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Philosophy of Education in the Semiotics of Charles Peirce

A Cosmology of Learning and Loving

Alin Olteanu

This book investigates the philosophy of education implicit in the semiotics of Charles Peirce. It is commonly accepted that the acts of learning and teaching imply affection of some sort, and Charles Peirce’s evolutionary semiotics thoroughly explains learning as an act of love. According to Peirce, we evolved to learn and to love; learning from other people has proved to be one of the best ways to carry out our infinite pursuit of truth, since love is the very characteristic of truth. As such, the teacher and the student practise love in their relation with one another.
Grounded within an edusemiotics framework and also exploring the iconic turn in semiotics and recent developments in biosemiotics, this is the first book-length study of Peirce’s contribution to the philosophy of education.
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Chapter 4 Education in Peirce’s Divisions of Science


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Education in Peirce’s Divisions of Science

In the previous chapter Peirce’s semiotics has been presented as a logic founded on the maxim of pragmatism (see Chapter 3 and CP 5.18). I argued that this pragmatic (or rather pragmaticist) approach has more to offer to education than the more popular pragmatic approaches of James and Dewey. The main reason for this is the richer account of experience that pragmatic logic brings along, namely experience as semiosis. The present chapter investigates some epistemological and ethical aspects of education in Peirce’s semiotics. Explaining Peirce’s understanding of science and its branches, in this chapter I argue that he implicitly proposed a curriculum. On a Peircean account the ideal curriculum would be identical to the divisions of science, because the various branches of science are similar amongst each other, meaning that they stand in iconic relations. The way in which the divisions of science stem from each other has an implicit diagrammatic coherence, and, thus, the most iconically operational curriculum would be precisely the way in which the sciences have evolved.

Peirce’s classification of the divisions of science is a cornerstone in understanding Peirce’s thought generally. His divisions of scienceare directly inherited from the medieval classification of philosophy, originating in Aristotle. Of course, due to the discoveries and developments of modern science taking place in the meantime, particularly modernity’s focus on the quadrivium (mathematics), Peirce’s divisions differ from the medieval classifications.

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