Charles Sanders Peirce: biography of this pragmatic philosopher

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) was an American philosopher and scientist, founder of the American school of pragmatism. He was also a specialist in the logic and theory of language and communication, which greatly influenced the development of philosophy and also much of psychology.

In this article we will see a biography of Charles Sanders Peirce, As well as some of his main theoretical contributions.

    Biography of Charles Sanders Peirce: founder of American pragmatism

    Charles Sanders Peirce was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 10, 1839. He was the fourth child of Sarah Mills and Benjamin Peirce, who was a prominent professor of astronomy and mathematics at Harvard University.

    Like his father, Peirce graduated from Harvard School in 1859 and began studying chemistry at the Lawrende School of Science which was part of the same university. He also worked as a computer assistant to his father, with whom he did important work in astronomy, at the Harvard Observatory.

    As part of it, between 1873 and 1886, Charles Sanders Peirce conducted experiments on approximately 20 space stations in the United States, Europe and Canada. In these experiments, he used pendulums designed by himself. This gave him significant international recognition and this led him to work for many years as a chemical engineer, mathematician and inventor. Likewise, his practical involvement in physics led him to ultimately reject scientific determinism.

    In 1867, Peirce he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, In addition to being a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences in 1877 and, three years later, was elected a fellow of the London Mathematical Society.

    So for a long time he practiced mathematics and physics, but he had a particular interest in philosophy, philology and especially logic, Problems which later brought him closer to experimental psychology. He is considered, among other things, to be the father of modern semiotics (the science of signs) and one of the most important philosophers of all time.

      Peirce’s logic

      Through his studies, Pierce linked logic in an important way to the theory of signs; although he is particularly devoted to the study of logic in science or the “logic of science”, that is, induction (such as drawing conclusions or principles from ‘a set of data and a logical mode).

      To the latter, Peirce added two methods of generating hypotheses that he called “back-production” and “removal.” The kidnapping, by Peirce, it is a complement to induction and deductionIn other words, they are closely related tools.

      And he argued that the latter is not only found in the scientific method, but is part of our daily activity. Indeed, when we are confronted with a phenomenon that we can hardly explain, we deploy a range of beliefs which, not being able to provide a solution to our doubts, lead us to generate a series of hypotheses on the phenomenon.

      We then deduce the consequences of this hypothesis and finally test them with the help of experiment. This logic does not make it possible so much to verify which hypothesis is correct, but what each consists of and how it differs from the others, which leads us to value above all all of its practical consequences.

      According to Peirce, all of this could only be understood through a broad knowledge of the methods and reasoning present in all sciences.

      Also, between the studies that have carried out in the logic of science, Pierce analyzed by several years the work of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, concluding that they were arguments with a logic that Pierce qualified as “superficial”, and that they ultimately led him to research in logic, both in philosophy and in other disciplines.

      American pragmatism Pragmaticism

      Peirce argued that the scientific method is also one of the resources for building and changing beliefs one of the most important tools for clarifying complex issues and offer them the right solutions.

      In Peirce’s pragmatism, each idea has meaning through its practical consequences, that is, through its experiential value. And in an attempt to differentiate other strands of pragmatism that began to develop from his work, Pierce dubbed his own tradition of “pragmaticism,” which currently serves as a synonym for the school of “pragmatism”. American and which differs for example from the pragmatism of his colleagues William James and John Dewey.

      remarkable works

      Charles Sanders Peirce has written for over 50 years on topics related to very different areas of knowledge. From mathematics and physics to economics and psychology, to name a few.

      However, his two best-known works are probably the first two in a series of six that were originally compiled in Illustrations of Logic of Science, published in 1877 in the Popular Science Monthly.

      These two articles were: The fixation of belief, where defends the superiority of the scientific method on other methods of resolving doubts and forming beliefs; and How to Clarify Our Ideas, where he establishes a “pragmatic” definition of concepts.

      Other of his best-known books are Photometric Investigations, 1878, and Studies in Logic, 1883. In general terms, Peirce’s extensive work problematizes questions such as the foundations of modern science, the existence or possibility of ‘achieve absolute truth and knowledge from a logical point of view.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Charles Sanders Peirce (2018). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed August 31, 2018. Available at
      • McNabb, D. (2015). Peirce’s Functionalism and Pragmatism: Towards a More Viable Ontology of Mental States. Stoa (6) 11: 61-75.
      • Bruch, R. (2014). Charles Sanders Peirce. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed August 31, 2018. Available at

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