Submission Type: Discussion Paper


One of Peirce’s most notable articulation of his political project appears in his 1898 lecture series, Reasoning and the Logic of Things.  In this work, he calls for “a training in reasoning” as the best political course of action for the commonwealth.  While a “training of reasoning” might seem to initially lack that motivating force, which incites political action; in this paper, I hope to illuminate the ethical and political claim embedded within Peirce’s notion of reason through an understanding of Eva Kittay’s work on dependency and the ethics of care. I argue that relations of dependency, as theorized by Kittay, necessarily constitute Peirce’s notion of reason and this in turn gives rise to the moral response of care within his theory of inquiry.  If we understand Peirce’s notion of reason as one that necessarily demands a response of care, then it might be possible to see how ethics and political valuations play a more prominent role in his philosophy.  This analysis might also benefit the efforts in feminist critical theory, which continually exposes the relationship between epistemology and politics and ethics.  


Paper Title: Politicizing Peirce's Reason: Dependency and Care in the Training of Reasoning

            It is not all too unusual for scholars to see value in Charles S. Peirce's philosophy relating to matters of politics, such as deliberative democracy (Talisse 2004) and environmental concerns (Anderson 1995).  In fact, theorists such as Roger Ward argue that Peirce's pragmatism "demands a politics," (Ward 2001, 68) conceived as an actual - and not a theoretical - community of interpreters.  Otherwise, Ward argues "his description of logic and the universe fails" (68).  One place where Peirce’s commitment to the community appears is in his 1898 Cambridge Lecture Series. 

But for my part I continue to believe that the welfare of the commonwealth depends far less on the assent of all the citizens to any definite propositions, - such, we will say, as the doctrine of the independence of the executive, legislative, and judiciary functions, which after all are easily made handles for bosses, than it does in which it will be well for the government and public opinion to put their trust.  In the last analysis it comes to this, that the very focus and center of common education should be placed in the art of thinking (Peirce 1992 Reasoning, 181).


From this passage, it is clear that Peirce views thinking, or reasoning as foundational to the “welfare of the commonwealth.”  To put it another way, the commonwealth cannot be well-served if its citizens merely assent to rigid doctrines and fixed propositions dictated by the state.  For Peirce, if we are to make any impact politically within the commonwealth and contribute to its welfare, we must passionately devote ourselves to a “training of reasoning.” This ultimately characterizes Peirce’s political project.  One needs to reason and reason well for the sake of the commonwealth. 

            It is important to note that Peirce has been viewed as less engaging in the realm of politics than other pragmatists, such as Dewey or James (Mahowald 1986-7).  In fact, Talisse acknowledges that there is good reason to think that Peirce was not so enthusiastic about democracy, particularly in its more participatory aspects (Talisse 2004).  Moreover, Peirce’s emphasis on cultivating reason, in some respects, can be interpreted as a scholastic ideal rather than a politically motivated project.  Even taken as a utilitarian claim - that we reason for the sake of the commonwealth - one might not be so compelled to take up the project of learning to reason better as a serious political project.  Given these concerns, it seems that Peirce’s call for the training of reason lacks a moral necessity that claims us to act as ethical agents within a community of inquirers.

            In this paper, I hope to illuminate the ethical claim embedded within Peirce’s notion of reason through an understanding of Eva Kittay’s work on dependency and the ethics of care. I argue that relations of dependency, as theorized by Kittay, necessarily constitute Peirce’s notion of reason and this in turn gives rise to the moral response of care.  If we understand Peirce’s notion of reason as one that necessarily demands a response of care, then it might be possible to see how ethics and political valuations play a more prominent role in his philosophy.

            The first part of this paper will briefly explicate some of the main points of Kittay’s work on dependency and care in her book Love’s Labor.  The second part will examine the relationship between Peirce’s “categories”-Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness- and his notion of agape or creative love, both of which ground his theory of inquiry.  Third, I show how themes of dependency and care permeate into Peirce’s views on reason and agape.  Finally, I will conclude with future directions in how this analysis might impact critical feminist philosophy.

