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The Development of Peirce’s Normative Science of Ethics
By James Jakób Liszka
Institute of Ethics in Public Life, SUNY Plattsburgh

Peirce is motivated to develop a normative science of ethics for three related reasons. First, he is concerned with the way in which science is being used instrumentally in the Gilded Age of his time, and he is worried that science’s pursuit of truth will be corrupted. He also realizes that logic, understood broadly to encompass scientific methodology, is a normative science, since it prescribes proper ways to reason and, therefore, falls under the auspices of ethics. Thirdly, he realizes, ironically, that his pragmatic maxim shows an inherent relation between scientific hypotheses and practical ones, leading to an instrumental ethic that he disdains. The pragmatic maxim shows how reliable means to ends can be discovered, but it does not place any moral constraints on the ends or the means.
As a remedy to these issues, Peirce becomes especially concerned with the proper ends of human conduct and the ethical means to attain them. As such, he develops a normative science of ethics and esthetics that he believes will assist in this endeavor.


Discussant: Ron Beadle, Northumbria University
Discussant: Cornelis de Waal, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
Discussant: Richard Atkins, Boston College
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