Communal Inferentialism: Charles S. Peirce’s Critique of Epistemic Individualism
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Charles S. Peirce’s critique of epistemic individualism, the attempt to make the individual the locus of knowledge, is a dominant theme in his writings. While scholars often mention this critique, there is, surprisingly, a lack of research on the topic. However, it is necessary to know what motivates Peirce’s critique of epistemic individualism to know why he aims to turn philosophy into a communal study. In this dissertation, I defend the claim that Peirce’s communal inferentialism allows us to assess the rational merits of his critique of epistemic individualism and to grasp his insights into why philosophy must change its course. The questions that have guided the research are the following. What are the central reasons that support Peirce’s verdict that epistemic individualism is a dead-end for philosophy? What roles do Peirce’s fundamental commitments concerning the notion of the community of inquirers and the patterns of correct inference play in his critique? I defend the central claim in four chapters. In Chapter One, I reinvestigate Peirce’s critique in relation to Cartesianism, while in Chapter Two I take up Peirce’s case against nominalism. I begin with these topics since Peirce claims that these two positions in the history of philosophy are prime examples of epistemic individualism. In Chapter Three and Chapter Four, I show that the problem of epistemic individualism crops up again in Peirce’s two most influential papers, “The Fixation of Belief” and “How to Make Our Ideas Clear.” I provide a communal inferentialist reading of both papers. In this dissertation, I further show why, according to Peirce, our key epistemic notions, including knowledge and truth, cannot be individualistic but must be communal notions.
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Ian MacDonald (2019). Communal Inferentialism: Charles S. Peirce’s Critique of Epistemic Individualism. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15294