Charles S. Peirce


PEIRCE, Charles Sanders (1839-1914), American philosopher and physicist, born in Cambridge, Mass., and educated at Harvard University. In 1861 Peirce was appointed to the U.S. Coast Survey. Between 1864 and 1884 he lectured intermittently on logic and philosophy at Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities, and in 1877 he became the first American representative to the International Geodetic Congress.

In 1861 Peirce began a series of experiments with pendulums that contributed greatly to the determination of the density and shape of the earth, and also an investigation of the measurement of light waves. In 1867 he turned his attention to the system of logic created by the British logician and mathematician George Boole, and he worked on extending and transforming Boolean algebra until 1885.

Peirce is best known for his philosophical system, later called pragmatism. According to his pragmatic philosophy, no object or concept possesses inherent validity or importance. Its significance lies only in the practical effects resulting from its use or application. The "truth" of an idea or object, therefore, can be measured by empirical investigation of its usefulness. The concept was expanded by the American philosophers William James and John Dewey, and it profoundly influenced modern philosophical and sociological thought. Peirce's works include Photometric Researches (1878) and Studies in Logic (1883). His essays appear in Chance, Love, and Logic, published posthumously in 1923.


Hypertext Editions of Peirce's Writings


Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Series

"On a New List of Categories"

"On a New List of Categories" first appeared in print in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 7 (1868), pp. 287-98, but is usually referred to as an 1867 paper both because it was delivered orally that year to the Academy (on May 14th) and because the editors of the Collected Papers of Peirce's work erroneously identified the publication date as in 1867! In any case, it can fairly be referred to as his first philosophical publication proper, since what he had published before that was in formal logic only. Until the end of his long career Peirce continued to regard this paper as having special status as a foundational paper not only in his own thought but in philosophy generally, and a number of Peirce scholars have devoted themselves to exegesis of it. The three important papers which appeared as a set in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy in 1868-69 are closely related to it in that his aim in this paper is to define the fundamental conceptions of logic in semiotical terms, and his aim in those is to explain the nature of the validity of the laws of logic in terms of a semiotical conception of mind.
-- Joseph Ransdell


Journal of Speculative Philosophy Cognition Series

"Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man"

"Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man" is the first of a set of three papers published in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, the first English language philosophical journal. It appeared in vol. 2, pp. 103-114 (1868). The second and third papers of the set, "Some Consequences of Four Incapacities" and "Grounds of Validity of the Laws of Logic: Further Consequences of Four Incapacities," appeared in the same volume, though the second bears the publication date of 1868 and the third the date of 1869.
-- Joseph Ransdell

"Some Consequences of Four Capacities"

"Some Consequences of Four Capacities" is the second of this set of papers published in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, appearing in vol. 2, pp. 140-157 (1868).


Illustrations of the Logic of Science

"The Fixation of Belief"

Popular Science Monthly 12 (November 1877), pp. 1-15.

"How to Make Our Ideas Clear"

Popular Science Monthly 12 (January 1878), pp. 286-302.


Peirce Telecommunity Project Gopher

Featuring: The Peirce Telecommunity On-line Library, with collections of Peirce's writings, as well as works by contemporary writers relating to Peirce and Dewey.

There are also copies of the Peirce Edition Newsletter, information about the Peirce Telecommunity Project, and archives of PEIRCE-L (general discussion of Peirce), Peirce SRL (the Slow Reading List), and DEWEY-L (a list devoted to Dewey and related issues).


Georgetown Gopher:
Application to the Carnegie Institution (MS L75, 1902)


Of Related Interest

The American Philosophy Association
Indiana University Press
4th International Conference on Conceptual Structures
Philosophy Department, McGill University
The Johns Hopkins Philosophy Pages
Philosophy Listings at Yahoo
Philosophy in Cyberspace
Sean's Philosophy Page
Walker Percy WWWsite