On Friday 25th October, the Idealism and Pragmatism research network’s first annual workshop began with three papers on the history of the relation between idealism and pragmatism from Paul Franks, Gabriele Gava, and Jeremy Dunham.
The day started with an excellent paper from Paul Franks on ‘The Schelling-Fashioned Idealism of Pierce’. Franks discussed the ‘affinities’ between Peirce and Schelling, particularly with regard to objective idealism, evolutionary cosmology, the theory of dynamic living Ideas, and the unapologetic use of anthropomorphism. He investigated why Peirce was happy to emphasise links between his own philosophy and Schelling’s in a way that he was not with Hegel’s. Drawing on a passage where Peirce discusses Schelling and other minds ‘stricken with the monstrous mysticism of the east’, Franks argued that this monstrous mysticism is a reference to Kabbalic philosophy. We can recognise strong affinities between Peirce and Schelling in the ways that they drew from this tradition. In contrast to the Platonic tradition which regards heterogeneity as explained by homogeneity and the absolute unity of God, the Kabbalah tradition emphasizes maximal heterogeneity and organizing force.
After lunch Gabriele Gava presented a great scholarly paper: ‘What is Wrong with Intuitions? An Assessment of a Peircean critique of Kant.’ Gava argued that the orthodox reading of Peirce as straightforwardly rejecting the Kantian distinction between concepts and intuitions ignores the way in which Peirce develops this Kantian view in a rich new way as part of his improved logical framework during the 1880s. Gava showed that while it is true that Peirce rejects the possibility of intuitions in his 1868-69 papers, his development of a new theory of quantification and indexicality in the 1880s led him to adopt certain key features of the Kantian theory of intuition. Gava claimed that Kantian intuitions ‘[a] are singular representations referring to individual objects; [b] instantiate an immediate non-descriptive relationship with an object; and, [c] have a sensible content, in which we can distinguish an a priori form and an a posteriori matter’. Even though Peirce could not accept Kant’s claim that space and time are necessary as a priori intuitions for mathematics, his theory of indices adopts both [a] and [b]. It is false, therefore, to say that Peirce’s critique is a total refutation.
I gave the last paper of the day: ‘The Point of View of Knowledge: Idealism, Pragmatism, and Monadism in the Philosophies of Charles Renouvier and William James’. I looked at the influence of the French idealist Renouvier on William James and argued that James was only able to escape the ‘absolute’ idealism of Josiah Royce by adhering to the core of Renouvier’s original ‘modern’ idealist methodology. I provided an exposition of Renouvier’s idealism and showed how this idealism led to certain doctrines now attributed to the pragmatist tradition. I argued that it was James’s convergence with certain Renouvierean idealist doctrines led to divergences from Pierce. Nevertheless, I attempted to show that understanding this Renouvierean context helps to support the more philosophical defensible readings of James’s more controversial doctrines.