Inescapable Dependencies

            Kittay’s work in dependency has generated much feminist scholarship in the areas of law, politics, subjectivity, ethics and epistemology.  Her work strikes me as an accurate portrayal of how the world works.  Her practical wisdom, most notably formulated as “We are all – equally – some mother’s child” (Kittay 1999, 25) challenges individualistic models of justice, which emphasize rationality (one that excludes emotional attachment) as central to human flourishing.  Equality, for Kittay, is grounded in lived experience and not a natural right based on “some common property we possess as individuals” (25).   Moreover, her practical insight discloses not only the concrete realities we live in, but also employs a type of reasoning, which underscores the varied relationships in which we are “nested.”  In this way, Kittay’s concept of dependency provokes an insight into the nature of human relationships by suggesting that rationality is not an individual property we possess, but rather a process that arises from our lived experience.  It is here where I find Kittay’s practical claims regarding the human condition organized by relations of dependency compelling.

            Kittay argues that dependency is an “inescapable” reality that conditions the “life history of each individual.”  She understands this reality as manifest in “early childhood, illness, disability and old age” (29).  By virtue of our biological reality, we are inevitably dependent on others for care and sustenance for our very survival and growth.  Kittay maintains,

The immaturity of infancy and early childhood, illness and disability that renders one nonfunctional even in the most accommodating surroundings, and the fragility of advanced old age, each serve as examples of such inescapable dependency.  The incapacity here is determined neither by will nor desire, but by determinants of biology in combination with social circumstances (1999, 29)


It is important to note that the “incapacity” which characterizes our dependencies is established “neither by will or desire.” In other words, we are constrained by these relations of dependency in our lived experience and it is impossible to both physically and willfully remove ourselves from these relationships.  It is also worth noting how our “unavoidable” dependencies are determined not only by biology or the physical facts of our bodies, but also the social circumstances, which determine what counts as being old, frail, ill, or disabled. In this sense, the cultural dimensions in combination with our “physiological constraints” condition what can be thought of as dependent, consequently shaping the very concept of dependency.

            In this sense, our condition of dependency cannot be understood as an “exceptional” circumstance.  For Kittay, to conceive of dependency in this manner “dismisses the importance of human interconnectedness,” which is necessary for survival and “the development of culture itself” (29).  Not only does dependency constitute our physical lives, but it also percolates into human social relations.  To this extent, relations of dependency cross the lines of the pre-political or familial realities of our lived experience into the social and the political institutions governing our public lives.  In fact, dependency, “as a feature of the human condition, has crucial bearing on the ordering of social institutions and on the moral intuitions that serve to guarantee adherence to just institutions” (37).  The way in which one envisions the order of social institutions and conceptualizes our moral intuitions is founded in large part by our relationships of dependency.  According to Kittay, if we recognize that our social and physical lives function in nested relationships, we can then see how responsibility can be differently viewed.  In fact, relations of dependency imply a responsibility to care for, have moral attachments with others that we find ourselves connected to within dependent relationships.  This capacity to care is a mark of our humanity (38).  The moral upshot of this claim is that we cannot thrive if this capacity is not cultivated within the moral and political practices of our society.  In fact, society cannot thrive if exploitation is a norm.  Thus, as Kittay argues, “at the nexus of these relationships of dependency is a moral responsibility” (50).

             In this respect, Kittay emphasizes the relationship between the dependency worker and her charge as a paradigmatic case of a dependency relationship.  In this relationship, there remains an obvious vulnerability that is experienced by both the dependency worker and her charge.  Since the dependency worker is in a position to either harm or benefit her charge, for Kittay, the work she does for her charge is infused with a heavy moral load.  She acts on the basis of a moral claim “on the part of her charge for her attention, good will, and sincere efforts” (49).  Kittay argues that in most cases moral claims can be made within relationships between individuals that are equal.  Both parties can either accept or reject these moral claims to one another.  However, the inequalities in the relationship between the dependency worker and her charge inhibit the dependency worker’s ability to accept or reject these moral claims on her own behalf.  The caring of her charge must not cease lest her charge unreasonably suffers.  Because the nature of dependency work requires “selfless” acts on the part of the dependency worker there is a potential for failure in providing the adequate care needed to sustain this dependent relationship.  This vulnerability exposes the moral claim that obligates the provider in the form of society in ensuring that care is bestowed to both the charge and the dependency worker.  Kittay argues,

A system that pays adequate attention to the dependency relation will be one seeking both to empower the dependency worker with respect to her own interests and whenever possible, to decrease the dependency of the dependent as well.  By relegating dependency to the status of an afterthought, neither caregiver nor charge are well-served (37).


