Peircean Realism: A Primer

Bridget Ritz, University of Notre Dame

Within American sociology, some of the most vociferous critiques of realism as a meta-theoretical approach come from scholars working within the tradition of American pragmatism (Reed, 2011; Martin, 2015). These critiques typically target the movement known as critical realism, but neglect the realism at the foundation of pragmatism itself. On the rare occasions when Charles S. Peirce’s realism is acknowledged, it tends to be quickly dismissed without much, if any, argumentation (Martin, 2015: 110n27; Tavory and Timmermans, 2014: 138n181). This is strange, for Peirce’s signature contributions to social theory are grounded in realism (Halton, 1986), including his concept of abduction, as this paper will show. Pragmatists interested in arguing against realism yet appropriating abduction need to reckon with Peirce’s arguments for realism.

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 Presented in Session 211. Theory and Methods in the Study of Culture