Thursday, January 16, 2014

NOAA: Giants of Science: C. S. Peirce

The bulk of Peirce's scientific work was accomplished during his years with the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey between the years 1859 and 1891 although he remained active in the philosophical and scientific realm right up until his death in 1914. To give an idea of Peirce's scope of inquiry during his lifetime, he listed the following as his principal areas of research for Cattell's American Men of Science for 1906: "Logic, especially logic of relations, probabilities, theory of inductive and abductive validity; epistemology; metrology; history of science; multiple algebra; doctrine of multitudes; gravity; wavelengths; phonetics of Elizabethan English; great men; ethics; phaneroscopy; cosmology; experimental psychology; physical geometry. -- Foundations of mathematics; classification of science; code of terminology; topical geometry.">
It's really baffling that Peirce is not acknowledged as the towering intellectual force he actually was. Even American/analytic philosophers, who typically hyperventilate over any philosopher with actual mathematical or scientific bona fides, typically ignore (and, in fact, remain largely ignorant of) Peirce's accomplishments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it either. I guess that's what happens when it becomes acceptable/condoned not read entire schools of thought. Never mind that Peirce insisted that pragmatism wasn't a theory of truth, he's still a pragmatist (and they don't believe in truth!), and so, for most of the 20th century anyway--especially with the rise of analytic philosophy--that essentially guaranteed that you weren't worth reading. Ironic considering that he could have saved folks like Putnam, Quine, Davidson and the rest a lot of time, insofar as the project was clearly doomed from the start. That said, at least with Peirce it seems people now at least realize that he was a towering intellectual force, even if they're wholly ignorant of the specifics. With someone like James, however, it seems that outside of the SAAP circle people are still perfectly willing to keep discussing caricatures of James without ever having read a word of his work, but I digress . . .

10:26 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Do they realize that Peirce was an intellectual force? I just don't know. Even most analytic-ish philosophers I know don't seem--to me, anyway--to recognize it.

James...that guy...kind of brings it on himself IMHO with the goofy breeziness and silly terminology. I, too, have been guilty of deriding the guy, though when I was reading *Pragmatism* again recently I thought "Wow, this guy's a lot better than I remembered him..."

10:36 AM  

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