By focusing on the dependency relation, our responsibility is understood as one of responsiveness, care and trust, which sediments our bonds to the human community and the wider environmental community we are in relationship with (36).  Viewing our responsibility as an activity of sustaining dependent relationships provides us with a picture of ethics congruent with the “unassailable fact” of our dependencies.

Inquiry and Creative Love

             Peirce’s theory of inquiry remarkably shares many commitments of Kittay’s concept of dependency.  Reasoning emerges within relationships, is a relational process, and views as its task to bind not only ideas, but also people and the world to one another.  Moreover, Peirce’s commitment to growth portrayed by creative love, or agape, carries with it a sense of responsibility, ensuring that we can continue to form generalizations about the world, which is vital to a theory of inquiry.  I will use Peirce’s rendition in Reasoning and the Logic of Things to discuss his “categories,” i.e. Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness.  These “categories” essentially characterize the process of reasoning.  Firstness is “the mode in which anything would be for itself, irrespective of anything else, so that it would not make any difference though nothing else existed” (Peirce Reasoning, 147).  In other words, firstness maintains a strong sense of independence of anything.  The state of firstness can only be apprehended as a mode of feeling.  The color magenta has a distinct sense-quality that is independent of anything else.   The tree has a distinct quality of treeness independent of anything else.  For Peirce, the world prior to comparison or interpretation is comprised of a sea of firstness.  Secondness can be understood as two remote subjects pairing with each other independent from my mind “or any mediating subject or circumstance” (147).   It is the moment when yellow reacts with blue due to a painter’s brush or the moment when I collide into a tree while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  Secondness does not take over Firstness.  The two subjects retain their distinct “Inward Firstness” but also possess their own aspect of Secondness.  Since the two subjects are not mediated they remain incomprehensible, which Peirce describes as “a blind reaction that takes place between the two subjects” (148).

Thirdness, as it appears, is understood as an “inherent reason” or an interpretation that emerges from the reaction of the two subjects.  Green emerges from the reactions of yellow and blue.  The quality of my pain or the dent on the tree emerges from the collision.  For Peirce, thirdness, in effect, expresses a law or generality.  It is the mediating mode that interprets the interaction of two subjects.  Thus, when the painter mixes yellow and blue, the general rule is that green will emerge.  When I collide into a tree, we can infer that pain and the dent on the tree will surface.  In Thirdness, we can make sense of the relationship between the two subjects.  Thirdness ultmately arises from Firstness and Secondness.

Understanding inquiry as mediations or interpretations, Peirce recognizes that relations are central to reasoning.  For without the relations of firstness and secondness, there is no thirdness and without thirdness, we would be immobilized in making generalizations.  These relations are continuous with one another.  Peirce ultimately sees as our task in reasoning to

bind together ideas, to bind together facts, to bind together knowledge, to bind together sentiment, to bind together the purposes of men, to bind together industry, to bind together great works, to bind together power, to bind together nations into great natural, living, and enduring systems was the business that lay before our great grandfathers to commence and which we now see just about to pass into a second and more advanced stage of achievement (Peirce Reasoning, 163).


