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Pragmatism and process philosophy
What is pragmatism?
Pragmatism is a distinctively American philosophy that originated in community discussion groups and came to define the philosophy department at Harvard University during the late nineteenth century. While not as scientific in perspective as some philosophy in Europe during the same time, it represented an effort to think in a practical way.
Charles Sanders Peirce
Who was Charles Sanders Peirce?
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) is recognized as the founder and originator of pragmatism, although his intellectual expertise extended to logic, mathematics, economics, social science, the physical sciences, and geodesic work. Peirce's published writings date from 1857 until his death and constitute 12,000 printed pages. There are, in addition, 80,000 pages of his unpublished hand-written work. His principal works, published posthumously, are edited volumes, such as The New Elements of Mathematics (four volumes, 1976), The Essential Peirce (two volumes, 1992 and 1998), and Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition (five volumes, 1882-1993).
What are some key facts about Charles Peirce's career and life?
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father, Benjamin, was professor of mathematics at Harvard University and a founder of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Smithsonian Institution. (Benjamin Peirce is also said to have built the Harvard department of mathematics.) At the age of 12, young Charles discovered logic, and at 16, he began his independent study of philosophy. In 1859 he graduated from Harvard, unsure of "what I would do in life." His primary interest was in logic, for which there were no career opportunities. He practiced geodesy for several years and returned to Harvard to study natural history and philosophy in 1861. He got a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1863, graduating summa cum laude.
Peirce continued his studies of logic on his own and has been considered to be one of the greatest logicians of all times. Although he disagreed with Immanuel Kant's (1724-1804) insistence that space was Euclidean and later moved to Friedrich Hegel's
Why were all of Charles Peirce's works published posthumously?
Peirce neither published nor prepared for publication the greater part of his work. When he died, his widow, Juliette, sold his papers to the Harvard University Philosophy Department (for $6,000). Josiah Royce (1855-1916) was supposed to supervise their organization, but he died two years later; many of the papers were subsequently lost, misplaced, allowed to become disorganized, or simply taken. The late mathematics historian Carolyn Eisele, while conducting some research, chanced upon a trunk of Peirce's writings in the mid 1950s in a corner of the basement of Widener Library.
The first edition of Peirce's Collected Papers was put together by Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Burks during the 1930s. Critics have deemed this collection arbitrary and not truly representative of Peirce's thought because it makes Peirce seem unnecessarily obscure and does not clarify the progression of his ideas. A Chronological Edition (1989) of Pierce's work, edited by the Peirce Edition Project of the Indiana University at Indianapolis, has produced more coherent results, covering the period from 1857-1886. Two other well-regarded efforts are Peirce's Cambridge Conferences Lectures of1898 (1992) and Peirce's Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism of1903 (1997).
(1770-1831) objective idealism, Kant remained a dominating influence over his philosophical ideas. Peirce's philosophy was a distinct form of pragmatism, which he called "Pragmaticism."
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