Peirce and Contemporary Thought: Philosophical Inquiries

Peirce and Contemporary Thought: Philosophical Inquiries

Peirce and Contemporary Thought: Philosophical Inquiries

Peirce and Contemporary Thought: Philosophical Inquiries

Excerpt

Often a length of time is required after the passing of a master thinker before civilization acknowledges him or her as someone of permanent importance. This process is now occurring in regard to Charles Sanders Peirce eighty years after his death in 1914. This book, with twenty-three essays by distinguished scholars of our day, is strong support for that truth, as is the entire international congress from which these presentations arose and those of other scholars in attendance. Furthermore, this volume (and others like it from the 1989 Congress now appearing ) forms a bulwark against a number of previously popular but erroneous opinions about Peirce and his work.

Perhaps the most unfortunate of these is what in 1976 (at the first international Peirce Congress) I called the doctrine of Peirce’s interesting failure. Briefly stated, this is the view that Peirce’s work was a regrettable failure, but that there are a few nuggets within it which can be brought out of the mud and shined up to some purpose. It might be an interesting exercise to compare the state of Peirce studies in 1976 with conditions today. A closely related notion sometimes advanced is the slogan that “we must go beyond Peirce, who after all was but a mere precursor.” While the ideas of honoring pioneers and of seeking further progress surely appeal to all scientific intelligences, it is poor economy of research to dash ahead without being fully aware of the progress made by one’s ancestors. That is to say, how can we go beyond Peirce if we have not yet caught up to the waypoints he reached? That Peirce was ahead of his time, and in some respects is still ahead of our time, is a theme one finds recurring in serious Peirce scholarship.

Yes, there have been and still are barriers in the way of our access to Peirce. In past decades only those persons who made the effort to work with Peirce’s manuscripts could really appreciate the full greatness of his accomplishments. It is pleasing to . . .

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