Probing the Limits of Mind
Charles Sanders Peirce, William
the Short Stories of Machado De
Assis and Ambrose Bierce
Jose dos Santos
Advisor: Floyd Merrell
Source: DAI, 63, no. 12A (2001): p. 4302
No: ISBN: 0-493-95936-X
The purpose of this dissertation was to study a
selected number of short stories by Machado de Assis and Ambrose Bierce as
critiques of the rational paradigms much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth
and beginning of the twentieth century both in Brazil
and the United States.
The study focused on questions involving the nature of mind, knowledge, and
reality. The theoretical framework utilized to discuss these issues came from
the pragmatist theories of William James and semiotics of Charles S. Peirce.
The argument was that both Machado and Bierce challenged traditional notions of
mind as an agent that simply copies reality. As the analysis of the texts
demonstrates, they saw mind as an embodied organism operating in conjunction
with the body and the whole range of human emotions that accompany it. Because
mind and body work together, a new concept of knowledge emerges; namely,
knowledge is the product of a semiotic relation involving objects,
representamens, and interpretants. Moreover, knowledge is always the product of
a selective process. That is, personal interests, inclinations, and preferences
determine what becomes part of the individual's reality.
In sum, the short stories discussed reject the notion of mind as mirror of
reality. They portray, instead, subject-object relations as a dynamic
enterprise where individuals shape and are at the same time shaped the
environment they interact with. Knowledge is less the discovery of something
already made than the creation of different worlds aiming to satisfy the needs
of human beings.
Descriptor: LITERATURE, COMPARATIVE