Charles Sanders Peirce

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Charles Sanders Peirce around 1870

Charles Santiago Sanders Peirce (pronounced: / 'pɜrs / as: pörs ) (born September 10, 1839 in Cambridge , Massachusetts , † April 19, 1914 in Milford , Pennsylvania ) was an American mathematician , philosopher , logician and semiotic .

Alongside William James and John Dewey, Peirce is one of the leading thinkers of pragmatism , although he later clearly distanced himself from the developments in pragmatic philosophy (in particular he turned against the relativistic philosophy of utility , which many pragmatists taught as the basic principle of truth with pragmatism ) and called his philosophical concept from then on pragmatism to distinguish himself from James, Dewey, Schiller and Royce; he is also considered the founder of modern semiotics . Bertrand Russell and Karl-Otto Apel called him the "greatest American thinker", Karl Popper even considered him "one of the greatest philosophers of all time".

Peirce made important contributions to modern logic , including:

  • He introduced a significance test that checks whether one or more measurements belong to the same normal distribution as the others.
  • He proved that from the logical not-and - ( NAND ) or the logical not-or operation ( NOR , also called Peirce operator in his honor ) all other propositional connectives can be derived.
  • He introduced the standard notation for first-order predicate logic .
  • Main theories in semiotics : Theory of signs and Theory of meaning .
  • He is often credited with introducing the truth tables in 1885 as a means of checking whether a compound statement is a tautology . But you can find this semantic decision-making process somewhat abstract in Boole . However, Peirce made the purpose of obtaining tautology clear.

Peirce also dealt with logical inference and, in addition to the well-known induction and deduction, introduced abduction ( hypothesis ) as the third way of inferring logic. From the sequence of abduction, deduction and induction, he developed a cognitive and scientific theory approach.


Benjamin Peirce

Peirce was born in Cambridge , Massachusetts , the second of five children to Sarah and Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880). His father was a professor of astronomy and mathematics at Harvard University and has been proven to be the first serious research mathematician in the United States. His living environment was that of a well-off, educated middle class . As a boy, Peirce received the establishment of a chemistry laboratory from an uncle. His father recognized his talent and tried to give him a comprehensive education. At the age of 16 he began to read The Critique of Pure Reason . It took him three years to study the work, which he dealt with for several hours every day, after which, according to his own statements, he knew the book almost by heart. Peirce studied at Harvard University and the Lawrence Scientific School. He passed the Master of Arts in 1862 and was one of the first (1863) to take a Bachelor of Science in chemistry - with summa cum laude . While still studying chemistry, he married Harriett Melusina Fay , who came from a prominent family of pastors. She published books on general political issues and was active in the women's rights movement.

From 1859 to 1891 he worked intermittently with the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey . From 1861 he had a regular position so that he did not have to take part in the American Civil War . He received this position through the mediation of his father, who, as one of the founders of this authority, acted as a supervisory board. Peirce's field of activity was in the field of geodesy and gravimetry in the further development of the use of pendulums to determine local deviations in earth's gravity . At Harvard, Peirce held part-time lectures on the history of science and the theory of science between 1864 and 1870 . Already at this point in time, the manuscripts of the lectures contain almost all of the basic philosophy topics that occupied him throughout his life. At the beginning he was strongly influenced by Kant, but dealt intensively with questions of logic and initially developed his own theory of categories. The logical work was in the foreground in the first few years. In 1865 he dealt with the new logic of George Boole and in 1866 he received a special edition of Augustus De Morgan's Logic of Relatives, which gave his thought development an essential impulse. In 1867 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , in 1877 to the National Academy of Sciences . In 1868 Peirce published a series of articles in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAAAS, Volume 7, 1868).

  • On an Improvement in Boole's Calculus of Logic
  • On the Natural Classification of Arguments
  • On a New List of Categories
  • Upon the Logic of Mathematics

Shortly afterwards he published the second series of articles in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy

  • Nominalism versus Realism
  • What is meant by 'Determined'?
  • Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man
  • Some Consequences of Four Incapacities
  • Grounds of the Validity of the Laws of Logic. Further Consequences of Four Incapacities

Beginning in 1869, Peirce wrote at irregular intervals a large number of reviews and smaller articles in The Nation , the Sunday edition of the New York Evening Post. At the turn of the year 1869/70 Peirce again gave lectures on the history of logic with a focus on "British Logicians" at Harvard University.

In the 1860s Peirce was interested in the astronomical research of the same age George Mary Searle , who was also active for the Coast Survey and the Harvard Observatory during this time. From 1869 to 1872, Peirce himself worked at Harvard's astronomical observatory as an assistant on questions of photometry for determining the brightness of stars and the structure of the Milky Way. In 1870 a small, but important for Peirce and Logiker, work on the logic of relatives (terms) appeared, which was also published as a lecture to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences under the title Description of a Notation for the Logic of Relatives, Resulting from the Amplification of Boole's Calculus of Logic (CP 3.45-148). Important for Peirce and also for William James was a circle of young scientists from different disciplines at the beginning of the 1870s, which was called the "metaphysical club". Here Peirce got to know the philosophy of Alexander Bain , from whom he adopted the principle of doubt and beliefs that determine the actions of people. Peirce presented his basic ideas on pragmatism and put them up for debate, which later resulted in his important series of essays from 1877/78. This Popular Science publication is commonly referred to as the birth of pragmatism. The series of articles includes the titles

  • The Fixation of Belief (1877)
  • How to Make Our Ideas Clear (1878)
  • The Doctrine of Chances (1878)
  • The Probability of Induction (1878)
  • The Order of Nature (1878)
  • Deduction, Induction, and Hypothesis (1878)

Between 1871 and 1888, Peirce was able to undertake a total of five research trips, each lasting several months, to Europe , where he met a number of prominent scientists. In a report to the Coast Survey in 1879, Peirce presented a new method of map projection, which he called "quincunx" or "quincunial projection". This type of projection was proposed (in an expanded version) by the Coast Survey during World War II as being particularly suitable for recording international flight routes. In 1879 Peirce was "half-time lecturer of logic" at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore , his only permanent academic position. There were among others John Dewey and Josiah Royce his listeners. During this time, A Brief Description of the Algebra of Relatives (1882, private print) and Studies in Logic by Members of the Johns Hopkins University (1883) were published.

Apart from this position, Peirce never again had a permanent academic position. His biographers see his difficult personality as the cause. There are suspicions that he was manic-depressive (Brent). His first wife left him in 1876 during a stay in Europe, from which she returned alone. Neither of them commented on the reason. Soon afterwards he entered into a relationship with Juliette Froissy (maiden name not confirmed), with whom he lived unmarried until his divorce from Fay in 1883. He married Juliette just two days after the divorce. Presumably because of the associated scandal, he lost his post at Johns Hopkins University in 1884.

Arisbe - Peirce's home from 1887 in 2011
Juliette and Charles Peirce in 1907

In 1887 Peirce used his parents' inheritance to buy a farm near Milford, Pennsylvania, where he spent the rest of his life writing incessantly, with the exception of a few trips, particularly to give lectures. In the late 1880s, Peirce was a major contributor to The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia , a 450,000-word encyclopedia edited by James Mark Baldwin in the fields of mechanics, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and philosophy. After he had submitted an extensive scientific report on his pendulum tests to the US Coast Survey, but this had been rejected by the recently reigning superintendent Thomas C. Mendenhall , Peirce gave up his position with this agency after more than 30 years in late 1891. With that he had lost his secure economic livelihood and now had to earn his living exclusively through teaching, translations, lectures and publications. An essential basis were encyclopedia articles as well as the reviews in the magazine The Nation , with whose editor Wendell Phillips Garrison Peirce was on friendly terms. Through another friendship with a judge, he also found access to Paul Carus , the editor of the magazine The Monist , in which he published a large number of articles from around 1890 . Only late did Peirce develop his metaphysical ideas, especially those of the continuum and the integration of evolution into his philosophy. Peirce dealt with this topic in his first series of essays in The Monist (1891–1893):

  • The Architecture of Theories
  • The Doctrine of Necessity Examined
  • The Law of Mind
  • Man's Glassy Essence
  • Evolutionary Love
  • Reply to the Necessitarians

A series of articles from 1892 in The Open Court , a magazine also published by Carus, focused on logic and methods of logical reasoning :

  • Pythagorics
  • The Critic of Arguments I. Exact Thinking
  • Dmesis
  • The Critic of Arguments II. The Reader is Introduced to Relatives

The formal and mathematical demands of this series of articles were so high that two further articles, the manuscripts of which had already been completed, were no longer published:

  • The Critic of Arguments III. Synthetical propositions a priori
  • The Critic of Arguments IV.

Peirce's relationship to religion results, among other things, from three articles in The Open Court from 1893, in which, on the one hand, he advocated a clear separation of science and religion, and, on the other, criticized the encrustations and fragmentation of the constituted churches. Love is the principle for life and the only foundation of a universal religion. The titles of the essays are:

  • The Marriage of Religion and Science
  • Cogito Ergo Sum
  • What is Christian Faith
Grave of Charles S. and Juliette Peirce

