TSElosophers meeting 20.9. Kari Lukka, Jonathan Van Mumford, Ekaterina Panina, Otto Rosendahl, Joonas Uotinen, Milla Wirén

In his book “Pragmatism and Organization Studies”, Philippe Lorino (2018) introduces Peircean pragmatism as a position against mainstream representationalism in organizational studies. Representationalism assumes the semiotics of signifier/signified as a dyad, which leads to representation/reality dichotomy. In contrast, Peirce’s semiotics introduces situational perspectives as “interpretants” that dilute the accuracy of any signifiers to “a representamen” (a specimen among others). To put it differently, pragmatism relegates representations to a situational resource among other resources, whereas representationalism claims that “representation determines action; it is the source of action” (Lorino 2018, 33). Lorino credibly uses the early pragmatist concepts to challenge representationalism. However, many other process philosophies have already highlighted challenges to representationalism – also based on other streams of the philosophy of science – in mainstream organizational studies. For example, pragmatism can be viewed generally as aligned with the practice turn in social ontology (Friedrichs & Kratochwil 2009, 713) and the developments in process philosophy (Rescher 1996) are already somewhat reflected in organizational studies, e.g. in strategy-as-a-practice (Vaara and Whittington 2012). One of the issues discussed in this context was the flattening of history by Lorino – as he was at the same time drawing from the “old” pragmatists and the subsequent developments seeded by them, some of the insights that may have been revolutionary (and expressed as such by Lorino) do not seem quite as foreign to the contemporary reader familiar with the subsequent developments as Lorino emphasizes.

Lorino’s (2018) book sparked a lively discussion whether correspondence theory of truth is relevant or irrelevant for pragmatism. Pragmatists emphasize consensus theory on knowledge, but it seems that correspondence theory within the framework of consensus is not necessarily excluded. For Peirce, the main force that creates order and stability in the universal process comes from relational ‘attraction’ (Ormerod 2006), which is difficult to define narrowly. For example, a strong consensus of knowledge is achieved by the imminent destruction of the Earth by an asteroid in Trier’s film Melancholia (see Ch1, Zizek 2014). In Melancholia, the everyday attraction towards vitality changed to the overbearing attraction to heavenly bodies and horror. The consensus became formed without any credible claims to socially constructing of some other kind of reality; there was a strong convergence towards a singular understanding of reality in the context shown us by Trier – and the convergence of views in such a situation may well be in line with representatiolist correspondence.

We also discussed the Peircean “thirdness” in regards to the correspondence theory of the truth. The significant semiotic contribution of Peirce was to highlight the third element relevant in a concept: whereas de Saussure broke the concept into two components of the signifier (the word tree) and the signified (the thing growing from the ground, referred to with the word), Peirce introduced the importance of the interpretant (the one doing the referring to the tree, nuanced by the understanding of the tree by the utterer). In our discussions we pondered that in pragmatism, the correspondence does not necessarily flow in between the signified and the signifier, but is instead located in between the interpretant and the signified – for the one interpreting the growing thing as something that can be referred to as a tree, the uttering corresponds with the contextually created notion of truth. The example found in Lorino’s text about a group of piqueniquers highlights this: in viewing a flat stone it is referred to as a table. In the context of having outdoors lunch the interpretation of stone as a table is true, even though without the context a flat stone does not correspond with the general meaning of the word table.

Regarding scholarly research, Peircean pragmatists are bound to recognize the attraction of correspondence theory. In particular, it has (arguably to remarkable extent) produced beneficial results in (natural) sciences. Lorino (2018, 264) sums up the union of Peircean pragmatism with correspondence as follows: “Science would rather appear as an attempt to formulate beliefs […] in the effectiveness of action – for example, does the management of nuclear safety really avoid major accidents (and this “really” means something here)?” As pragmatists see the employment of the correspondence of theory of truth having less application options than realists, pragmatists focus on the development of useful beliefs instead of bare facts. Although this formulation seems to gnaw the foundation of a scientific worldview, it could be also understood positively: pragmatism potentially extends the scope of science. The scientific foundation of facts as ‘well-justified true beliefs’ are not completely taken away, but rather they are complemented with the consideration that facts are produced in a range of different situations and perspectives. Fact claims are also employed in relatively sinister occurrences, e.g. for manipulation and for adopting superiority.

In sum, “humans do not have doors and windows open to the world: they are in the world; they even are the world (Lorino 2018, 40).” We discussed along the lines of this pragmatist proclamation, especially concerning the human capabilities for connecting with their world. Anthropological studies from non-western cultures illustrate that humans have great potential for a thorough connectedness (Descola 2013). Unfortunately, the connectedness in western culture is often visible only in material terms (Descola 2013): We generally believe that humans have become a relatively advanced instantiation of animal evolution. Spiritual connectedness, however, would mean further avoidance to dichotomize man and nature. Regrettably the attraction towards one dichotomy allies itself often with others, e.g. reality/representation, human/natural and beneficiary/resource and representations on reality are typically used to exploit natural resources for human beneficiaries. These dichotomies come with implicit justifications of human beneficiaries’ superiority. With these dichotomies, it becomes practical and natural to neglect non-human beneficiaries, as well as those humans considered merely as “resources”. TSElosophers support scientific practices that emphasize developing everyone’s sensitivity and respect for their world in a holistic sense. Pragmatism offers one potential starting point in this regard, but also it would need widening of scope to be more helpful in the development of beliefs that would genuinely take into consideration the huge social and ecological challenges of our time and the near future.