Who is the most original and the most versatile intellect that
the Americas have so far produced? The answer "Charles S. Peirce"
is uncontested, because any second would be so far behind as not
to be worth nominating. Mathematician, astronomer, chemist,
geodesist, surveyor, cartographer, metrologist, spectroscopist,
engineer, inventor; psychologist, philologist, lexicographer,
historian of science, mathematical economist, lifelong student of
medicine; book reviewer, dramatist, actor, short story writer;
phenomenologist, semiotician, logician, rhetorician and
metaphysician. He was, for a few examples, the first modern
experimental psychologist in the Americas, the first metrologist
to use a wave-length of light as a unit of measure, the inventor
of the quincuncial projection of the sphere, the first known
conceiver of the design and theory of an electric
switching-circuit computer, and the founder of "the economy of
research." He is the only system-building philosopher in the
Americas who has been both competent and productive in logic,
in mathematics, and in a wide range of sciences. If he has had
any equals in that respect in the entire history of philosophy,
they do not number more than two.
Max H. Fisch in Sebeok, The Play of Musement
Born 10 September 1839; died 19 April 1914
Attended Harvard and the Lawrence Scientific School
(received degree in Chemistry in 1863)
Founder of pragmatism- new methods and ways of
treating truth and meaning.
Derived that human beliefs are originated through
"habits of action," and truth defined as inquiry.
Developed pragmatic theory that an innate correlation
is present between meaning and action, where the meaning or
truth of an idea is to be found in its consequences or
"conceivable sensible effects" in human experience
("…our conception of the effects is the whole of our
conception of the object.")
Therefore, truth or meaning is dependent on the subject’s
conception or paradigm on an idea based on his experiences,
making it ever changing; "that reality, as well as human
knowledge of it, is constantly evolving, as is morality. What
is good or evil… is dependent on its practical outcome… on
its effects on human behavior."(grolier 1995)
Believed that "all beliefs, whether scientific of
religious, were fallible and criticizable."
Science was superior over all other methods of inquiry was
due to its flexibility.
"…investigators of would eventually converge on the
truth, in the infinite long run."
Religion : way of life rather than a way of believing.
Wrote on almost all fields of philosophy, yet never
wrote a book. Essays include:
"The Fixation of Belief" (1877)
"How to Make Our Ideas Clear" (1878)
"A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God" (1908)
*all other quotes taken from "American pragmatism", an essay by Nancy Frankenberry