In the following years he began a series of book projects, which, however, could not be realized, although the manuscripts were already well advanced in some cases. In the winter of 1892/93 Peirce was able to give 12 lectures on the history of science at the Lowell Institute. In the course of time he got into ever greater financial difficulties that stayed with him until the end of his life. Often enough there was not enough money to even procure food or fuel for heating. On the mediation of William James, with whom he had been friends since he was studying chemistry, Peirce was able to hold a series of lectures in Cambridge in 1898 on the general topic of Reasoning and the Logic of Things . In 1903 James was able to help again, so that Peirce was given the opportunity to attend a series of lectures at Harvard on Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking . Also in 1903 Peirce was able to give eight lectures at the Lowell Institute on Some Topics of Logic Bearing on Questions Now Vexed . The three lecture series are important for the reception, as Peirce, at James' insistence, had tried not to make his lectures too difficult, but to gear them towards a general audience. In a relatively mature stage of his thinking, Peirce presented essential cornerstones of his philosophy in a closed context, but did not publish it. Another overview of Peirce's thinking is provided by an application from 1902 for a scholarship from the Carnegie Institution , in which he explains in an extensive synopsis how he could present his philosophy in a closed work. However, his application was rejected. Also in 1903 was the review of the book What is Meaning by Victoria Lady Welby . To clarify the concept of meaning, she found a semiotic approach with three degrees of signification. This resulted in a long-term correspondence from which extensive explanations on semiotics resulted. In the years 1905 to 1907 Peirce distanced himself more and more from the other pragmatists and finally called his philosophy pragmatism . From 1906 he was supported by a foundation that James had brought into being. Peirce remained without children and died of cancer in 1914, twenty years before his widow.


(see also the - incomplete - list of the writings of Charles Sanders Peirce )

Peirce never published his thoughts on mathematics , logic and philosophy in a closed work. While at Johns Hopkins University, he published Studies in Logic (1883), which contained some chapters by himself and others by his doctoral students . Its reputation is originally based almost exclusively on articles in specialist journals.

After his death, Harvard University acquired the papers from his estate at Josiah Royce's initiative. Since Royce died in 1916, there was no planned processing of the material. A small, incomplete catalog was written. The documents were packed in 83 boxes and initially disappeared in the university's archives. It is thanks to Morris Raphael Cohen, who in 1923 published an anthology under the title Chance, Love and Logic with some important essays by Peirce, that Peirce continued to be received . Attached is an essay by Dewey from 1916, which he wrote in retrospect on Peirce.

The intention of publishing Peirce's works was not taken up until the 1930s at Harvard by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss . Most of the publications as well as extensive unpublished material were thematically compiled from the abundance of material and published in six volumes as Collected Papers between 1931 and 1935 . The subjects of the volumes are:

  • I. Principles of Philosophy (1931)
  • II. Elements of Logic (1932)
  • III. Exact Logic (1933)
  • IV. The Simplest Mathematics (1933)
  • V. Pragmatism and Pragmaticism (1934)
  • VI. Scientific Metaphysics (1935)

Two further volumes were only supplemented with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation after the Second World War and edited by Arthur W. Burks :

  • VII. Science and Philosophy (1958)
  • VIII. Reviews, Correspondence, and Bibliography (1958)

It was only with the publication of the Collected Papers that people began to deal more intensively with the work of Peirce. Due to the systematic compilation of the Collected Papers , however, the inner context of the work has been partially lost. Thus essay series and lectures were partly distributed among the various volumes and works from different phases of development were placed side by side, although Peirce's development of thought can be observed. In some cases, fragments of different texts that did not belong together were put together for the purpose of systematic presentation.

Systematic cataloging and microfilming only began after the Collected Papers had been published . The microfilming was only (temporarily) completed in 1966. Additions were repeatedly found in the archives, most recently in 1969, so that the microfilm files and the catalogs had to be updated. The current cataloging is based on the year 1971. Only then did it become clear that Peirce had left around 1650 unpublished manuscripts with approx. 80,000 handwritten pages in addition to the 12,000 printed pages of his work , the majority of which are still unpublished today. Some of the documents that did not go to Harvard were lost because they were burned after the death of Peirce's wife Juliette. Since the Collected Papers are incomplete and do not meet all scientific requirements, a critical , chronologically organized edition was started in the 1970s as part of the so-called Peirce Edition Project , in which six of the planned approx. 30 volumes were published by 2004 cover the period up to 1890. An essential addition to the printed works is the edition of predominantly mathematical and scientific writings in four volumes (five sub-volumes) under the title The New Elements of Mathematics from 1976 by Carolyn Eisele. The reviews and articles for The Nation magazine are included in the four-volume edition CS Peirce: Contributions to the Nation by Ketner / Cook from 1975–1979. Another important source is Semiotic and Significs. The Correspondence between CHARLES S. PEIRCE and VICTORIA LADY WELBY , edited by Charles S. Hardwick (1977).

Peirce's writings cover a wide field of disciplines: from astronomy to meteorology, geodesy, mathematics, logic, philosophy, history and philosophy of science, linguistics , economics and psychology . His work on these topics has recently received renewed attention and approval. This revival is not only stimulated by the anticipation of current scientific developments by Peirce, but above all by the fact that his triadic philosophy and semiotics are both in modern logic and in many scientific areas from linguistics to law and religious studies to computer science provides a key to the methodical structuring of the material for practical work.

In 1881, independently of Ferdinand Georg Frobenius, Peirce proved Frobenius ' theorem for the classification of finite-dimensional real associative division algebras.


