes that Sowa has mined. His argument is, basically, that Peirce was being ignored largely because he didn't follow the fashion of the later Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism by avoiding metaphysics. In fact, here is what Peirce writes about the subject:

"Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any metaphysics — not by any

means every man who holds the ordinary reasonings of metaphysicians in scorn — and you

have found one whose doctrines are thoroughly vitiated by the crude and uncriticized

metaphysics with which they are packed. We must philosophize, said the great naturalist

Aristotle — if only to avoid philosophizing. Every man of us has a metaphysics, and has to

have one; and it will influence his life greatly. Far better, then, that that metaphysics should

be criticized and not be allowed to run loose." Peirce

Sowa writes about Hao Wang: "In his book Beyond Analytic Philosophy, Hao Wang, a former student of Quine and assistant to Gödel, classified philosophers by the terms nothing else and something more. The leaders of the analytic movement were mostly characterized by what they excluded: they chose a methodology that could address a limited range of topics and declared that nothing else was a legitimate matter of discussion. By applying logic to a narrow range of questions, they often achieved high levels of precision and clarity. But the philosophers who sought something more felt that the unclear questions were often the most significant, and they tried to broaden the inquiry to topics that the nothing-else philosophers rejected."

This seems like a fruitful way of understanding logical positivism, but you won't really see this in any of their doctrines. It's interesting that any movement that comes to be called positivist seems to have it's heart in what doctrines it rejects. Personally I see the modern scientific skepticism movement, and the striving for demarciation, in this same light: By their rhetoric, they seem to be talking about science, but in effect they are really talking about everything that isn't science, or shouldn't be considered science.

Sowa notes that this way of thinking is rejected by Peirce, "His first rule of reason, 'Do not block the way of inquiry' (CP 1.135), implies that no question is illegitimate."

Wang criticizes Quine:

Quine merrily reduces mind to body, physical objects to (some of) the place-times, placetimes

to sets of sets of numbers, and numbers to sets. Hence, we arrive at a purified

ontology which consists of sets only.... I believe I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable

about these reductions. What common and garden consequences can we draw from such

grand reductions? What hitherto concealed information do we get from them? Rather than

being overwhelmed by the result, one is inclined to question the significance of the

enterprise itself.

And Wang quotes a personal letter by C. I. Lewis, the founder of modern modal logic:

It is so easy... to get impressive 'results' by replacing the vaguer concepts which convey real

meaning by virtue of common usage by pseudo precise concepts which are manipulable by

'exact' methods — the trouble being that nobody any longer knows whether anything actual

or of practical import is being discussed.

Two other examples of logicians who are treated the same way as Peirce is Whitehead and Godel, who are both pretty much just referred to by the analytic tradition only for their purely logical results. But in all three cases, these logicians have all branched off into philosophy, without ever really divorcing logic from philosophy. But you rarely hear of Whitehead other than as the co-author of the Principia, and Godel is famous for the Incompleteness Theorem, but his proofs for the existence of God are rarely mentioned. Sadly, Peirce is rarely known as a logician, which was really the heart of his interest, but as a Pragmatist. Also there is a logical theorem with his name known as Peirce's Law.

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