30
CHARLES SANDERS PEIRCE

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), born in Cambridge, the son of a Harvard University mathematician, was a scientist and philosopher. He received his M.A. in mathematics and chemistry, and worked for three years at the Harvard astronomical observatory. From 1861 to 1891 he was associated with the U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Survey. He also lectured at Johns Hopkins University but was never a permanent member of the faculty. Although he deplored the popularization of his thought by William James, James was a loyal friend who introduced Peirce's theories to the intellectual public. Peirce is primarily known for having identified a third type of reasoning in addition to the two standard forms, deduction and induction, which he named “abduction,” and which has subsequently been known as reasoning to the best explanation. He is also the father of pragmatism (from the Greek word pragma, meaning act or deed), which emphasizes the practical nature of philosophy.

In the 1870s Peirce published a series in Popular Science Monthly, one of which was “The Fixation of Belief,” which is reprinted below. The essay argues that the function of coming to believe something is to relieve the disturbance of uncertainty and doubt. He distinguishes four ways of coming to a settled belief about some issue or subject matter: the methods of tenacity, authority, natural preferences, and science, the method that Peirce prefers.


FOR FURTHER READING

Ayer, A. J. Origins of Pragmatism: Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James (Macmillan, 1968).

Kuklick, Bruce. The Rise of American Philosophy (Yale University Press, 1977).

Murphy, John. Pragmatism: From Peirce to Davidson (Westview Press, 1990).

Peirce, C. S. Essays in the Philosophy of Science (Liberal Arts Library, 1957).

Quine, W. V., and Joseph Ullian. The Web of Belief 2nd ed. (Random House, 1978).

Scheffler, Israel. Four Pragmatists (Humanities Press, 1974).

Smith, John. The Spirit of American Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1963).

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Classics of Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Time Line xi
  • Part One - The Ancient Period 1
  • 1: The Pre-Socratics 3
  • 2: Plato 20
  • 3: Aristotle 240
  • 4: Epicurus 357
  • 5: Epictetus 363
  • 6: Sextus Empiricus 374
  • 7: Plotinus 391
  • Part Two - The Medieval Period 405
  • 8: Augustine 407
  • 9: Boethius 447
  • 10: Avicenna 455
  • 11: Anselm and Gaunilo 458
  • 12: Thomas Aquinas 462
  • 13: William of Ockham 486
  • Part Three - The Modern Period 493
  • 14: RenÉ Descartes 495
  • 15: Thomas Hobbes 525
  • 16: Blaise Pascal 566
  • 17: Baruch Spinoza 570
  • 18: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 618
  • 19: John Locke 652
  • 20: George Berkeley 690
  • 21: William Paley 723
  • 22: David Hume 726
  • 23: Immanuel Kant 819
  • 24: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 914
  • 25: SØren Kierkegaard 922
  • 26: Mary Wollstonecraft 935
  • 27: John Stuart Mill 942
  • 28: Friedrich Nietzsche 1030
  • Part Four - The Contemporary Period 1059
  • 29: W. K. Clifford 1061
  • 30: Charles Sanders Peirce 1066
  • 31: William James 1076
  • 32: Bertrand Russell 1100
  • 33: G. E. Moore 1142
  • 34: Ludwig Wittgenstein 1150
  • 35: Edmund Husserl 1168
  • 36: Martin Heidegger 1185
  • 37: Jean-Paul Sartre 1207
  • 38: A. J. Ayer 1225
  • 39: Thomas Nagel 1234
  • 40: Philippa Foot 1242
  • 41: Nelson Goodman 1249
  • 42: John Rawls 1254
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