Category theory

As a basis for all further considerations, Peirce developed a theory of categories that does not deal with the types of knowledge , as with Kant , but with the modes of being and forms the basis of his doctrine of signs . Peirce's categories cannot be described with logic, but can only be examined phenomenologically. They are contained in every phenomenon and are therefore universal. Conceptually, Peirce differentiated purely formal first , second and third as forms in which everything that is is reflected:

  • Primacy is the being of something without reference to anything else. It is being in itself that exists as a pure possibility (e.g. redness as a possibility);
  • Secondity is the determination of what is here and now of something (the opposition of two as yet unreflected feelings);
  • Third is the principle behind things, the regularity associated with the appearance (e.g. that a door can be opened, that a table has a shelf, the algorithm of the computer program).
The reduction of Immanuel Kant's categories by Charles S. Peirce
unit quality modality
Multiplicity reality relation possibility Firstness
Allness negation Substance and commercial work existence Secondness
Limitation cause and effect need Thirdness
Interaction (action and suffering)
Kant Peirce
Comparison of the categories of Immanuel Kant and Charles S. Peirce

In a critical analysis of Kant's categories, Peirce showed that these can be traced back to the function of the modality and have a correspondence with his own categories by setting possibility = first, topicality = second and necessity = third. The situation is similar with the relations quality (1), fact (2) and behavior or law (3) as well as with the terms object (1), relation (2) and representation (3). The triad was for Peirce a fundamental perspective on all the phenomena, and he looked even in the Christian Trinity confirmed. Although the categories can be conceptually differentiated, they cannot be separated. They are all contained in every thought and can only be grasped with clarity in a long process of appropriation. Accordingly, there are repeatedly texts from Peirce with different approaches to the categories.


Peirce's conception of consciousness is closely related to the theory of categories. In doing so, he tried to apply the previous distinction between the mind in philosophy (including Kant) into the three parts of feeling (pleasure and pain), will (willpower and desire) and knowledge (knowledge) to a more scientific basis, also suitable for psychology put. The as yet unreflected consciousness as a bundle of representations is first. The categories can in turn be identified in the consciousness. The appearance of primacy in consciousness is the pure feeling or the feeling quality, the feeling of immediate consciousness without reference to anything else. It can be described as the unanalysed appearance of all qualities in one moment:

The non-analyzed overall impression, which is evoked by some variety and is not thought of as an actual fact, but simply as a quality, as a simple positive possibility of appearance, is an idea of ​​firstness. (S&S 25)

The appearance of the secondness in consciousness, which Peirce called "age sense", is the confrontation with the other, is the consciousness of the here and now. The second aspect of consciousness includes sensory perceptions as living experiences. This also includes the will or wish as a sensation without reflection on what is desired. The second is the experience of duality. Just like firstness, thinking is also abstracted here. Neither pure feeling on the level of firstness nor the sensation of the counterpart, of the other on the level of secondness can be concretely put into terms. Once this happens, one moves into the third level, which is the level of thought. Secondity can be predominantly active, then the feeling of will dominates. If, on the other hand, it is predominantly passive, then the sensations dominate.

Peirce called the appearance of thirdness in consciousness “medisense”, in which the relationship to an object is represented. This includes thinking, learning, the awareness of something third. This mode of awareness, with sufficient repetition, leads to behavioral habits.

There are no other forms of consciousness other than the three that have been mentioned, feeling, senile sense, and medisense. They form a kind of system. Feeling is the presently present content of consciousness in its original simplicity, independent of anything else. It is consciousness in its first stage and could be called "primisense". "Sense of old age" is the awareness of an immediately present other or second who opposes us. “Medisense” is the awareness of a third party or a medium between primisense and senescence and leads from the former to the latter. It is the awareness of a process in which something is brought before the mind. Feeling or primisense is the awareness of primacy; Sense of old age is the awareness of otherness or secondness; Medisense is the awareness of means or thirdness. There is only one type of "Primisense". "Age Sense" has two types, sensation and will. "Medisense" has three types, "Abstraction", "Suggestion" and "Association" (CP 7.551).

Peirce linked the psychological structure of consciousness described in this way with a physiological view in which the psychological processes each have physical correspondences in the brain. He took a monistic position:

In this way, the three types of consciousness - simple consciousness, dual consciousness and synthesizing consciousness - are explained by the three main functions of the nervous system, by its simple irritability, the transfer of energy and the synthesizing manipulation of the nerves, especially the behavioral habit. (MS 909, 55).

Self-confidence arises from the fact that the representations as signs in the consciousness become an object of themselves. For Peirce, this reflection is mainly to be assigned to the area of ​​senescence (the second), since self-confidence is something like perceiving the self. (CP 5.225, 5.266) In self-consciousness, the sensation of the ego, which we can control, and the uncontrollable non-ego confront each other.

From the general mass of consciousness, which is still free of any clear determination, suddenly a somewhat more specific idea - the “object” or the “not-I” - like a crystal from a solution and “grows” like a “crystal ", While the rest of the consciousness - the mother solution so to speak - the" I ", apparently as it has been, boasts of its new birth as" its "own, blind to the still underdeveloped stimulus that must have been present as a nucleus . (MS 681, 12/13).

