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Recensione a R. K. Atkins, Charles S. Peirce's Phenomenology: Analysis and Consciousness

Claudio Davini

Widely known among philosophers as one of the most important founding fathers of pragmatism, C. S. Peirce is not equally known as an intellectual whose work was permeated by phenomenological reflections. In other words, compared to his profound contributions in other areas – logic, semiotics and epistemology, to name but a few –, the phenomenological dimension of Peirce’s thought has not actually received all the attention it deserves; indeed, only one monograph has appeared on the topic – William L. Rosensohn’s The Phenomenology of Charles S. Peirce: From the Doctrine of Categories to Phaneroscopy, edited by B. R. Grüner – and that appeared in 1974. What explanations can be given of this neglect? Firstly, there has been a tendency among some Peirce scholars to take a simplistic view of his phenomenology, one that minimizes the scope and the significance of such investigations in favor of his work in semiotics. Secondly, as a result of this, Peirce’s phenomenology has been mostly used as a stepping stone to his considerations on semiotics, pragmatism and metaphysics, to grasp the evolutionary nature of which the phenomenological categories can be of great use. In fact, this lack of interest has proved itself to be very unfortunate because, though what Peirce wrote about logic, semiotics and metaphysics is intricately linked to his phenomenological ideas, he developed phenomenology as a distinct science to «unravel the tangled skein [of] all that in any sense appears and wind it into distinct forms» (Peirce, 1902: CP 1.280). In this regard, Richard K. Atkins’ new book – Charles S. Peirce’s phenomenology: Analysis and Consciousness, edited by Oxford University Press – sheds light on Peirce’s phenomenological thinking and undoubtedly ameliorates the above-mentioned situation by focusing exclusively on phenomenology insofar as Peirce himself was able to develop it during his life. 

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