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."

influence of ideas upon matter had to be tried and persevered in until it was thoroughly exploded. But I believe that now at last, at any time for the last thirty years, it has been apparent, to every man who sufficiently considered the subject, that there is a mode of influence upon external facts which cannot be resolved into mere mechanical action, so that henceforward it will be a grave error of scientific philosophy to overlook the universal presence in the phenomenon of this third category. Indeed, 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. I grew up in Cambridge, [Massachusetts] and was about 21 when the Origin of Species appeared. There was then living here a thinker who left no remains from which one could now gather what an educative influence his was upon the minds of all of us who enjoyed his intimacy, Mr. Chauncey Wright.†1 He had at first been a Hamiltonian but had early passed over into the warmest advocacy of the nominalism of John Stuart Mill; and being a mathematician at a time when dynamics was regarded as the loftiest branch of mathematics, he was also inclined to regard nature from a strictly mechanical point of view. But his interests were wide and he was also a student of Gray.†1 I was away surveying in the wilds of Louisiana when Darwin's great work appeared, and though I learned by letters of the immense sensation it had created, I did not return until early in the following summer when I found Wright all enthusiasm for Darwin, whose doctrines appeared to him as a sort of supplement to those of Mill. I remember well that I then made a remark to him which although he did not assent to it, evidently impressed him enough to perplex him. The remark was that these ideas of development had more vitality by far than any of his other favorite conceptions and that though they might at that moment be in his mind like a little vine clinging to the tree of Associationalism, yet after a time that vine would inevitably kill the tree. He

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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.

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