The thirdness in consciousness leads to a renewed reflection, now on self-awareness. This creates self-control , which includes self-examination and self-correction. With the idea of ​​self-control, Peirce justified the ability to make decisions and thus to influence one's own behavioral habits. He did not see a direct causal effect from self-control. However, the cognitive ability of self-control has an influence on attitudes that are decisive for future action. By comparing it with standards, self-control is also the basis of moral attitudes and ethical behavior.

The influence of self-control is certainly not an influence on actions at the very beginning of the process of self-control. It consists (to name only the leading characteristics) firstly in the comparison of past actions with standards, secondly in reasonable consideration of future action intentions, which is in itself a highly complicated process, thirdly in the formation of a decision, fourthly on the basis of the decision in developing a strong commitment or changing a habit. (CP 8.320)


We have no faculty to think without signs. (CP 5.265). This basic assumption of Peirce's entire philosophy is also the starting point for his theory of perception .

Perception takes place through a transformation of sensory impressions and is therefore never immediate. A classic example of the fact that perceptions can be misinterpreted are the hallucinations . Peirce uses the example of the blind spot on the retina . Despite this property, objects appear as complete pictures. Peirce distinguishes what is perceived (percept) and perceptual judgment .

By a perceptual judgment I mean a judgment that asserts in the form of a statement what quality of a percept is immediately present to the mind. (CP 5.54)

A perceptual judgment does not have to be made in the form of language. B. also be diagrammatic (e.g. the idea of ​​a triangle).

Perception theory in Peirce

The perceived is the sign that stands between the object and the perceptual judgment. The objects are always accessed by depicting the percept as a sign. The sign has the form of a sensual impression, i.e. an image, a sound, etc.

A sign or representative is anything that is in such a relation to a second, called its object, that it is capable of determining a third, called its interpreter, in the same triadic relation to that relation to the object to stand in which it stands itself. (MS 478).

The percept is interpreted as something. A tone can be a voice, the ringing of a phone, or the sound of a radio.

The percept as a sign is a so-called indexical sign (see below), that is, it is determined by its relation to the object, e.g. B. the smoke to the fire. The perception judgment itself, i.e. the smoke as a concept, is the interpreter of the perception (the percept). Peirce called the form of the conclusion in a perceptual judgment abduction : abduction is the process in which an explanatory hypothesis is formed. (CP 5.171). By having a perception, we assume that it is a specific object. The form of the conclusion is then: The surprising fact C is observed; but if A were true, C would be a given; hence there is reason to believe that A is true. (CP 5.189). If you see a gray haze in the air, it could be fog, but it could also be smoke. By seeing this gray veil and concluding that it is smoke (e.g. because of the shape or because the sun is shining all around), one makes a perceptual judgment. Perceptual judgments are an extreme form of abduction because they are usually unconscious and largely uncontrolled, and because the senses are always active, they cannot be denied.

The more often repeated perceptual judgments confirm, the more they are internalized as true and then become habits of thought and behavior.


Ferdinand de Saussure and Peirce are considered to be the founder of semiotics

In addition to Ferdinand de Saussure , Peirce is one of the founders of semiotics , his preferred term for this being "semeiotic", while Saussure called his own approach "sémiologie" ( semiology ). In contrast to Saussure's concept of sign, which exclusively and formally relates to language, so that essential impulses for linguistics emerged from this, Peirce's concept of sign is holistic: In addition to the function of representation, it also contains a cognitive function of the signs. Likewise, Peirce's semiotics must not be mixed up with Charles W. Morris' subdivision ( syntax , semantics and pragmatics ) (although Morris is referring to Peirce).

Peirce defined semiosis (see also semiosis ) as

... A process or an influence that is or includes the interaction of three objects, namely the sign, its object and its interpreter; a threefold influence that in no case can be resolved into pairwise operations .

Peirce divided semiotics into speculative grammar, logical criticism, and speculative rhetoric. For him, the word “speculative” was synonymous with “theoretical”.

  • Speculative grammar examines the possible types of characters and their possible combinations.
  • Logical criticism deals with the question of correct justification.
  • Speculative rhetoric is the study of the effective use of signs (the question of the cost-effectiveness of research).

In speculative grammar, Peirce worked out a system of possible sign relations in which the world is conveyed to man. Based on the triad object - sign - interpretant, he distinguished three trichotomies:

The three trichotomies of Peirce
Character property Object relationship Interpretant relationship
Quali symbol






Sin sign






Legi sign





The character property

A quality mark is a quality that acts as a mark, e.g. B. the silence of a room. Quali symbols are always an expression of first-class quality. Sin signs are objects or facts that exist without having been assigned a term or meaning. Legi signs are rules that act as signs. So the number six means the idea of ​​a number of six objects, e.g. B. glasses or chairs. Whether you use the German word “six”, the number “6” or the English word “six”, they all embody the idea of ​​the number six. Every actual copy of a Legi symbol (e.g. the printed word “six”) represents - as a concrete object in the world - at the same time a Sin symbol.

