Ripensare la razionalità La crescita di significato e i limiti del formalismo

Translated title of the contribution: Reconceptualizing rationality: The growth of meaning and the limits of formalism

Susan Haack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As our knowledge and our experience grows, concepts take on new and richer meaning. Recent (postFregean) philosophers of language have paid little attention to this phenomenon; and radical philosophers like Feyerabend and Rorty took for granted that meaning-change is a threat to rationality. But thinkers in the classical pragmatist tradition - Peirce in philosophy of science and, more implicitly, Holmes in legal theory - recognized the significance of growth of meaning, and understood how it can contribute to the progress of science and to the adaptation of a legal system to changing circumstances. This paper develops these insights, and illustrates them by reference (1) to the growth of meaning of “DNA” from the identification of “nuclein” to the discovery of mtDNA almost a century later, and (2) to the growth of meaning of “the establishment of religion” in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from its ratification in 1791 to the present day. Narrowly formal models of rationality, it concludes, are adequate neither to scientific nor to legal reasoning.

Translated title of the contributionReconceptualizing rationality: The growth of meaning and the limits of formalism
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)161-179
Number of pages19
JournalDiritto and Questioni Pubbliche
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Holmes (Oliver Wendell)
  • Law
  • Logic
  • Meaning
  • Peirce (Charles Sanders)
  • Science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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