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This is Sorrell's first book in a line of what we should hope are many. It is fresh, is analytical and contains wonderful prose at the same time, seeks new routes of critical inquiry to crack open and reconstruct, and draws non-ideologically and critically on diverse philosophical traditions - pragmatism, feminism, analytic philosophy, and postmodern thought. His work looks to take careful analysis of traditional philosophical problems and approaches into novel terrain and make them matter beyond philosophers' discussions. As Sorrell suggests in the context of a discussion of Peirce's method of science, traditional methods are quite useful, but often not in the way that is traditionally understood. This idea is at the root of Sorrell's erudite engagement with Peirce.
The book focuses on representation of a reconstructed Peircean stripe. The first half or so of the book discusses Peirce's unique brand of phenomenology and semeiotic and lays out a pragmatic realist view of how representation of the objectively real is possible. Sorrell expertly engages ongoing technical debates among Peirce scholars. The second half discusses the nature of authority in representation, drawing also on feminist epistemology, and concludes with the development of an "ethic of representation." As such, the book does something very rarely done with Peirce's philosophy - it moves towards the genuinely concrete and practical.
In the second part of the book, Sorrell argues that authority is an inescapable feature of representative practices, the shared understandings and conduct through which epistemic communities interpret the world and concomitantly reconstitute these understandings and conduct.Read more ›
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With the death of Jacques Derrida, eulogies to the field of semiotic theory and its relevance to contemporary scholarship are becoming both ubiquitous and clichéd. Post-structuralism and its less disciplined sibling post-modernism are being dismissed as passing intellectual fashions. You even occasionally see ethnocentric barbs thrown at the French origins of these theoretical traditions.
What you don't see is a refutation of the basic insight at the heart of the field of semiotics: that all inquiry and all knowledge claims are mediated by signs, and thus no representation we make of the things of this world can be direct, pure, innocent, or final. It raises the question: what are the ethics associated with choosing one form of inquiry, one form of knowledge production, over another. This single insight throws into question the entire inheritance of enlightenment thought, upon which most of our political and educational institutions are founded. It is no wonder that less robust minds are quick to take up any opportunity to dismiss it.
Kory Sorrel, in his book Representative Practices: Peirce, Pragmatism, and Feminist Epistemology, takes up the challenge of semiotics to western enlightenment thought. He avoids the missteps and excesses often associated with "post-structuralist" thought, which relies on the semiotic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure, by grounding his analysis in the semiotic theory of the another 19th century thinker: Charles Sanders Peirce.
Sorrell does a masterful job of presenting the notoriously difficult philosophy of Peirce in a lucid manner, and relating it to contemporary fields such as feminist epistemology, cultural anthropology, and the philosophy of science.Read more ›
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