In effectuating the continuity of relations of thought, Peirce argues for a concept of agapasm, or creative love.  This is the mode that guides our inferences so that connections are maintained in order to ensure that growth can occur and thereby establishing generalizations or universals.  In this sense, Peirce underscores the importance of growth thereby allowing for new possibilities to affect the reigning habits, or general rules, of the day.  If the task of reasoning is to ensure the continuity of everything, then it would require modes of acting, which would in turn foster this growth.  Thus, Peirce considers agapasm, or creative love, which characterizes the exertion or effort to maintain these connections.  He argues in his essay “Evolutionary Love,” “The movement of love is circular, at one and the same impulse projecting creations into independency and drawing them into harmony” (Peirce “Evolutionary Love,” 353).  Love projects independencies and thus maintains the integrity of the individual, while at the same time brings them together in relations, and to use Peirce’s words, a state of thirdness and mediation.  For Peirce, love does not assent to rules or moral laws, in effect, abstractions, such as Bentham’s principle of utility; rather, love is directed to “persons;” “not to persons we do not know, nor to numbers of people, but to our own dear ones, our family and neighbors. ‘Our neighbor’, we remember is one whom we live near, not locally perhaps, but in life and feeling” (354).  In this sense, love can be understood as one of attachment, familial and neighborly attachments to be precise.  Agape characterizes a moral impulse to sustain the connections of experience.  Agape ensures our ability to formulate generalizations allowing growth and complexities to foster, which is integral in the system of reason.  

Dependency, Care and Reason

             In bringing together Kittay and Peirce, my intent in this essay is to show how Kittay’s understanding of care might illuminate the political dimensions in Peirce’s theory of inquiry.  In my view, while Peirce may not have addressed issues in politics and ethics throughout his writings, although he did view logic as one of the three normative sciences accompanied by esthetics and ethics (Houser 1992, xxxi), his conception of reasoning as one that concerns itself with the concrete relations manifest in the world gives rise to a moral responsibility of care.  In other words, dependency is the context in which Peirce’s theory of reasoning arises out of.  Things are related to each other and it is up to reason to bind ideas and the world to one another.  I argue that relations of dependency, as Kittay understands it, gives rise to a moral responsibility of care and this insight helps characterize the ethical claim embedded within Peirce’s theory of inquiry.  I would like to highlight four of these moments of dependency in Peirce.

            First, the unassailable fact of our dependency, as Kittay argues, is an assumption Peirce presupposes.  Peirce sees how we think is ultimately embedded in relationships.  This assumption is manifest on a practical and metaphysical level in his theory of inquiry.  On a practical level, it is a relationship of dependency in virtue of the importance he stresses on thirdness, the process of mediation foundational in developing generalizations in inquiry.  For Peirce, there is a performative necessity rooted in thirdness whereby mediation is dependent on the processes of firstness and secondness.  In fact, firstness, as mere giveness need not employ the use of hypothetical inferences.  For Peirce, “[f]irstness has a relative predominance” (Peirce Reasoning, 149) and thus is understood as detached from any thinking process or relations.  The tree has a quality of giveness outside of any mediating subject or circumstance.  Secondness is a “blind reaction” (148).  It is the moment when two subjects collide with one another and is prior to any mediation or rational construction.  It is, as Peirce argues, “an accidental circumstance” (148).  When I collide into the tree on my hike, it is the mere collision that remains in secondness and is also outside of any mediating subject or circumstance. 

Thirdness, for Peirce, is where the ability to make inferences and interpretation possible. 

In this sense, thirdness depends on firstness and secondness because they represent concrete activities operative in the world.   The possibility to generate habits of thought and generalities about the world central for reasoning is dependent on the relationships between firstness and secondness.  For Peirce, all three processes co-emerge at once.  As we see in Thirdness, reason does not assent to some external authority in making a judgement; rather, our reasoning is inescapably dependent on the concrete and practical relationships that constitute the world.  Furthermore, the fact that our hypotheses about the world are by nature provisional and therefore fallible reveals the vulnerability that exists in our dependent relationships, thoroughly marking our human condition.

            On a metaphysical level, Peirce subscribes to a concept of continuity.  Once generalizations are possible through these relationships of dependency, Peirce argues there can be no such thing as a “detached idea” for the reason that “it would be no idea at all.  For an idea is itself a continuous system” (Peirce Reasoning, 163).  Generalizations spread and spill out of continuous relations of thought.  The emergence of thought depends on other relations of thought.  Like Kittay, dependency is a metaphysical concept that expresses the human condition in a concrete and practical fashion (We are inescabably dependent).  Similarly, Peirce understands continuity as a metaphysical concept of dependency.  How we think about the world is framed within relationships of dependency.  As evidenced earlier, the task of reasoning is to bind people, ideas, and nations to each other, such that “the real” (the reigning generalizations or habits of thought) can grow and develop and not remain authoritative and dogmatic.  Our human condition is one of growth within nested relationships.   Peirce passionately argues that to regard continuity as a fantasy or an “unreal figment” is to deny this task of reasoning that extraordinarily marks the human condition.  In this respect, continuity can be understood as our inescapable dependencies Kittay argues we live and thrive in.

            Second, Peirce assumes a concept of growth central to his notion of continuity.  Under Peirce’s model of inquiry, there can never be an isolated idea, since reasoning is embedded, to use Kittay’s words, in “nested” relationships.  Moreover, the fallibilism necessarily present in our hypotheses of the world expose a condition of vulnerability in our reasoning process.  In this sense, Peirce characterizes the exertion of the process of growth in inquiry as one of love, or agape.  This concept in some ways corresponds to Kittay’s claim that at the nexus of relations of dependency is a moral responsibility of care.  Kittay acknowledges that in relations of dependency, both the dependency worker and her charge are vulnerable to differential power relationships (the charge could exploit the dependency worker or the dependency worker could exploit her charge).  However, as Kittay points out, it is important “to distinguish between the inequality of power in a relation of dependency and the exertion of domination in a relation of equality” (Kittay 1999, 33).  While domination threatens dependency relationships, it need not characterize it.  In fact, the exertion of domination in dependency relations cannot be a sustaining mode of behavior as it leads to the degeneration of both the dependency worker and her charge.  They both cannot be well-served.  In this sense, because of the vulnerability present in the dependency relationship, the responsibility that emerges is a moral one.  The directionality of growth is thus determined by a caring response.  The future potential of action will be measured in terms of maintaining the integrity of relationships of dependency.  Exertion of domination hinders growth <1>.

Thus Kittay champions a concept of the “transparent self”, - “a self through whom the needs of another are discerned, a self that, when it looks to gauge its own needs, sees first the needs of another” (51).  Kittay argues that a relational self rests on “the moral requirements of dependency work that make such a self indispensable” (51) <2>.  The labor required to sustain dependency relations necessitates that certain persons subscribe to and enact the transparent self.  This labor of love is simultaneously responsive to the needs of others, exhibiting care and cultivates intimacies and trust between humans.  Both care and concern contribute to the sustainability and connectedness fundamental in dependency relationships.

            Similarly, Peirce understands growth as a self-sustaining regulative ideal operative in our hypotheses and is characterized by love, agape.  It is a “circular movement” which brings independent creations into harmony.  Peirce argues,

growth comes only from love, from – I will not say self-sacrifice, but from the ardent impulse to fulfill another’s highest impulse…It is not by dealing out cold justice to the circle of my ideas that I can make them grow, but by cherishing and tending them as I would the flowers in my garden (Perice “Evolutionary Love,” 354).


In sustaining the continuity of thought, growth is understood as the fostering of moral attachments as we do to “persons,” to “our family and neighbors” to be precise.  Following Kittay, this response of love could be understood as resting on a moral requirement that is indispensible for reasoning and inquiry.  Domination hinders the capacity of growth, the possibility for inquiry to continue in a creative fashion.  Domination “fixes” our beliefs rendering our modes of reasoning static and detached.  Moreover, our generalizations or habits of thought are unsustainable through an action of self-sacrifice consequently suppressing the integrity of the idea or thought.  It is through a form of love, agape, which maintains the idea’s integrity by cultivating its “highest impulse,” or self-flourishing.  Kelly Parker, citing Carl Housman, elaborates further on Peirce’s concept of agape. “Agape, on the other hand, is love expressed by an agent already fulfilled in its own terms, and it is directed not as a seeking but as a concern for the beloved" (Parker 1998, 218).

