Charles Sanders Peirce: Good White Man

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Those who are unfamiliar with the name should read his biographical summa at Wikipedia:

In the modern high school and undergraduate curriculum, he will of course be given a sound-byte mention as the founder of 'Pragmatism', America's only contribution to Philosophy' or some such. But this will avoid mention, of course, of his 'cenopythagorean' ('New Pythagorean') metaphysick, or his discussion, like Guenon or Palamas, of the Triads. It will not mention his defence of Realism against Nominalism, or his Theism.

To pique your interest, I will link a bit of his 'Principles of Philosophy': link

Another gem of a passage: On Darwin ism

His discussion of Darwin's doctrine is very judicious, and better historically than many modern ones, that mistake it for the Neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930s (Darwin's hypothesis is, in contrast, both brilliant and scientifically wrong). See Jaap Bax for a modern discussion of the evolutionary emergence of nomos elaborated in Thomistic (and thus modern Aristotelian -- like Darwin against the liberals of the Scottish School -- terms).

Bob Dylan Roof

This is interesting. I wasn't aware of Peirce's metaphysical realism. Peirce is usually grouped along with James and the Boston Brahmin Holmes Jr. in historical treatments of the rise of progressivism (and the associated decline of American religiosity and natural law).


The ability of the ruling class to spin history into a narrative of its own political fetishes is quite as unbounded as Hobbes said the passions were.

I would note his nuanced opposition to the psychologism of Mill, and thus the sort of Subjectivism that emerged in Neo-Classical (anti-Ricardan, anti-Maxian) economics. On the other hand, in Logic, he followed Whately , who was a famous precursor of the Neo-Classical school. ('It is not that pearls fetch a high price because men have dived for them; but on the contrary, men dive for them because they fetch a high price.' - a direct attack on the LToV). Perhaps Peirce is best read as a liminal figure.


One of they very few philosophers who paid homage to Peirce (instead of being scared away by his symbolism) was the Cambridge polymath Frank P. Ramsey. This was where I originally stumbled across Peirce: through Ramsey; or more broadly, when looking for allies in the effort against Cartesianism and hopelessly sterile "epistemological" problems raised in a vacuum (which are intractible, and hence any pinhead can publish journal articles and make "contributions").

From this very modest beginning (of the search for a scientific philosophy), I of course got more than I bargained for in studying the papers of the most brilliant, seething, systematic mind of the 19th century.

The Peircian topics that attracted my attention most were:

* Philosophical architectonics and the classification of the sciences - in which Peirce went far beyond Kant and all others since Aristotle. (Look at these slides within this course .)

* The doctrine of the categories in all of its ramifications, intimately connected with the formal semeiotic. (See this article.) [Link fixed.]

* The development of semeiotic (pronounced like the German "semiotik"), the formal theory of signs (a vast generalization) that absorbs logic proper and deals with the entire machinery - logic, epistemology, metaphysics - at once. For example, the "legisign" (developing an idea of St. Augustine), symbol-index-icon, type/token, signification, interpretant, final causation.

* Peirce's work on the continuum and "supermultitudinous" sets, in parallel with Georg Cantor. ("Continuity the master key" - as in it was, to the categories, the semeiotic, abduction, logic as the normative science, the existential graphs.)

* The development of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma systems of the existential graphs (EGs) (which I think were motivated by continuity and the categories, the representation of "valency" and triadic relations). Apart from anticipating dozens of results of Cantor, Dedekind, Scheffer, Russell, Lesniewski and many others, and developing a matrix method for three-valued logic a decade before Lukasiewicz and Post, he anticipated (by an entire century) Hintikka's game-theoretical interpretation of quantifiers.

Alfred Tarski (among others) always rated C. S. Peirce as one of the greatest logicians of all time... And I always noticed how even in my own institution (the one associated with Alfred Tarski), there are no courses whatsoever on Charles Sanders Peirce.


* Probably the most important standalone works for an entry point to his thought are the 1898 Cambridge Conference Lectures , the 1903 Harvard Lectures , the 1903 Lowell Lectures on Logic (in Vol III/1 of The New Elements of Mathematics ) and the 1893 Grand Logic treatise (unpublished, with fragments in CP Vol IV, The Simplest Mathematics ), and the Peirce-Welby correspondence ( Semiotics and Significs ). The Essential Peirce (2 Vols) and The Philosophy of Mathematics has excerpts from all of these.

* Of course, almost all of his manuscripts (over 150,000 pages) are unpublished; if published they would fill >120 volumes, with ~700 (printed) pages per volume. (Currently there is an effort to publish a "selected edition" of primarily philosophical and logical works, running up to 30 volumes - the Chronological Edition.)

* A new book on his thought: Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism (Cambridge University Press, 2011). I haven't read this yet and can't verify its accuracy; but the point is that more and more of his unpublished work is now being pieced together.