The Economic Mind in America: Essays in the History of American Economics

By Malcolm Rutherford | Go to book overview

14

PEIRCE’S ECONOMIC REASONING IN HIS METHODOLOGICAL ESSAY, “ON THE LOGIC OF DRAWING HISTORY FROM ANCIENT DOCUMENTS ESPECIALLY FROM TESTIMONIES” 1

James R. Wible

INTRODUCTION

The pragmatist philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, had a lifelong interest in economics and economic aspects of scientific methodology. Although he wrote mostly in the natural sciences, mathematics, and philosophy, there are several significant essays with economic themes. Two of his writings were quite mathematical and would have qualified as state of the art contributions in his time. One of his essays created a mathematical-utility model of the economics of greater precision in empirical scientific research (Peirce 1879). Another was a mathematical model of monopoly with an addendum on consumer theory which included a statement of the axiom of transitivity (Peirce [1874] 1982). Besides these two obvious economic essays, there is a third piece which exhibits an extensive amount of economic reasoning. This third piece exceeds seventy pages in published form and contains several pages and a schematic graph on economic aspects of scientific methodology. The long title to this piece will be abbreviated as “The Logic of History” (Peirce [1901] 1958).

What makes “The Logic of History” so compelling is the sheer scope and magnitude of Peirce’s vision of science. In order to critique the reconstruction of the works of Aristotle by German scholars, Peirce creates what amounts to a new scientific method. This new method is intended as a replacement for existing conceptions of science rooted in the empiricism of David Hume. Peirce patently rejected positivism and his new scientific

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