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Discussing Certitude and Intuition

A Lyceum Member writes, proposing a Philosophical Happy Hour topic: What is certitude? What role do signs play in achieving certitude? What role do signs play in intuition? Can I be certain about my mother’s love – is it intuited through signs, or through some other means?

The notions of certitude and intuition have played an important role in modern philosophy for centuries. But what are they? While they are subject to dispute and revision (say, this Wednesday, 10/4!) it should be helpful to offer provisional definitions. We may identify certitude as a firm conviction in the truth of the proposition which admits no doubt under current circumstances. Intuition, on the other hand, may be defined as an immediate and non-discursive grasp of some truth. Intuition, very often, is held to extend primarily if not exclusively to objects beyond the sensible. This

Semiotics contra Modernity

René Descartes puts certitude at the center of his noetic revolution: the method of skeptical doubt rejects anything which cannot be situated on indubitable grounds, and thus the justification of any claim to knowledge requires that it be grasped with certitude. Attempting to combat this skepticism, Locke and other self-professed empiricists attempted to demonstrate how sense perception gives rise to true knowledge. But because many apparent objects and experiences in even our banal, daily lives defy reduction to the strictly sensible, the notion of intuition outlined above gains greater prominence.

As C.S. Peirce explains this notion of the intuitive:

[intuition] is a cognition not determined by a previous cognition of the same object, and therefore so determined by something out of the consciousness… Intuition here will be nearly the same as “premise not itself a conclusion”; the only difference being that premises and conclusions are judgments whereas an intuition may, as far as its definition states, be any kind of cognition whatever. But just as a conclusion (good or bad) is determined in the mind of the reasoner by its premise, so cognitions not judgments may be determined by previous cognitions; and a cognition not so determined, and therefore determined directly by the transcendental object, is to be termed an intuition.

1868: “Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man”.

But just such a cognition, Peirce goes on to argue, cannot exist: that is, every apparent intuitive grasp of some truth is, in fact, an unrecognized process of semiosis, the use of signs. Does there remain a role for intuition in our noetic theory? What happens to the notion of certitude?

Join us!

We’ll tackle these (and any related topics) this Wednesday (4 October 2023) from 5:45 until 7:15 pm ET. Use the links below!

Philosophical Happy Hour

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Come join us for drinks (adult or otherwise) and a meaningful conversation. Open to the public! Held every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET.

Intuition in Peirce and Maritain | by Donna E. West

Donna West (PhD, Cornell University) is Professor of Linguistics at the State University of New York, Cortland. For nearly forty years she has presented and published internationally (70 plus articles/chapters) on Peirce’s semiotic. She currently serves on the Board of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics, as well as on several editorial boards. Her 2013 book, Deictic Imaginings: Semiosis at Work and at Play, investigates the ontogeny of indexical signs. Her 2016 edited volume on Peirce’s concept of habit offers a fresh, global perspective (scholars from twelve nations). She is likewise editing the “Mathematics and Cognition” section for the Handbook on Cognitive Mathematics (2021)—her own contribution explores the formidable role of chunking in abductive rationality. Following the 2021 publication of two guest-edited journal issues on Peirce and consciousness (Cognitive Semiotics, Semiotica), her forthcoming book presents retrospective narratives as the scaffold toward Peirce’s retroductive logic.

Michael L. Raposa joined the Department of Religion Studies at Lehigh University in 1985. He has served as chair of the department on four separate occasions. From 2006-2008, he also served as associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences. Previously, Raposa taught for four years at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Raposa was born in Westport, Massachusetts and received his undergraduate education at Yale University. After a year of graduate study at the University of Toronto, he returned to Yale and completed his master’s degree at the Divinity School there. In 1979, he entered the doctoral program in Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned the PhD in 1987. Raposa’s primary research and teaching interests fall within the areas of modern western religious thought and the philosophy of religion. His first book, published in 1989, explored the religious dimension of Charles S. Peirce’s philosophy. In 1999, he published a book on the religious significance of boredom, its importance as both a threat and a stimulus to the spiritual life. Several years later, in 2003, Raposa published a volume devoted to the relationship between meditation and the martial arts, both the meditative aspect of certain martial exercises and the martial character of certain classical forms of spirituality. Most recently, in 2020, he published a book entitled Theosemiotic: Religion, Reading, and the Gift of Meaning, an application of Peirce’s semiotic theory to certain issues in philosophical theology. Raposa regularly teaches courses in the philosophy of religion, contemporary theology, Roman Catholic studies, American religious history, and the relationship between religion, science and technology. Raposa’s wife, Mary Ellen (retired in 2021) was a counselor in Lehigh’s Career Services center for many years; they raised three children, Daniel, Elizabeth, and Rosemary at their home in Northeast Bethlehem, about four miles from the university. (…)

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.