Charles Sanders Peirce

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Peirce, Charles Sanders


Born Sept. 10, 1839, in Cambridge, Mass.; died Apr. 19, 1914, in Milford, Pa. American idealist philosopher, logician, mathematician, and natural scientist. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1877) and of the National Academy of Sciences (1879).

Son of the well-known American mathematician B. Peirce, Charles Peirce graduated from Harvard University in 1859. From 1866 to 1891, he was on the staff of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. He lectured on logic, history, and the philosophy of science at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and elsewhere.

Peirce’s philosophy combines two contradictory tendencies: the empirical and positivist tendency that derives from Kantian “criticism” and the objective-idealist tendency associated with Plato and F. W. Schelling. The basic scheme of Peirce’s ontolog-ical constructions is expressed by the following thesis: “Spirit is first, matter is second, and evolution is third.” Peirce criticized agnosticism, saying that an incognizable but real thing-in-itself is inherently contradictory. Yet at the same time he denied certainty of knowledge: “All our knowledge floats in the continuum of weak semblances and vagueness.”

Peirce gave primary importance to the problem of formation, reliability, and validity of scientific knowledge and opinion. In his view, the problem can be solved only if meaning is interpreted exclusively in terms of results: “Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of those effects is the whole of our conception of the object” (Collected Papers, vol. 5, Cambridge, Mass., 1934, paragraph 402). This principle of Peirce’s received further development in the idealist conceptions of pragmatism; indeed, the term “pragmatism” was introduced into philosophy by Peirce. Thus, following Peirce, W. James went on to identify truth directly with practical results, with utility.

Peirce’s principal achievements were in mathematical logic and semiotics. In mathematical logic, he investigated the concept of degree of confirmation, worked on the classification of propositions and arguments, studied the nature of logic and the relationship between logic and mathematics, investigated the limits and possibilities of formalization, and discovered minimal systems of logical operations through which the remaining operations can be expressed. Semiotics, which studies all sign systems used in human collectives, was essentially created as a science by Peirce.


The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vols. 1–8. Cambridge, Mass., 1931–58.


Mel’vil’, Iu. K. Filosofiia Ch. S. Pirsa. Moscow, 1964.
Stiazhkin, N. I. Formirovanie matematicheskoi logiki. Moscow, 1967.
Basin, E. Ia. Semanticheskaia filosofiia iskusstva. Moscow, 1973. Chapter 9.
Thompson, M. The Pragmatic Philosophy of C. S. Peirce. Chicago, 1963.
Gallie, W. B. Peirce and Pragmatism [2nd ed.]. New York, 1966.
Goudge, T. A. The Thought of C. S. Peirce. Toronto, 1950.
Dobrosielski, M. Filozoficzny pragmatyzm C. S. Peirce’a. Warsaw, 1967.
Feibleman, J. K. Introduction to the Philosophy of Charles S. Peirce. Cambridge, Mass.-London, 1970.


References in periodicals archive ?
16) Charles Sanders Peirce, The New Elements of Mathematics (NEM), vol.
642; Charles Sanders Peirce, Manuscripts (MS) 204, 10-18.
Kenneth Laine Ketner's His Glassy Essence: An Autobiography of Charles Sanders Peirce is a welcome corrective to this reductive hypothesis of Peirce as "a flawed genius.
The Vargueno is a chest whose cover opens to become a writer's desk, and in which is found an incomplete draft of an autobiography of Charles Sanders Peirce, bearing the title "His Glassy Essence.
Abduction" was the term Charles Sanders Peirce used in his later writings for a type of inference that is now commonly called "inference to the best explanation.
My criteria, however, do not derive from Lonergan's work but from the metaphysics of experience and the construct of conversion that I have been developing with hints from the thought of the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914).
6) Charles Sanders Peirce, The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed.
The reversal of dominance in the discursive rivalry between "semiology" and "semiotics" as cultural forms of understanding, we want to suggest, is owing to the gradual, not to say grudging, recognition of the comparative depth, scope, and importance of the studies authored, on the one hand, by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) and those who took their principal inspiration in the study of signs from his work; and, on the other hand, by Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) and those who took principal inspiration in the study of signs from his work.
Throughout our notes we follow the standard form in abbreviating the citation of the Harvard edition of The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce to "CP," followed by a volume and paragraph number(s) separated by a period.
As in so many other areas of semiotic inquiry, the principal clues in this area of "logical language," so to say, have been provided by the seminal work of Charles Sanders Peirce, the first, and so far the only, logician who attempted to rethink the concerns of logical tradition from the perspective of the sign.
8) Charles Sanders Peirce, "Syllabus," in The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol.