Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sander Peirce, an eminent philosopher, scientist and logician was born on September 10, 1839, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was son of the prominent scientist, Benjamin Charles Sanders Pierce, who was also a professor of mathematics at Harvard. Charles was raised in an intellectual environment stimulated by the presence of eminent literary personalities, intellectual discourse, and access to the works of influential philosophers. His father took responsibility of his education, and under his supervision, Charles developed a profound understanding of logic and a blossoming fascination with philosophy.

In 1885, he began his education at Harvard University, where he befriended future philosopher and psychologist William James, and this marked the start of what was going to be a life-long friendship. During his first year at Harvard, Charles pursued Philosophy, particularly focusing on Kant. He graduated in 1859, and decided to pursue his Master from Harvard. In 1862, he received his Master’s degree. Four years later, he also received a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry, summa cum laude.

In 1859, Peirce was appointed as a scientist by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. He served this position until 1891, and meanwhile, he devoted his free time to pursue his education in logic. During his service at the Survey, Charles was commissioned to Europe thrice, first in 1870, in 1875 and then in 1877. In 1869, he was offered the post of an assistant at the astronomical observatory at Harvard, he worked there till 1872. In 1867, he was made a member of The Academy of Arts and Science, and in 1877, he was also made a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1878, he published “Photometric Researches”, his only book to be published during his lifetime. In 1879, he was appointed as a lecturer of logic at the John Hopkins University, the only academic post he ever held. In 1883, he compiled and edited “Studies in Logic”, through the notes collected by him and his students of his lectures.

After leaving his position at the Survey, Charles encountered severe financial difficulties, and after purchasing a house in Milford, Pennsylvania, he lived on financial aid and occasionally took up odd and temporary jobs such as translator and scientific consultant. William James remained a constant companion throughout his life, and he helped him through these hard times and also, arranged two paid lectures on Pragmatism for him at the University of Harvard. Regardless of the financial turmoil in his life, Charles devoted his energies to his literary compilations, and his works were published in notable academic and literary journals such as Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, or the American Journal of Mathematics. His best known works are How to Make Our Ideas Clear?”, where he established his concept of pragmatic philosophy, and The Fixation of Belief”, where he advocated the scientific method, and described it as the only way through which progress towards ultimate knowledge can be made. Peirce is widely considered the founder of the school of Pragmatism, and he is accredited for coining the term, “Pragmaticism”.

Charles Sanders Pierce made a great deal of innovative and insightful literary contributions covering a diverse range of topic such as logic, mathematics, geodesy, astronomy, physics, philosophy, and economics among others. Some of his highly acclaimed and widely read works include “What Pragmatism Is”, “Issues of Pragmaticism”, “Prolegomena To an Apology For Pragmaticism”, “Grounds of Validity of the Laws of Logic: Further Consequences of Four Incapacities”, “The Monist Metaphysical Series”, “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God”, “Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce” (8 volumes),  “Reasoning and the Logic of Things: the Cambridge Conferences Lectures of 1898”, “The Essential Charles Sanders Peirce. Selected Philosophical Writings” “Description of a Notation for the Logic of Relatives” and “On the Algebra of Logic”.

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