Striving for Ideals in a Post-Modern Era: Charles S. Peirce on Ethics and Esthetics

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Abstract

After having discovered that (good) reasoning requires a normative grounding, Peirce makes various attempts, scattered in different texts, to provide an ethical theory. According to him, logic, as the science of the means of acting reasonably, needs ethics to guide it by analyzing the ends to which those means should be directed. Ethics, however, is also not self-sufficient: it needs another discipline that studies what is an end or ideal in itself, and so admirable and desirable in any and all circumstances regardless of any other consideration whatsoever. This discipline is, according to him, esthetics. The author tries to show that Peirce’s ethical-esthetical theory of ideals offers a perspective that can circumvent a relativistic ethical position without necessarily embracing a traditional absolutist view. Such a perspective is, according to him, much needed in our post-modern society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-704
JournalTijdschrift voor filosofie (België)
Volume70
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes

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