Consciousness and C. S. Peirce’s Answer to the Riddle of the Sphinx

Publication: Research - peer-reviewConference abstract in proceedings

Husserl wrote that the beginning of Galilean science where models are related to a mathematical ideal world changed the role of philosophy as the queen of all sciences fundamentally. Positivism and analytical philosophy later tried to get rid of all traditional metaphysical thinking of the meaning of human life and its place in the Cosmos. Science made its own from a human subjects point of view unembodied meaningless mathematical metaphysics, not at least through the mathematizing of modern logic. Cognitive science later attempted to produce a transdisciplinary science based on the objective definition of information. But this physicalist and informationalist paradigm is
theoretically unable to encompass the conscious experience and existential meaning that are the basic requirements for producing science. Thus a scientific explanation of consciousness that is not partially based on phenomenology seems logically impossible therefore the many (unsuccessful)
attempts to naturalize. C.S. Peirce’s pragmaticist semiotics attempts to bridge the gap between natural sciences and humanities by combining a phenomenological approach with an evolutionary and realistic understanding of nature and society in the development of a semiotic theory of mind and
consciousness. Though a contributor to the development of modern logic and science Peirce, through inventing a semiotics that embraced phenomenology, tried to heal the split Husserl saw. Philosophy aims primarily at the kind of knowledge that gives unity and system to the whole body of human, social and natural basic sciences through a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs. Where Husserl wanted to heal the split he observed through his pure phenomenology, Peirce integrated his semiotics with a pure mathematical analysis of phenomenology and the coining of three new basic categories Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness to guide empirical research. Peirce’s work is famous for the transdisciplinary semiotic framework its new philosophical basis makes possible. More controversial this foundation also suggests a new understanding of science and spirituality and the relation between them, which transcends the usual way we separate these matters in the West since the Romantics. Peirce wanted to solve the riddle, expressed in Transcendentalists spokesman Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem The Sphinx of what the place and nature of man’s role in the universe is and of how his scientific knowing is possible at all He also wanted to answer what role science play in the development of the Cosmos. Emerson was the most influential of those radical thinkers and writers of the New England Transcendentalists in Concordia who were some of the first to integrate Eastern philosophy in their thinking). But there was a split between the empiricist and intuitionist view of knowledge among them. Peirce through his pragmaticist semiotics suggested a way to unite these two hostile epistemologies. Peirce attempts a new way of answering Kant’s basic question in the Critique of Pure Reason: What can we know? and What may we hope?
Peirce saw as his primary task to develop a comprehensive metaphysical and epistemological system in which a theory of categories was defined in a completely new way.

Publication information

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTSC 2016 Tucson : The Science of Consciousness
Place of PublicationTucson, AZ
PublisherUniversity of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies
Publication date2016
Article number50
StatePublished - 2016
Event - Tucson, AZ, United States


ConferenceThe Science of Consciousness. TSC 2016
LocationLoews Ventana Canyon
LandUnited States
ByTucson, AZ

ID: 44669109