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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-07272009-111146

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Peirce, Pragmaticism and the Words of Science
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Mariani, Mauro
controrelatore Prof. Colapietro, Vincent
controrelatore Prof. Fabbrichesi, Rossella
controrelatore Prof. Moriconi, Enrico
  • Decution
  • Ethics of Terminology
  • Lexicography
  • Meaning
  • Peirce
  • Pragmatism
Graduation session start date
Release date

The object of the present dissertation is the meaning of the words of science conveying rational concepts. How can we ascertain the meaning of any given word of science? What is “the meaning” of a word of science? How, by apprehending the meaning of the words of science, can we further develop our knowledge? How is it possible to convey the meaning of a word of science in the most efficient way?
In the present work I shall endeavour to search for an answer to those and other related questions from the standpoint of the semiotical pragmatism developed by Charles Sanders Peirce.
Peirce is considered the father both of semiotic, or the general science of signs, and of pragmatism, the only American native movement of thought. Although there are plenty of contributions already concerned with Peirce’s pragmatism, only few of them strive to provide a complete account of its genesis and development, and none provides it in relation to the issue of the words of science. The claim I shall vindicate is twofold: not only the issue of the words of science represents a relevant aspect in Peirce’s thought so far neglected by the critical literature, but it affords as well a new way to reinterpret and apply his pragmatism in relation to contemporary problems of philosophy and science. In other words, the issue of the words of science can be used to gain a better understanding of Peirce’s pragmatism and this, in turn, can be used to gain a better understanding of how language and rationality conjointly operate in that endeavour that we call scientific inquiry.

The present work is articulated into three main parts. In the first part, a complete reconstruction of the genesis and of the development of Peirce’s pragmatism will be set forth. It has a two aims: the critical one is to determine in which ways Peirce’s pragmatism can be interpreted in relation to the issue of the words of science, while the theoretical one is to ascertain how, according to it, we ought to behave in order to teach and learn the meaning of a given word of science in the best way possible. In the second part, we shall then consider the relation between Peirce’s thought and the issue of the words of science from the standpoint of the evolution of English and American lexicography. Besides reconstructing some neglected aspects of Peirce’s biographical connection to lexicography, the general aim of this second part will be to determine to what extent the conclusion of the first part concerning pragmatism are in line with those achieved by lexicography along its complex evolution. Finally, in the third part, we shall consider the theory of the ethics of scientific terminology developed by Peirce, tracing its evolution and determining its potential pragmatic bearings in relation to our main purpose