The object relationship

Icons are signs which, through a structural similarity, establish a direct relation to an object. This includes pictures, pictograms or graphics. An icon is fundamentally unique. The index is a secondary sign in that it indicates an object without a description, i.e. there is a dyadic relationship between sign and object - the ringing indicates that someone is at the door. Symbols, however, have a meaning. They are only signs because an interpreter understands what the sign is used for. The fact that a table is labeled with the word “table” is based on a convention. The word “table” is understood because its meaning has become a habit.

The interpretant relationship

Rhema is a term used to describe an item. It can also be a diagram or a sound. In a statement (Dicent) at least a two-digit relation is established, i.e. the property of an object or a fact is described. The argument expresses a lawful relationship between statements, e.g. B. in the form of natural laws .

The interpretant as the actual meaningful effect of a sign must now be differentiated again according to its emotional, energetic and logical content or according to its immediate, dynamic and final effect. It is immediate if it is just a quality of feeling, e.g. B. the feeling of stillness (firstness). It is dynamic when it creates an effective effect (a feeling or an action). An interpretant is final when it is associated with an intended effect, e.g. B. a change in a habit.

The dimensions of the concept of sign

The actual semiotic determination of a sign arises from the logically possible combinations of the sign's property with the object and the interpretant relationship (Quali signs are neither conceivable as an index nor as a symbol; accordingly, arguments cannot be an index or an icon). When determining symbol relations, there is the fundamental problem that on the one hand objects can be represented by several symbols, which are also very different in nature. On the other hand, the respective characters can be interpreted differently depending on the situation. Character relationships are therefore always perspective. We always know that the object as we perceive it in communication or perception (the immediate object) is mediated by signs. As a result, we always know that we can be mistaken about the mediation and accordingly have to adjust our interpretation of the actual object (the dynamic object) if necessary.

In the course of time, Peirce developed his conception further and, due to the complexity of the possible ways of conveying signs between subject and object, he finally came to a system of 59,049 (3 to the power of 10) possible elements and relations. One reason for this high number is that he allowed each interpretant to be a sign himself, which in each case creates a new characteristic relation.

As with other subjects, Peirce never wrote an accurate definition of his semiotics. Rather, he dealt with the topic repeatedly throughout his life, often changing his view of the definition of key terms . Liszka (1996) makes a meritorious attempt at a coherent exposition. Gerhard Schönrich points out that parallels to Kant can be drawn in the theory of consciousness if one translates the Kantian terms into that of Peirce, e.g. the synthesis in Kant as semiosis, the object as a sign object, concept or rule (in Schematism ) as interpreter and conception as sign (medium).


In his epistemology , Peirce broke with the idea that the subject is the yardstick for knowledge, as it had been since Descartes and right up to Kant .

In the meantime we know that man is not a whole and that he is essentially a possible member of society. In particular, as long as a person's experience stands alone, it is nothing. When he sees something that others cannot see, we call it a hallucination. It is not "my" experience, but "our" experience to be thought of; and this "we" has unlimited possibilities. (CP 5.402)

The second fundamental aspect in Peirce's epistemology is the evolutionary theory as he developed it in his metaphysics (see below). People and their thinking are part of a development process. The purpose of thinking is an orientation in the world by examining doubts and researching to obtain firm convictions that are suitable to serve as the basis of action. This is where theory and practice are taught.

The third element of Peirce's theory of knowledge is thinking in terms of signs.

When we seek the light of external facts, the only cases of thinking we can find are those of thinking in signs. Obviously, no other thinking can be attested by external facts. The only thinking that can possibly be recognized is thinking in signs. But thinking that cannot be known does not exist. All thinking must therefore be thinking in signs. (CP 5.251)

Thinking does not take place in individual, isolatable signs, but as a stream of thoughts in the consciousness, as a continuous process.

There is no cognition or representation in my state of consciousness at any point in time, but it does exist in the relation of my states of consciousness at different points in time. In short, the immediate (and therefore that which cannot be mediated in itself - the unanalysable, the inexplicable, the non-intellectual) flows in a continuous stream through our lives; it is the totality of our consciousness, the mediation of which is its continuity, brought about by a real effective force that stands behind the consciousness. (EP 1, 42 after Pape, Introduction, 70).

This level of sensations in the stream of consciousness is the firstness of thinking.

The process of perception (see above) introduces the level of second nature into the cognitive process. The meaning of signs (level of thirdness) does not arise solely from the sensory data.

