Peirce On Practical Reasoning

Nathan Houser (Indiana University-USA)

It is generally agreed that what distinguishes practical reasoning from reasoning more generally is that practical reasoning properly results in action rather than in conceptual conclusions. There is much disagreement, however, as to how appropriate actions can follow from practical reasoning and it is ommonly supposed that the connection between reasoning and action can neither be truly inferential nor truly causal. Peirce appears to challenge this common assumption. Although he would agree that conscious and deliberate argumentation results in conceptual conclusions (mental states) rather than n practical action, his extended semiotic account of mental activity allows for unconscious (instinctive or habitual) cognitive processing that, while properly inferential, genuinely concludes in action rather than in conceptual states. Peirce acknowledges that for practical reasoning to properly conclude in ction, it is necessary for final (semiotic) causation to operate in conjunction with efficient causation and how this can be explained remains problematic. But his account is rich and promising and has much to contribute to contemporary research on practical reasoning.