[FOM] A few more thoughts on the expression “only in a Pickwickian sense”

Jon Awbrey jawbrey at att.net
Mon Mar 26 14:50:57 EDT 2012

Re: Margaret MacDougall
At: http://www.cs.nyu.edu/pipermail/fom/2012-March/016359.html
Cf: http://www.cs.nyu.edu/pipermail/fom/2012-March/016322.html


Peirce is invoking a rather large number of his pet themes in that Pickwickian paragraph.
There is of course the pragmatic maxim, which recommends a method for clarifying concepts
by seeking convergent operational definitions for them.  From a mathematical point of view,
the pragmatic maxim has the character of a representation principle combined with a general
type of closure principle.  There is also Peirce's idea of an unlimited community of inquiry,
whose inquiry into any issue, if continued to its conceivable limit, is destined to converge
on true concepts of reality.

As far as "Pickwickian distinctions" go, I think that Peirce is here referring to what we would
otherwise call "purely verbal distinctions" or "distinctions without a difference", by his maxim,
distinctions that reflect no difference at all in their conceivable practical effects.

Here's a bit on the Pragmatic Maxim — http://inquiryintoinquiry.com/2008/08/07/pragmatic-maxim/



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