Doesn't electricity mean more today than it did in Franklin's days? Man makes the word, and the word means nothing that man does not let it mean, and that only for any man. But since humans can only think with the help of words or other symbols, they could say the other way around: “You don't mean anything that we haven't taught you, and therefore only to the extent that you turn to any word as an interpreter of your thought. “Indeed, people and words educate themselves alternately, any increase in information of a person implies and is implied by a corresponding increase in information of a word. (CP 5.313)

Peirce formulated his considerations as a pragmatic maxim :

Consider what effects, which could conceivably have practical relevance, we ascribe to the object of our concept in our imagination. Then our concept of these effects is the whole of our concept of the object. (CP 5.402)

So the meaning of a thought lies in what behavior it generates. Behavior is not to be understood as an actual course of action, but as a disposition to a possible action. The elements of every concept enter logical thinking through the gate of perception and leave it through the gate of purposeful action; and whatever cannot show his identification at these two gates must be locked up as not approved by reason. (CP 5.212)

With this concept, Peirce deviated from the classic question of epistemology, for which the goal of the search for knowledge is the truth . But the classic concept of truth as the correspondence of thoughts and facts (reality) was not comprehensible for Peirce because it is based on the even more vague concept of reality . Instead, Peirce defined truth pragmatistically:

The opinion that is destined by fate to ultimately be agreed by every researcher is what we understand by truth, and the subject matter represented by this opinion is the real. (CP 5.407)

In this definition there is the idea that at the end of days it will be possible to see reality fully. However, this state is only a limit to which humanity as a whole approaches in a process of progress in knowledge. Truth is objective insofar as it is intersubjective , i.e. H. is not determined by individual, individual ideas, but in the communication of all (researchers). Up to this point in time, which cannot be reached in human life, there is always and at any time the possibility that the convictions gained up to now may be wrong and must be revised. Peirce called this basic assumption fallibilism , which was later taken up again by Popper. Peirce also did not rule out the fact that already present beliefs fully correspond to reality. The better such hypotheses are checked and proven, the greater the likelihood of this. You just can't be sure about this.


Main article : abduction

According to Peirce, knowledge is only expanded through abduction. It occurs in the perception as well as in the conclusive interpretation of existing knowledge. The human being gains certain beliefs in the perception, which translate into habits that determine his actions and omissions. If inexplicable facts arise through perception, which do not correspond to any habit, the person gets into doubt and looks for a new orientation. He puts forward hypotheses about the dubious phenomena and checks them until he gains a new firm conviction about them ( doubt-belief scheme).

For Peirce, the rational implementation of this scheme of winning beliefs occurred in logical thinking. Depending on the stage of the doubt-belief scheme, the conclusion is different. If there are initially one or a few facts, the hypothesis is set up, which Peirce called “retroduction” or “abduction”. If there is enough information on the hypothesis, it can be formulated as a law. The corresponding conclusion is induction. Finally, deduction is the application of the law, which is only analytical, that is, subject to a strict truth. In principle, abduction is based on an instinctive human ability to be creative. Induction is determined by experience and only deduction is strictly logical. To clarify, Peirce has presented the various inferences, which he viewed as an interlocking process of interpretation, in the scheme of the syllogism :

Result These beans are white.
rule All the beans in this sack are white.
case Those beans are out of that sack.
hypothetical inference from the individual and a rule
to a regularity
rule All the beans in this sack are white.
case Those beans are out of that sack.
Result These beans are white.
Conclusion from the general to the individual
case Those beans are out of that sack.
Result These beans are white.
rule All the beans in this sack are white.
Conclusion from the usual regularity to
the general
Table: Conclusions according to Peirce with the status of the "Lectures on Pragmatism" (1903), for abduction see CP 5.189

While in deduction the result is inferred from the rule about the case, the results of the conclusions of abduction and induction are not necessary. They are only justified as a hypothetical-pragmatic procedure in the context of the process of safeguarding a conviction and are subject to the laws of probability, with abduction usually having a significantly lower probability due to its spontaneous character.


In his logic, Peirce examined the natural inference from hypotheses and developed an independent logic of relations, which he called the "logic of the relative". He made fundamental discoveries in formal logic:

He showed that Boolean algebra can be expressed by a simple binary operation as NAND or dual as NOR (see also DeMorgan's Law). He also added multiplication and exponentiation ( universal quantifier ) to Boolean algebra and tried to integrate them into general algebra.

A little later, but independently of Frege's terminology , he and his student OH Mitchell developed the complete syntax for a quantifier logic that differed from the later Russell-Whitehead syntax (1910) only in a few characters . Ernst Schröder , Leopold Löwenheim from the Polish school and the young Kurt Gödel used Peirce's notation.

The distinction between first and second level quantification was the first draft of a simple axiomatic sentence theory. The theory of reflexive and transitive relations conceived by Peirce was further developed by Ernst Schröder in his algebra of logic .

To apply the algebraic signs in logic, Peirce introduced the logical terms absolute relative (monadic = singular object), simple relative (dyadic = otherness) and conjugative relative (triadic = thirdness). All multi-digit relations can be traced back to triadic relations. This reduction thesis by Peirce, which was important to him for the verification of his categories, has now been proven. In particular it could be shown that the triadic reduction of Peirce does not contradict the dualistic reduction of Quine .

