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Peirce and Rescher on Scientific Progress and Economy of Research

  • Thomas A. Goudge (a1)
Abstract

Charles Peirce had a flair for asking fruitful questions and for proposing answers that did not block the way of inquiry. Typical examples occur in his philosophy of science where he raises issues that are still very much alive. They include such items as the nature and conditions of scientific progress, the grounds of human success in formulating theories, the completability of scientific knowledge, and the limits imposed by the economy of research. Because these are living issues, Peirce's ideas about them invite examination as if he were our philosophical contemporary. Nicholas Rescher so examines them in his compact, timely book. His treatment is sympathetic but by no means uncritical, as might have been expected in view of the similarities and differences between his own position of methodological pragmatism and the pragmaticism of Peirce. The ensuing discussion thus seems to me worth looking at in a bit of detail.

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NOTES

1 Peirce's Philosophy of Science: Critical Studies in His Theory of Induction and Scientific Method. Nicholas Rescher. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 1978. Pp. x, 125. $10.95. References to Peirce are to the number of the volume and the paragraph in Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Eds. Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Burks. 8 vols. (CP). Cambridge Mass., Harvard University Press. 1931–58.

2 Rescher , op. cit. p. 26.

3 Rescher, p. 29

6 Rescher, pp. 13–17

7 Rescher, p. 16

8 Rescher, p. 17. For Rescher's non-Peircean interpretation of self-correctiveness, see his Methodological Pragmatism (1977), pp. 176–77.

9 Rescher , Peirce's Philosophy of Science, p. 36.

10 Rescher , op. cit., pp. 3031.

11 Rescher, p. 34

14 Rescher, p. 35.

15 Rescher, pp. 73–89.

16 Rescher, p. 90. In his Scientific Progress: A philosophical essay on the economics of research in natural science, (1978), Rescher himself says more about the subject in a bold and remarkable attempt to quantify central aspects of it. Holding that the historical situation “has been one of a constant progress of science as a cognitive enterprise not withstanding its exponential growth as a productive enterprise’, he argues that economic constraints in a zero-growth world oblige scientific knowledge in future to grow at an ever-diminishing pace. Cognitive progress will exhibit ‘logarithmic retardation‘; or, in Peircean terminology, science will approach the state of zero-growth asymptotically in the long run.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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