Charles Sanders Peirce - Reception


Bertrand Russell (1959) wrote, "Beyond doubt he was one of the most original minds of the later nineteenth century, and certainly the greatest American thinker ever." (Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, published from 1910 to 1913, does not mention Peirce; Peirce's work was not widely known till later.) A. N. Whitehead, while reading some of Peirce's unpublished manuscripts soon after arriving at Harvard in 1924, was struck by how Peirce had anticipated his own "process" thinking. (On Peirce and process metaphysics, see Lowe 1964.) Karl Popper viewed Peirce as "one of the greatest philosophers of all times". Yet Peirce's achievements were not immediately recognized. His imposing contemporaries William James and Josiah Royce admired him, and Cassius Jackson Keyser at Columbia and C. K. Ogden wrote about Peirce with respect, but to no immediate effect.

The first scholar to give Peirce his considered professional attention was Royce's student Morris Raphael Cohen, the editor of an anthology of Peirce's writings titled Chance, Love, and Logic (1923) and the author of the first bibliography of Peirce's scattered writings. John Dewey studied under Peirce at Johns Hopkins and, from 1916 onwards, Dewey's writings repeatedly mention Peirce with deference. His 1938 Logic: The Theory of Inquiry is much influenced by Peirce. The publication of the first six volumes of the Collected Papers (1931–35), the most important event to date in Peirce studies and one that Cohen made possible by raising the needed funds, did not prompt an outpouring of secondary studies. The editors of those volumes, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, did not become Peirce specialists. Early landmarks of the secondary literature include the monographs by Buchler (1939), Feibleman (1946), and Goudge (1950), the 1941 Ph.D. thesis by Arthur W. Burks (who went on to edit volumes 7 and 8), and the studies edited by Wiener and Young (1952). The Charles S. Peirce Society was founded in 1946. Its Transactions, an academic quarterly specializing in Peirce, pragmatism, and American philosophy, has appeared since 1965.

In 1949, while doing unrelated archival work, the historian of mathematics Carolyn Eisele (1902–2000) chanced on an autograph letter by Peirce. So began her 40 years of research on Peirce the mathematician and scientist, culminating in Eisele (1976, 1979, 1985). Beginning around 1960, the philosopher and historian of ideas Max Fisch (1900–1995) emerged as an authority on Peirce; Fisch (1986) includes many of his relevant articles, including a wide-ranging survey (Fisch 1986: 422–48) of the impact of Peirce's thought through 1983.

Peirce has gained a significant international following, marked by university research centers devoted to Peirce studies and pragmatism in Brazil (CeneP/CIEP), Finland (HPRC, including Commens), Germany (Wirth's group, Hoffman's and Otte's group, and Deuser's and Härle's group), France (L'I.R.S.C.E.), Spain (GEP), and Italy (CSP). His writings have been translated into several languages, including German, French, Finnish, Spanish, and Swedish. Since 1950, there have been French, Italian, Spanish, British, and Brazilian Peirceans of note. For many years, the North American philosophy department most devoted to Peirce was the University of Toronto's, thanks in good part to the leadership of Thomas Goudge and David Savan. In recent years, U.S. Peirce scholars have clustered at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, home of the Peirce Edition Project (PEP), and the Pennsylvania State University.

Currently, considerable interest is being taken in Peirce's ideas by researchers wholly outside the arena of academic philosophy. The interest comes from industry, business, technology, intelligence organizations, and the military; and it has resulted in the existence of a substantial number of agencies, institutes, businesses, and laboratories in which ongoing research into and development of Peircean concepts are being vigorously undertaken. —Robert Burch, 2001, updated 2010

Read more about this topic:  Charles Sanders Peirce

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