Peirce Philosophy

Peirce Series: Preface

“Postscript” would be more accurate than “preface” since I am writing this at the end of the thread. I’ll be continuing my reading of Peirce, though my upcoming summer posts will not continue in this thread. What I have done here is the following:

  1. Pragmatic Maxim
  2. Settled Opinion
  3. Principles of Inquiry
  4. Signs: Part 1
  5. Signs: Part 2
  6. Grant Franks’ lecture
  7. Metaphysics: Part 1
  8. Metaphysics: Part 2
  9. Reality Outside the Mind (Psychology Today)

The series was never meant to be a pedantic exposition of C. S. Peirce’s work. In fact, I am quite sure I have failed, at least in some respect, to accurately portray Peirce’s thoughts. The posts were, rather, meant to capture my own initiation into Peirce’s work, first with secondary literature (Albert Atkin’s Peirce [2016]) and then with his own writing. I must say, although I enjoyed Atkin’s book and found it informative, the encounter with Peirce’s own writing was a surprisingly rich experience. Even with essays like The Fixation of Belief and How to Make Our Ideas Clear, Peirce’s own treatment of topics arises from a vastly more complex basis than the secondary literature suggests. The way in which he motivates the essays is both more nuanced and more compelling. And the brilliance of his style is engaging to a degree that I could not have anticipated based on the secondary literature. He is also funny and, at times, ruthless to his opposition, and sometimes both (a style of writing that reminds me a lot of N. N. Taleb). Here are some examples:

[M]orality is essentially conservative. Good morals and good manners are identical, except that tradition attaches less importance to the latter. The gentleman is imbued with conservatism. This conservatism is a habit, and it is the law of habit that it tends to spread and extent itself over more and more of the life. […]

[T]he inquiring spirit cannot say the gentlemen are a lot of ignorant fools. To the moral weight cast against progress in science is added the weight of superior learning. Wherever there is a large class of academic professors who are provided with good incomes and looked up to as gentlemen, scientific inquiry must languish. Wherever the bureaucrats are the more learned class, the case will be still worse.

The Scientific Attitude and Fallibilism

And, with regard to the metaphysical categories, he writes:

I do not at present make any definite assertions about these conceptions. I only say, here are three ideas, lying upon the beach of the mysterious ocean. They are worth taking home, and polishing up, and seeing what they are good for.


Copulative and disjunctive propositions are the two kinds of Hypothetical Propositions; and are generally recognizes as such. Kant had a purpose in endeavoring to wrench this plain division into another form, or thought he had; and Kantian Logicians have been too feeble minded to dispute their master.

Reasoning & the Logic of Things – Lecture 3

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