Charles Sanders Peirce

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(13.) In two papers originally published in the Popular Science Monthly: Charles Sanders Peirce, The Fixation of Belief (1877), reprinted in 5.358 collected papers, supra note 8; Charles Sanders Peirce, How to Make Our Ideas Clear (1878), reprinted in 5.388 collected Papers, supra note 8.
A decisao judicial analisada sob o enfoque da critica de Charles Sanders Peirce a tradicao do cartesianismo.
(4.) Charles Sanders Peirce. Selected Writings, Charles Sanders Peirce, Ed.
The title of the exhibition derives from a quotation by philosopher, mathematician and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce, whose work involving the over- and under-laying of mathematical formulas with pictographic drawings is presented for the first time.
De Waal (philosophy, Indiana U.) presents a systematic introduction to the work of American scientist, philosopher, semiotician and all around polymath Charles Sanders Peirce. After a very brief chapter on Peirce's life, most of the book consists of thematic chapters that reflect Peirce's predilection for classifying knowledge.
The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.