Understanding Peirce’s characterization of growth, in light of Kittay’s argument of responsibility nested in dependency relationships, it is possible to interpret Peirce’s claim of agape, or creative love, as a moral responsibility necessary for the process of inquiry.  It is a moral claim rooted in our very modes of reasoning.  Peirce recognizes that this effort of love is a prerequisite for his metaphysical concept of continuity.  Love is a source enabling reason to grow and thrive, rather than be subject to the dogmatic practices, which relegate our rationality as appeals to authority. The creative aspects of our reasoning emerge out of relationships of dependency.  For Peirce, the moral claim of love requires us to be responsive to the fact that our habits or general laws are fallible and we must be open for revision contingent on the new ideas experience constantly supplies us with.  This, in turn, nurtures our creative capacities in reasoning.  This particular ethical claim embedded in reasoning is important as it conditions how the world, including social and political activities, is practically ordered, or to use Peirce’s terms habituated.  Ultimately, these relations of dependency give rise to an ethical claim guiding the process of reasoning.

            The third moment of dependency addresses this issue of how dependency orders our social and political institutions.  As earlier mentioned, Kittay argues that a reconceptualization of how we understand politics and ethics will emerge once society takes into account the “centrality of dependency in human relations” and our moral obligations impacted by the vulnerabilities of dependency (Kittay 1999, 28).  The moral and epistemological upshot of this claim is that relations of dependency condition “the moral intuitions that serve to guarantee adherence to just institutions” (28).  In other words, Kittay connects our “moral intuitions” or how we think about the world as ethical and rational agents to how just social and political institutions are ordered.  These “moral intuitions,” for Kittay, aid us in making generalizations or develop working hypotheses about human relationships so that our social and political institutions justly correspond to the human condition of dependency.  To this extent, Kittay, once again emphasizes the connections between ethics and reasoning crucial to changing social and political institutional life.

Peirce, on the other hand, does not directly make these connections.  However, if we understand Peirce’s reason as one that necessarily requires care, then social and political institutional life can change once we learn how to reason (or care) better.  In my mind, Peirce, as illuminated by Kittay, shows how dependency and the moral response of care fundamentally mark our reasoning process and is opposed to a rationality conceived as patriarchal and domineering.  His 1898 Harvard lectures reveal his commitment to a philosophy of education that emphasizes a training in reasoning.  He considers this training of “vital importance” (Peirce Reasoning, 108) to a community of inquirers.  For Peirce, generalizations or the regularity of laws, which emerge from continuous and dependent relationships, necessarily involve a community of inquirers as opposed to the individual inquirer who only have a partial knowledge of the world.  In this respect, Peirce understands the possibility of drawing hypotheses and inferring generalizations about the world, dependent on a community of inquirers to test or challenge the reigning laws that guide the process of inquiry <3>. 

            Following Kittay, society, understood as a community of interpreters, must provide a social and political climate that fosters a training of reasoning (or care), such that our relationships to one another within the commonwealth can flourish.  This, in turn, prevents the degeneration of these relationships through exertions of domination.  The path to inquiry can only be fostered through a training of reasoning, which is necessarily constituted through moral attachments of care.  Love demands a moral requirement of us and this consequently is a motivating factor to ensure that our political and social institutions are justly ordered.  In some respects, this for Peirce, constitutes social and political life. 

            Finally, an understanding of care as a theory of reason might illuminate some of Peirce’s comments on sentimentalism.  “In everyday business, reasoning is tolerably successful; but I am inclined to think that it is done as well without the aid of a theory as with it” (Peirce Reasoning, 109).  For Peirce, reason is impotent in addressing matters of vital importance.  In fact, he quotes among “manly courage,” a “mother’s devotion” as qualities we would find admirable in human beings.  He follows this discussion by arguing, “It is the instincts, the sentiments, that make the substance of the soul.  Cognition is only its surface, its locus of contact with what is external to it” (110).  In fact, those that have solved problems and contribute its success to reason is misguided and self delusional (111).  For Peirce, “reason, then, appeals to sentiment in the last resort” (111).  A sentimental conservatism, according to Peirce, eschews dogmatism and narrowly constructed principles.  There is no rigid boundary between the sentiments and reason, but this relationship should, nonetheless, be critically assessed in certain contexts.  In fact, Vincent Potter argues that “instinctive reason…inserts man into an evolving world…as an active and cooperative agent" (Potter 1988, 101).  An understanding of care as a theory of reasoning draws out clearly the ethical implications and characterizes the sense of obligation and responsibility of this active and cooperative agent in the reasoning process.  Once we understand care as a theory of reasoning, it makes sense for Peirce to argue for a faculty of thought derived from relations of dependency.  Our reasoning process then arises from dependency relationships, and this in turn informs our ethical practices.   Care becomes the motive for ethical evaluation in inquiry.

