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Charles Sanders Peirce

(1839—1914) American philosopher and logician


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(1839–1914)

American philosopher of science and language. Peirce was the son of the distinguished Harvard mathematician Benjamin Peirce, and educated to a mistrust of metaphysical reasoning, compared to the laboratory habit of mind. He graduated from Harvard in 1859, and apart from lecturing at Johns Hopkins university from 1879 to 1884, did almost no teaching. His principal employment was with the U.S. Coast and Geodesic survey. Peirce completed only one major work in his lifetime (The Grand Logic), but wrote many lectures, essays, and reviews, reprinted in his Collected Papers (eight volumes, 1931–5). Although he aspired to leaving a complete philosophical system, his absorption in many different aspects of science and philosophy prevented him: he himself described his writings as ‘a mere table of contents, so abstract, a very snarl of twine’. Nevertheless he has permanent importance as the founding figure of American pragmatism, perhaps best expressed in his essay ‘How to Make our Ideas Clear’ (1878), in which he proposes the famous dictum: ‘the opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real.’ Peirce also made pioneering investigations into the logic of relations, and of the truth-functions, and independently discovered the quantifiers slightly later than Frege. His work on probability and induction includes versions of the frequency theory of probability, and the first suggestion of a vindication of the process of induction. Surprisingly, perhaps, Peirce's scientific outlook and opposition to rationalism coexists with admiration for Duns Scotus, and a scholastic approach to problems of reality and ontology. See also pragmaticism.

http://www.iupui.edu/?peirce/index.htm Texts of Peirce's writings (ongoing), with a biography and chronology

http://www.cspeirce.com/ A list of internet resources on Peirce

Subjects: Philosophy.


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