Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), one of America’s greatest philosophers, mathematicians, and logicians, was a difficult and not altogether pleasant character. That, combined with what the establishment regarded as moral lapses, resulted in the fact that he was thwarted in his attempts to obtain a permanent academic post and died a malnourished and impoverished outcast. He was dismissed from his brief stint at Johns Hopkins University, dismissed from his service with the US Coast Survey (a job handed to him by his father, its superintendent), and ostracized by his alma mater—Harvard University.
Despite this grim life, Peirce was the founder of pragmatism, semiotics, and a theory of truth and knowledge that is still popular today. He was a serious student of the history of philosophy and of science and he was generous in acknowledging the influence of others. One of the most important influences is Kant, of whom the young Peirce was a ‘passionate devotee’ ([12.1], 4:2). 1 It is from Kant, for instance, that Peirce inherits a quest for the categories, a penchant for the notion of continuity and a desire to develop an ‘architectonic’ system. But there is also a strong gust of medieval philosophy blowing throughout his work, Duns Scotus in particular. It is from here that Peirce gets his Scholastic realism, which is set against the nominalism and individualism of the British empiricists. But there is also a clear affinity between Peirce and those empiricists. For instance, Peirce credits Berkeley’s arguments that all meaningful language be matched with sensory experience as the precursor of pragmatism: ‘Berkeley on the whole has more right to be considered the introducer of pragmatism
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Publication information: Book title: The Nineteenth Century [Routledge History of Philosophy, V. 7]. Contributors: C. L. Ten - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 357.
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