Conclusion: Future Directions

            In this paper, I have introduced the notion of dependency as a metaphysical concept in understanding Peirce’s theory of inquiry.  After considering my arguments, there may be good reason to believe that continuity and dependency are similar metaphysical concepts and if so, a case can be made to tease out the political and ethical implications more in Peirce’s philosophy.  Additionally, if a theory of reasoning is bound up with care and if we follow Kittay’s insights, with ethics and politics as well, then this sort of analysis contributes to the commitments of critical feminist philosophy.  Feminist philosophy has accomplished much in showing how ethics and epistemology are saturated by oppressive masculinist values (Harding1983, Keller & Longino 1996).  The fact/value distinction and notions of objectivity mask our social relationships and conceal the interconnectedness between ethics and epistemology.  Feminist criticism has done well in pointing out these failures in philosophy and science and seeks to revitalize these connections between ethics and rationality.  A Peircian understanding of reason illuminated by an understanding of care might aid feminists in revising philosophical and scientific forms of reasoning. 

            Moreover, pragmatist feminism has traditionally seen Dewey or James as feminist friendly pragmatists.  However, Peirce, with good reason, has often been viewed as less enthusiastic about the relationship of politics and philosophy, and thus his philosophy might be considered as an unreliable resource for feminism.  It might do well to consider the distinction Mary Mahowald argues for here, that there is a difference between feminine and feminist elements within pragmatist theory (Mahowald 1986-7).  It is clear that Peirce has feminine elements, given his commitment to love, or agape and his views on sentiment.  Furthermore, from a care perspective, it seems that his philosophy is feminist as well, when considering how relationships of dependency mark our lived experience as well as our processes of reasoning.   Situating Peirce’s philosophy within current ideas in care ethics helps make the case for politicizing his notion of reason.  This re-reading of Peirce might provide an argument for feminists to see value in Peirce’s theory of inquiry.  Kittay ultimately provides us with a reason for reasoning in Peirce’s philosophy.  We are motivated to reason, not for some scholastic ideal of human flourishing, or a utilitarian reason to benefit the commonwealth.  We reason, according to Kittay (and I think this is consistent with Peirce), because reasoning is bound up with care and ultimately contains with it a moral claim that moves us to act out of concern for our beloved we are connected to in relationships of dependency.  Ultimately, Peirce’s critical philosopher actualizes his or her political projects through reasoned acts of care, critically responding to relationships of dependency within a community of interpreters. 



1. In my reading of Peirce, I point out an implicit connection between Peirce’s notion of continuity and Kittay’s notion of dependency.  However, there is more still to be said about the relationship between continuity and dependency that I am not able to explore in this paper.

2.  In her book, Love’s Labor, Kittay does not enter the debate on whether or not a transparent self or a feminine self might be a politically viable strategy (51).  I, too, am not entering this debate.  However, following Kittay, Peirce’s notion of reason might also require a notion of the transparent self in which a training of reasoning demands an attention to others in order to sustain growth.


3.  Peirce argues in “The Docrtine of Chance” (The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, Vol. 1 edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press) that the community is not conceived as an aggregate collection consisting of finite individuals.  In fact, the community is what remains despite the finitude of its members.  According to Peirce, “He who would not sacrifice his own soul to save the whole world, is, as it sees to me, illogical in all his inferences, collectively. Logic is rooted in the social principle” (149).










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