Quotations from the writings of Charles Sanders Peirce
What Pragmatism Is

The following quote was posted to FOM 16th March 2012 as an example of the use of the phrase "Pickwickian sense" but struck me primarily because of its enunciation of the thesis that "all thought whatsoever is a sign" which creeps upon (but does not quite reach) the idea in linguistic philosophy that all thought is in language (even if unspoken). This is a thesis against which Bryan Magee speaks in his "Confessions of a Philosopher" and I am substantially in agreement with Magee on this (though not with his lock-stock-and-barrel critique of philosophical analysis!).

As to the point which Peirce is trying to make, I am somewhat baffled. I don't see how either of the points made by Peirce can help me to distinguish between "absolute truth" and "what I do not doubt".

Two things here are all-important to assure oneself of and to remember. The first is that a person is not absolutely an individual. His thoughts are what he is "saying to himself", that is, is saying to that other self that is just coming into life in the flow of time. When one reasons, it is that critical self that one is trying to persuade; and all thought whatsoever is a sign, and is mostly of the nature of language. The second thing to remember is that the man's circle of society (however widely or narrowly this phrase may be understood), is a sort of loosely compacted person, in some respects of higher rank than the person of an individual organism. It is these two things alone that render it possible for you -- but only in the abstract, and in a Pickwickian sense -- to distinguish between absolute truth and what you do not doubt.

The Monist, Volume 15, 1905, pages 161-181. Also in the 'Collected Papers', CP 5.411-437.

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