Coenoscopics is a series of occasional papers that takes its name from a term first coined by Jeremy Bentham, but later reinterpreted by Charles Sanders Peirce. According to Peirce, philosophy – and it is possible to add, ‘critical thinking’ more generally – ‘deals with positive truth … yet contents itself with observations such as come within the range of every man’s [sic] normal experience, and for the most part in every waking hour of his life’. ‘These observations escape the untrained eye precisely because they permeate our whole lives, just as a man who never takes off his blue spectacles soon ceases to see the blue tinge. Evidently, therefore, no microscope or sensitive film would be of the least use in this class. The observation is observation in a peculiar, yet perfectly legitimate, sense. If philosophy glances now and then at the results of special sciences, it is only as a sort of condiment to excite its own proper observation’. Borrowing from Jeremy Bentham’s Chrestomathia, Peirce describes this kind of observation as the cœnoscopic.
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Nils Lindahl Elliot
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