Charles Sanders Peirce  

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-"from the moment that the Idea of [[Evolution]] took possession of the minds of men the pure [[Corpuscular Philosophy]] together with [[nominalism]] had had their doom pronounced." --''[[Charles Sanders Peirce bibliography#PPM|Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking]]'' (1903)+"From the moment that the Idea of [[Evolution]] took possession of the minds of men the pure [[Corpuscular Philosophy]] together with [[nominalism]] had had their doom pronounced." --''[[Charles Sanders Peirce bibliography#PPM|Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking]]'' (1903)
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"From the moment that the Idea of Evolution took possession of the minds of men the pure Corpuscular Philosophy together with nominalism had had their doom pronounced." --Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking (1903)

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Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced purse), (September 10, 1839April 19, 1914) was an American philosopher influential to semiotics and process philosophy.


Although Peirce was educated as a chemist and was employed as a scientist for 30 years, it is for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, and the theory of signs, or semiotics, that he is largely appreciated today. The philosopher Paul Weiss, writing in the Dictionary of American Biography for 1934, called Peirce "the most original and versatile of American philosophers and America's greatest logician".

Largely ignored during his lifetime

Peirce was largely ignored during his lifetime, and the secondary literature was scant until after World War II. Much of his huge output is still unpublished. Although he wrote mostly in English, he published some popular articles in French as well. An innovator in fields such as mathematics, research methodology, the philosophy of science, epistemology, and metaphysics, he considered himself a logician first and foremost. While he made major contributions to formal logic, "logic" for him encompassed much of what is now called the philosophy of science and epistemology. He, in turn, saw logic as a branch of semiotics, of which he is a founder. In 1886, he saw that logical operations could be carried out by electrical switching circuits, an idea used decades later to produce digital computers.


Peirce's reputation rests largely on a number of academic papers published in American scientific and scholarly journals such as Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Monist, Popular Science Monthly, the American Journal of Mathematics, Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, The Nation, and others. See Articles by Peirce, published in his lifetime for an extensive list with links to them online. The only full-length book (neither extract nor pamphlet) that Peirce authored and saw published in his lifetime > was Photometric Researches (1878), a 181-page monograph on the applications of spectrographic methods to astronomy. While at Johns Hopkins, he edited Studies in Logic (1883), containing chapters by himself and his graduate students. Besides lectures during his years (1879–1884) as Lecturer in Logic at Johns Hopkins, he gave at least nine series of lectures, many now published; see Lectures by Peirce.

Harvard University obtained from Peirce's widow soon after his death the papers found in his study, but did not microfilm them until 1964. Only after Richard Robin (1967) catalogued this Nachlass did it become clear that Peirce had left approximately 1650 unpublished manuscripts, totaling over 100,000 pages, mostly still unpublished except on microfilm. On the vicissitudes of Peirce's papers, see Houser (1989). Reportedly the papers remain in unsatisfactory condition.

The first published anthology of Peirce's articles was the one-volume Chance, Love and Logic: Philosophical Essays, edited by Morris Raphael Cohen, 1923, still in print. Other one-volume anthologies were published in 1940, 1957, 1958, 1972, 1994, and 2009, most still in print. The main posthumous editions of Peirce's works in their long trek to light, often multi-volume, and some still in print, have included:

1931–1958: Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (CP), 8 volumes, includes many published works, along with a selection of previously unpublished work and a smattering of his correspondence. This long-time standard edition drawn from Peirce's work from the 1860s to 1913 remains the most comprehensive survey of his prolific output from 1893 to 1913. It is organized thematically, but texts (including lecture series) are often split up across volumes, while texts from various stages in Peirce's development are often combined, requiring frequent visits to editors' notes. Edited (1–6) by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss and (7–8) by Arthur Burks, in print and online.

1975–1987: Charles Sanders Peirce: Contributions to The Nation, 4 volumes, includes Peirce's more than 300 reviews and articles published 1869–1908 in The Nation. Edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner and James Edward Cook, online.

1976: The New Elements of Mathematics by Charles S. Peirce, 4 volumes in 5, included many previously unpublished Peirce manuscripts on mathematical subjects, along with Peirce's important published mathematical articles. Edited by Carolyn Eisele, back in print.

1977: Semiotic and Significs: The Correspondence between C. S. Peirce and Victoria Lady Welby (2nd edition 2001), included Peirce's entire correspondence (1903–1912) with Victoria, Lady Welby. Peirce's other published correspondence is largely limited to the 14 letters included in volume 8 of the Collected Papers, and the 20-odd pre-1890 items included so far in the Writings. Edited by Charles S. Hardwick with James Cook, out of print.

1982–now: Writings of Charles S. Peirce, A Chronological Edition (W), Volumes 1–6 & 8, of a projected 30. The limited coverage, and defective editing and organization, of the Collected Papers led Max Fisch and others in the 1970s to found the Peirce Edition Project (PEP), whose mission is to prepare a more complete critical chronological edition. Only seven volumes have appeared to date, but they cover the period from 1859–1892, when Peirce carried out much of his best-known work. Writings of Charles S. Peirce, 8 was published in November 2010; and work continues on Writings of Charles S. Peirce, 7, 9, and 11. In print and online.

1985: Historical Perspectives on Peirce's Logic of Science: A History of Science, 2 volumes. Auspitz has said, "The extent of Peirce's immersion in the science of his day is evident in his reviews in the Nation [...] and in his papers, grant applications, and publishers' prospectuses in the history and practice of science", referring latterly to Historical Perspectives. Edited by Carolyn Eisele, back in print.

1992: Reasoning and the Logic of Things collects in one place Peirce's 1898 series of lectures invited by William James. Edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner, with commentary by Hilary Putnam, in print.

1992–1998: The Essential Peirce (EP), 2 volumes, is an important recent sampler of Peirce's philosophical writings. Edited (1) by Nathan Hauser and Christian Kloesel and (2) by Peirce Edition Project editors, in print.

1997: Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking collects Peirce's 1903 Harvard "Lectures on Pragmatism" in a study edition, including drafts, of Peirce's lecture manuscripts, which had been previously published in abridged form; the lectures now also appear in The Essential Peirce, 2. Edited by Patricia Ann Turisi, in print.

2010: Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected Writings collects important writings by Peirce on the subject, many not previously in print. Edited by Matthew E. Moore, in print.

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