Hungerford, Yael Levin. “Charles S. Peirce's Conservative Progressivism”. PhD, Boston College, 2016. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:107167.
My dissertation explores the epistemological and political thought of Charles S. Peirce, the founder of American pragmatism. In contrast to the pragmatists who followed, Peirce defends a realist notion of truth. He seeks to provide a framework for understanding the nature of knowledge that does justice to our commonsense experience of things. Similarly in contrast to his fellow pragmatists, Peirce has a conservative practical teaching: he warns against combining theory and practice out of concern that each will corrupt the other. The first three chapters of this dissertation examine Peirce’s pragmatism and related features of his thought: his Critical Common-Sensism, Scholastic Realism, semeiotics, and a part of his metaphysical or cosmological musings. The fourth chapter explores Peirce’s warning that theory and practice ought to be kept separate. The fifth chapter aims to shed light on Peirce’s practical conservatism by exploring the liberal arts education he recommends for educating future statesmen. This dissertation makes clear that Peirce was not a crude utilitarian or simply concerned with “what works.” He was, moreover, not anti-metaphysical. Peirce has much to instruct contemporary thinkers. His is an anti-skeptical but modest theory of reality that remains valuable to contemporary readers. His message of caution in the practical realm is sound. Finally, his call for what a university ought to be and the liberal arts education that will best groom students for a life of action is still an important message.