Idealism Operationalized: Charles Peirce's Theory of Perception
Neopragmatism has been accused of having ‘an experience problem’. This paper begins by outlining Hume's understanding of perception according to which ideas are copies of impressions thought to constitute a direct confrontation with reality. This understanding is contrasted with Peirce's theory of perception according to which percepts give rise to perceptual judgments which do not copy but index the percept (just as a weather-cock indicates the direction of the wind). Percept and perceptual judgment thereby mutually inform and correct one another, as the perceiver develops mental habits of interpreting their surroundings, so that, in this theory of perception, as Peirce puts it: “[n]othing at all…is absolutely confrontitional”. Paul Redding has argued that Hegel’s “idealist understanding of logical form” ran deeper than Kant’s in recognising that Mind is essentially embodied and located, and therefore perspectival. Peirce’s understanding arguably dives deeper still in distributing across the space of reasons (and thus Being) not just Mind’s characteristic features of embodiedness and locatedness, but also its infinite corrigibility.
Dr Cathy Legg is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University.