Charles Sanders Peirce on the cognitive given

Kenneth Joseph Rudnick, Fordham University


This dissertation examines the cognitional theory of Charles Sanders Peirce. Kant was a major influence in Peirce's development of his cognitional theory. Kant's influence is seen not only in Peirce's formulation of the categories, but also with his dissatisfaction with Cartesianism as well. After an examination of the categories, we discuss Peirce's notion of semiotics, because his cognitional theory maintains that cognition is an inferential sign process. Since every cognition involves an inference, we stress the roles of induction, deduction, and abduction which are the three types of reasoning for Peirce. Peirce's theory of perception contains three important elements: percept, percipuum, and perceptual judgment. It is in these three elements that we find what, for Peirce, is the cognitive given. The cognitive given is important both for Peirce's notion of Fallibilism and its relation to Foundationalism. Peirce claims that knowledge is never absolutely exact or certain. Thus, knowledge for Peirce is fallible. Fallibilism, however, holds that any of our beliefs could be wrong, but not all of our beliefs are wrong. Although some may be in error, as long as inquiry continues we will eventually correct the errors. Consequently, Peirce denies that there are indubitable first premisses on which to build a solid foundation. In the examination of foundationalism, we present the positions of C. I. Lewis, Wilfrid Sellars, and Richard Rorty on the "Myth of the Given," that is, the role of the empirical given in knowledge. This dissertation reaches the conclusion that Peirce develops a non-traditional, alternative form of foundationalism which avoids the problems raised by the critics of foundationalism.

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Recommended Citation

Rudnick, Kenneth Joseph, "Charles Sanders Peirce on the cognitive given" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9118843.