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Metaphysical Knowledge

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Claudine Tiercelin

Introducing Claudine Tiercelin

Pierre Corvol

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1Dear Colleague,
Dear Claudine Tiercelin,

2Since its inception, the Collège de France has hosted numerous Chairs of Philosophy, both Ancient and Modern; but it is with yours that, for the first time, the venerable term metaphysics appears in the title of one of them. An innovation of this nature may seem surprising, for throughout the 20th century metaphysics was constantly declared to be an archaism that we had to get over, or even “deconstruct”.

3These proclamations don't impress you much. You see metaphysics as inseparable from undertakings pertaining to knowledge and, more particularly, from scientific enquiry. For as long as science is obliged to use notions such as cause or law, object, property or event, and even simply reality or truth, it will be impossible, according to you, to break any ties with metaphysics. And it is not only a matter of analyzing the concepts in question to dissolve the confusion, but clearly of examining the realities to which they refer. Thus, refusing the classical representation of a contingent world of atomized and passive substances, you support the idea of a fundamentally dynamic reality, consisting of capacities, dispositions and causal interactions governed by laws.

  • 1 Claudine Tiercelin, Le Ciment des choses. Petit traité de métaphysique réaliste, Paris, Ithaque, 20 (...)

4This conception seems, to you, closer to the image that the natural sciences are currently reflecting. That is what you express in your recent book, Le Ciment des choses1, where you refuse both the illusions of an ethereal metaphysics and the snares of a metaphysics with scientist claims.

5The project that you are defending is that of a scientific, rationalist and realist metaphysics. This has nothing to do with scientism: the idea is neither to mime science nor to run after its results; philosophy has its own methods and problems, but it has to take careful account of the current state of scientific knowledge and, above all, adopt with regard to the real a scientific attitude, in the sense that Peirce used the term: “an intense desire to find things out”.

  • 2 Claudine Tiercelin, C.S. Peirce et le pragmatisme, Paris, PUF, 1993 ; La Pensée-Signe, Nîmes, Jacqu (...)
  • 3 Claudine Tiercelin, Hilary Putnam, l’héritage pragmatiste, Paris, PUF, 2002 ; Le Doute en question. (...)

6It was under the aegis of this great American philosopher and scientist of the 19th century whom you qualified as the “American Leibniz”, founder of pragmatism and semiotics, that your philosophical journey started. You devoted your PhD to him, making yourself one of the world's top specialists on his work2. Then, based on his ideas, you finally reached – by a path that you yourself describe as long and difficult3 – this innovative metaphysics research programme that you are now going to be able to deploy in your lectures.

7You vehemently refuse any separation between philosophical research and teaching, and have always wanted to carry out both of these activities: as a professor at the University of Paris-XII, as a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France, and as holder of the Charles Sanders Peirce Chair at the University of Fordham in New York. It is in the same spirit that you took on the position of President of the philosophy Agrégations from 2000 to 2003.

8You like to say that you owe everything to the French state education system (École de la République). And it is surely no coincidence that you have chosen as the theme of your first year of lectures “The value of knowledge”.

9It is in this “house of knowledge” that is the Collège de France, that we have the pleasure of welcoming you. You are now at home here.

Notes

1 Claudine Tiercelin, Le Ciment des choses. Petit traité de métaphysique réaliste, Paris, Ithaque, 2011.

2 Claudine Tiercelin, C.S. Peirce et le pragmatisme, Paris, PUF, 1993 ; La Pensée-Signe, Nîmes, Jacqueline Chambon, 1993.
Charles Sanders Pierce, Œuvres philosophiques, édition en 10 volumes dirigée par Claudine Tiercelin et Pierre Thibaud, Paris, Éditions du Cerf : vol. 1, Pragmatisme et Pragmaticisme, trad. C. Tiercelin, 2002 ; vol. 2, Pragmatisme et sciences normatives, trad. C. Tiercelin, P. Thibaud & J.-P. Cometti, 2003 ; vol. 3, Écrits logiques, trad. C. Tiercelin & P. Thibaud, 2006 (the other volume are in preparation).

3 Claudine Tiercelin, Hilary Putnam, l’héritage pragmatiste, Paris, PUF, 2002 ; Le Doute en question. Parades pragmatistes au défi sceptique, Paris, L’Éclat, 2005.

Auteur

Head of the Assembly of Professors

© Collège de France, 2013

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