<history of philosophy, biography> Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) studied philosophy and chemistry at Harvard, where his father, Benjamin Peirce, taught mathematics and astronomy. Although he showed early signs of great genius, an unstable personal life prevented Peirce from fulfilling his early promise. Although he wrote widely and delivered several series of significant lectures, he never completed the most ambitious of his philosophical projects. After a respectable scientific career, studying the effects of gravitation with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Peirce taught briefly at John Hopkins before retiring to a life of isolation, poverty, and illness in Milford, Pennsylvania. Peirce's place as a founder of American pragmatism was secured by a pair of highly original essays that apply logical and scientific principles to philosophical method. In The Fixation of Belief (1877) he described how human beings converge upon a true opinion, each of us removing the irritation of doubt by forming beliefs from which successful habits of action may be derived. This theory was extended in How to Make Our Ideas Clear (1878) to the very meaning of concepts, which Peirce identified with the practical effects that would follow from our adoption of the concept. In his extensive logical studies, Peirce developed a theory of signification that anticipated many features of modern semiotics, emphasizing the role of the interpreting subject. To the traditional logic of deduction and induction, Peirce added explicit acknowledgement of abduction as a preliminary stage in productive human inquiry. Using a Kantian system of categories, Peirce proposed a descriptive metaphysics that emphasized the role of chance. Recommended Reading: Primary sources: Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. by Justus Buchler (Dover, 1986); Charles S. Peirce: Selected Writings, ed. by Philip P. Wiener (Dover, 1980); Peirce on Signs: Writings on Semiotic, ed. by James Hoopes (North Carolina, 1991); Charles Sanders Peirce, Chance, Love, and Logic: Philosophical Essays, ed. by Morris R. Cohen (Nebraska, 1998). Secondary sources: James K. Feibleman, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Charles S. Peirce (MIT, 1969) Christopher Hookway, Peirce (Routledge, 1992); Karl-Otto Apel, Charles Peirce: From Pragmatism to Pragmaticism (Prometheus, 1995); Joseph Brent, Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life (Indiana, 1998); Sandra B. Rosenthal, Charles Peirce's Pragmatic Pluralism (SUNY, 1994); C. F. Delaney, Science, Knowledge, and Mind: A Study in the Philosophy of C.S. Peirce (Notre Dame, 1993); Floyd Merrell, Peirce, Signs, and Meaning (Toronto, 1997). Additional on-line information about Peirce includes: Joseph Ransdell's excellent site on Peirce, Arisbe. A biography and bibliography from the Peirce Society. C. J. Hookway's article in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Also see: abduction, American philosophy, Harvard philosophy, indexicals, pragmaticism, the pragmatic theory of truth, pragmatism, semiotics, and sign and symbol. The Peirce Edition Project. The thorough collection of resources at EpistemeLinks.com. Eric M. Hammer's article on Peirce's logic in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The article in the Columbia Encyclopedia at Bartleby.com. Eric Weisstein's discussion at Treasure Trove of Scientific Biography. A paper by Peter Skagestad on Peirce's notion of Virtuality. Robert Tremblay's essay on Peirce (in French) at Enc»phi. Brief entries on Peirce and 'symbol' in Oxford's Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. A discussion of Peirce's mathematical significance from Mathematical MacTutor. The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2001.
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