Mind as Conceptual Structure: On Ethical Theory of C. I. Lewis’s Conceptual Pragmatism

Journal of Ethics: The Korean Association of Ethics 1 (113):73-89 (2017)
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Clarence I. Lewis (1883-1964) delineated the structure of mind based on his “conceptual pragmatism.” Human mind grounds itself on the ongoing dynamic interaction of relational processes, which is essentially mediated and structural. Lewis’s pragmatism anchors itself on the theory of knowledge that has the triadic structure of the given or immediate data, interpretation, and the concept. Lewis takes the a priori given as a starting point of meaningful experience. The interpretative work of mind is the mediator of the a priori given and the concepts. The a priori given is the principle that determines the application of concepts in our interpretative process. Our mind interprets the given in relating to other possible experience. In other words, the meaning of the a priori given is determined by mind, the subject of interpretative process, which performs constructive and legislative activity, and allows room for the existence of alternatives. Lewis’s theory of knowledge calls for pragmatic justification of value experience. In his ethical theory, Lewis pursues to find answers for how to build up the objectivity of value experience regarding the work of mind as conceptual apparatus. For Lewis, knowledge is a claim about valuation and normativity. In our value experience, the normative significance of our empirical assessments for action comprises objective significance for future experience. Mind is “principle- content apparatus” composed of imperatives as the a priori given principles and the contents of experience as a whole.Imperatives are the result of lessons accumulated from the past and function as rules for the future. Individuals start their experience from imperatives and organize their own experience by doing based on the inferential process, which is directional from the past to the future.

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