The Social and the Real: The Idea of Objectivity in Peirce, Brandom, and Mcdowell
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This dissertation focuses on Robert Brandoms and John McDowells philosophies of mind and language. Its particular emphasis is on the idea of objectivity as it is presented within the framework of Brandoms and McDowells normative theories. Theres a general agreement in the literature that the two accounts of the objectivity of norms face a set of unresolved problems. According to Brandom, on the one hand, discursive norms are rooted in our reflective capacity and are instituted by our own practical attitudes; on the other hand, the objectivity of these norms is something irreducible to social consensus. Given this, Brandom faces the challenge of explaining how what all the members of a linguistic community take to be correct differs from what is correct objectively. In McDowells case, the problem of the objectivity of norms forms a part of his wider ontological project. This project aims to answer the question of how experience can be conceptually framed through and through, and yet constitute an independent empirical reality, thus accommodating the idea of objective external constraint on our thought and judgments. I claim that both accounts are incomplete and that the issues raised by Brandoms and McDowells ideas of normativity may be resolved by using some of the conceptual tools offered by Charles Peirces semiotics and his scientific realism. According to Peirce, norms are objective neither because their authority is located in the world that stands up against our social conventions, nor because we are creatures capable of reflection, but because our inquiry is always headed forward. Taking account of our ideas about the world in terms of future consequences of our actions leads to a non-problematic identification of objective reality with the extended notion of future community which consists of beliefs about this reality attainable in the long run.