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

Margaret MacDougall Margaret.MacDougall at ed.ac.uk
Tue Mar 27 16:50:56 EDT 2012

Dear Jon

Thanks for your reply.  I see that from the perspective of Pierce's 
pragmatism there is a clear requirement spelt out by the Pragmatic Maxim 
as to what it takes for a mathematical entity to be meaningful.  My 
original posting (see 
http://www.cs.nyu.edu/pipermail/fom/2012-March/016271.html) referred to 
the usage of the term "only in a Pickwickian sense" as used by the 
nominalist in undermining the existence of particular kinds of 
mathematical objects (frequently abstract objects in general). It would 
be helpful, therefore, if you would clarify whether you a) are 
suggesting that some connection is implicit between Pierce's perspective 
and for example, what Quine would require of a successful nominalist 
system of mathematics or b) were simply providing a further example of 
where the expression "only in a Pickwickian sense" is used.

Best wishes


On 26/03/2012 19:50, Jon Awbrey wrote:
> 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
> Margaret,
> 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/
> Regards,
> Jon
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