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Consequences, Consequences... Semantic Inferentialism in the Later Works of Peirce and James

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While the pragmatic maxim generally unpacks meaning in terms of consequences, different formulations of the maxim direct us to different kinds of consequences, which in turn can lead us to dramatically different conceptions of pragmatism itself. Focusing upon several late formulations of the pragmatic maxim, this paper shows how Peirce shifts from an understanding of meaning that focuses upon the consequences of the truth of claims (in 1902), to a conception that focuses instead upon the consequences of affirming claims (in 1905). This shift in focus to the consequences of our conduct would seem to favor a normative functionalism about semantic content, which is in line with the central tenet of semantic inferentialism. Even James picks up on this shift in Some Problems of Philosophy (1911). So I think there is much to be said for neo-pragmatist contentions that semantic inferentialism has roots in Classical Pragmatism.


Dave Beisecker    
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
United States


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