Charles Sanders Peirce (/ˈpɜrs/, like “purse”, September 10, 1839 – April 19, 1914) was an American philosopher, logician,mathematician, and scientist who is sometimes known as “the father of pragmatism“. He was educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for 30 years. Today he is appreciated largely for his contributions to logic, mathematics, philosophy, scientific methodology, and semiotics, and for his founding of pragmatism.
An innovator in mathematics, statistics, philosophy, research methodology, and various sciences, Peirce considered himself, first and foremost, a logician. He made major contributions to logic, but logic for him encompassed much of that which is now calledepistemology and philosophy of science. He saw logic as the formal branch of semiotics, of which he is a founder, and which foreshadowed the debate among logical positivists and proponents of philosophy of language that dominated 20th century Western philosophy; additionally, he defined the concept of abductive reasoning, as well as rigorously formulated mathematical induction anddeductive reasoning. As early as 1886 he saw that logical operations could be carried out by electrical switching circuits; the same idea was used decades later to produce digital computers.
In 1934, the philosopher Paul Weiss called Peirce “the most original and versatile of American philosophers and America’s greatest logician”. Webster’s Biographical Dictionary said in 1943 that Peirce was “now regarded as the most original thinker and greatest logician of his time.” Keith Devlin similarly referred to Peirce as one of the greatest philosophers ever.
This text is derived from CP 6.452-521 (see the main Peirce page for an explanation of abbreviations used in citing the works of Peirce). However it is rearranged into chronological order, which in this case may be easier for the general reader to follow. Peirce’s ‘Answers to Questions Concerning My Belief in God’ are written in a relatively informal style, while ‘The Neglected Argument for the Reality of God’ was carefully composed and revised for publication in the Hibbert Journal (October 1908). However, many readers will find the latter essay easier to follow after reading Peirce’s less formal explanation of what ‘God’ means to him.
Peirce sent a copy of his ‘Neglected Argument’ article to Lady Victoria Welby, and she wrote back asking several questions about terms he used in it; his reply appears in SS, 66-72 (1908 Dec. 14).
The contents of this page are as follows:
- Introductory: All knowledge is based on experience (CP 6.492-3, ‘From an unpaginated fragment, c. 1896’)
- Answers to Questions Concerning My Belief in God (c. 1906; CP 6.494-521)