Learning to Read the Signs:
Reclaiming the Pragmatism
of Peirce and Royce for
Frank Byron Nahser
Advisor: Director: MANFRED FRINGS
Source: DAI, 56, no. 08A, (1995): 3157
Pragmatism, as it is commonly understood in
American business parlance, means: "Do whatever works." American
business, therefore, has been called "pragmatic" when, in fact, this
is a misunderstanding of the original meaning of pragmatism as formulated by
Charles Sanders Peirce, based the logic of scientific inquiry.
is recognized as America's only unique contribution to the history of
philosophy, and following Peirce, the philosophy was expanded by Josiah Royce,
who was inspired by the logic of early Christian communities; publicized (and
partially misunderstood) by William James; and further developed by John Dewey
as a method of logical inquiry.
corporations are looking for better ways to respond to the changing business
and social environment, pragmatism offers a unique way of interpreting evidence
or signs (which Peirce called semeiotics) to discover the truth of a situation
on which to base action. American business practitioners often take one of two
positions, which are identified using Royce's terms: (1) a firm hold on conception--beliefs
in how the world works, which filter what they see; (2) a quick reaction to
perception--responding without beliefs to what they see in the marketplace.
Developing the skill of interpretation (pragmatism), which Peirce and Royce saw
as the mediating logic between conception and perception, helps practitioners
base action on a clearer vision of the truth.
dissertation describes a way for individuals and groups to better interpret
reality by practicing pragmatism. The pragmatic method for corporate inquiry,
discovery, interpretation and action, called the Corporantes Pathfinder
Notebook, combines holistic depth psychology with Peirce's pragmatism. The
method involves investigation, hypothesis, and then testing the hypothesis
through action. These inquiries can be
best expressed as narrative, which inherently involves the description of
virtues and vices.
from this perspective, the medieval monastery and Benedict's Rule are examined
as precursors and models to emulate for the practice of virtue in business as
the way of human development and service to society.
are case histories of corporations practicing the pragmatic method, using the
Corporantes Pathfinder Notebook, with particular focus on our advertising
agency searching for the answer to the question: "How do we produce
advertising that tells the truth?"