Levi is out swinging (in the most entertaining way possible; I love it when he gets on a roll, and I do agree with him on much of it).
Of course, there’s not much new in what he says (that hasn’t been said by Left-realists for the last few decades, and by Latour more recently). But of course it still needs to be said (in some circles, like to Left anti-realists) and it’s better said by constructivist realists (like Bryant, Latour, et al.) than by anti-constructivists (on the Right or Left). Constructivist realism — a realism that avows the constructedness (enactedness, emergentness, historicity) of everything, from quarks to civilizations to universes — is where things are at. (Which is why I appreciate Levi’s philosophizing so much.)
The comments that follow his post include some rejoinders from Peircians (like Mark Crosby and Matt Segall), who don’t like Bryant’s seeming characterization of Charles Sanders Peirce as an anti- or non-realist. In response, Levi writes that “we never really see Pierce employed outside the humanities.” Here he needs to be corrected.
The fields of biosemiotics, ecosemiotics, zoosemiotics, et al. are almost entirely “outside the humanities.” They consist of biologists, ecologists, zoologists, complex systems scientists, as well as “semioticians” (of various kinds) and philosophers of various stripes.
(For instance, the Wikipedia entry for biosemiotics, in its history section, includes the following paragraph:
The contemporary period (as initiated by Copenhagen-Tartu school) include biologists Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, Claus Emmeche, Terrence Deacon, Luis Bruni, Alexei Sharov, Søren Brier, Marcello Barbieri, Anton Markos, Howard Pattee, Yair Neuman, Timo Maran, semioticians Donald Favareau, Martin Krampen, Frederik Stjernfelt, Floyd Merrell, Myrdene Anderson, Lucia Santaella, Marcel Danesi, Winfried Nöth, philosophers John Deely, John Collier, Tommi Vehkavaara, Günther Witzany, and complex systems scientists Peter Cariani, Michael Conrad, Cliff Joslyn, Luis M. Rocha, et al.)
That these interdisciplinary fields are not widely known is no reason why they should be ignored. (But one could also surmise that they aren’t widely known in the humanities in part because they aren’t in the humanities.)
But let’s look at the question more broadly, and more empirically.
A search for “Peirce C S” in the ScienceDirect database — which consists mostly of scientific journal articles, though there is a category for “Arts and Humanities” and another for “Social Sciences” — returns a total of 7,884 articles. Of these, only 1 in 10 (794) come up when the search is limited to Arts and Humanities journals; and just over 1 in 10 (1,054) come up in a search limited to Social Science journals. (The latter two lists overlap, as a combined search for “Arts and Humanities” and “Social Science” journals returns 1,392 listings.)
If we assume — probably overgenerously — that as many as 80% of the non-Arts and Humanities returns are not to Charles Sanders Peirce but to some other Peirce (leaving 1400 that are to CSP), and — no doubt overgenerously — that all of the Arts and Humanities returns are to C. S. Peirce, that would still leave twice as many* CSP articles in the non-Arts and Humanities fields — meaning, in the physical, medical, behavioral, and biological sciences plus the social sciences (only 450 or so, once you subtract the Arts & Humanities/Social Sciences overlap) and engineering — than in the Arts and Humanities.
What are some of these journals? The first dozen that come up in the total list (including Arts and Humanities) are Language Sciences, Information Sciences, Historia Mathematica (a journal that comes up a lot), Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, Handbook in the History of Logic, Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Annals of Pure and Applied Logic, Journal of Pragmatics, Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Mathematics, Biosystems, and Design Studies.
(I’ve skipped any references that clearly are to another Peirce — such as CSP’s father, astronomer and mathematician Benjamin Peirce, whose “Peirce decomposition for associative algebras” comes up frequently in algebra and maths journals. Fortunately, there were only a handful of non-CSP references in the first 50 articles listed.)
What this tells us is that Peirce is known outside the humanities. This should be no surprise, since his reputation is largely an outgrowth of his work in logic, mathematics, geography, philosophy and methodology of science, geodesy, and — here’s where the humanists come in — pragmatism and semiotics. To claim that he is not a realist doesn’t really hold water.
The real question (as Matt points out) is, what kind of realist was he? And that’s where things get interesting.
* [edited after the original article was posted]