He invented the existential graphs (engl. Existential graph ), a graphic notation for the propositional logic (Alpha graphs), first-order logic (Beta graphs) and higher for the predicate logic level and for modal logic (gamma graphs). Together with the inference rules that he formulated for this purpose, the existential graphs form a statement or predicate calculus. The graphs are the basis for the conceptual graphs by John F. Sowa and for the diagrammatic justification by Sun Joo-Shin .

In a letter to his former student Allan Marquand from 1886, which was only discovered after 1950, he already showed the application of Boolean logic to electrical circuits, more than 50 years before Claude Shannon . He attributed the following properties to such a circuit, which he also sketched in two different graphics: 1. Development of expressions (a, b, c etc.) from strings and syntax rules, 2. Simplification of expressions, 3. Multiplication with polynomials, 4. Addition. (NEM IV, 632) It can be shown that a link between the existential graphs and such a mechanical solution is possible.

His elaboration on the various number systems and his reference to the fact that the binary system is particularly suitable for machine processing is also noteworthy .

Science concept

Even if Peirce did not develop an explicit system, he can still be regarded as a systematic philosopher in the traditional sense. His work deals with the scientific and logical questions of truth and knowledge that he combined with his experience as a logician and experimental scientist. Peirce was convinced that truth is tentative and that every statement contains a factor of uncertainty. For Peirce, fallibilism was an antipole to skepticism , which for his philosophy was no less important than pragmatism , which he in turn saw as an antipole to positivism .

Peirce made significant contributions to deductive logic, but was above all interested in the logic of science and above all in abduction , which is found not only in the field of scientific research but in all practical areas of life. Its pragmatism can also be understood as a method of clearing conceptual confusion by linking the meaning of concepts with their practical consequences.

Peirce's pragmatism, however, has nothing to do with the commonly used concept of pragmatic action, which often misleadingly implies ruthlessness, defrauding and taking advantage, at least indirectly. Instead, Peirce sought an objective, verifiable method of verifying the truth of knowledge, in competition with the classical approaches of

The concept he developed as a scientific method describes the scientific process as a step-by-step process that begins with abduction on the basis of unexplained phenomena and, if there is sufficient certainty, inductively formulates laws that are practically tested using deduction. For him, the rational scientific process explicitly included the economic efficiency of research, since waste is irrational in view of the endless questions to be solved.

His approach has often been viewed as a new form of fundamentalism , but through

  • consistent determination of the active process of theory formation,
  • consistent application of the theory,
  • Verification of the theory through predictability and agreement with the environment

it contains a rational basis rather than an inductive generalization that refers purely to phenomena. Peirce's pragmatism was thus seen as the first scientific method to be applied to questions of epistemology .

A modern physicist will be amazed when examining the works of Galileo at how little experiments had to do with establishing the fundamentals of mechanics. He mainly invokes common sense and “il lume naturale”. He always assumes that the true theory will prove simple and natural. (CP 6.10).

A theory that is demonstrably more successful in predicting and tracing the lifeworld than its competitors can be described as closer to the truth. This is an operational designation of truth used in science. Unlike other pragmatists, Peirce never explicitly formulated a theory of truth. But his scattered notes on truth have influenced a number of epistemological truth theorists and have been a helpful foundation for deflationary and correspondence theories of truth.


Tychism (chance)

Like Kant, Peirce has often and severely criticized the speculative character of traditional metaphysics. On the other hand, he always strived to develop an idea compatible with the natural sciences for an explanation of the basic principles of the lifeworld. For him, as in many other things, the starting point was logic and here in particular the theory developed by Mill on induction, that this derives its validity from the uniformity of nature. Peirce criticized the fact that the assumption of uniformity as a prerequisite could then not also deliver uniformity as a result via induction.

As a well-versed and experienced natural scientist, Peirce made a number of arguments against determinism , for which, in his view, there is no scientific justification. In particular, he emphasized that the practical measured values ​​of the applied sciences never confirm theoretical concepts because they usually have to be too imprecise due to experimental set-ups. Measurement results always have a distribution that must be approximated by regression or similar methods . All natural phenomena contain irregularities.

Against determinism, Peirce put the hypothesis that the world is a random world (Chance-world, CP 6.399). If one assumes that there is an original state of complete (indescribable) chance for the universe, the first development step is already a choice from an unlimited number of possibilities. Each further step leads to a selection up to today. The explanatory principle is evolution as a property of our world, which has developed from an infinite number of possible worlds and which progresses in this development process.

Peirce called this concept of explaining the world through a progressive process, which systematically includes random events, "tychism". Linked to this are a comprehensive idea of ​​evolution, for which Darwin's theory only provides part of the explanations, and the idea of ​​the self-organization of matter. Against determinism, Peirce saw himself confirmed by the fact that the principles of growth and life are irreversible processes that contradict determinism. Spontaneity (which Popper associated with emergence ) was for him an objective fact of nature and an essential basis of his fallibilism .

The infinite variety in the world is not created by law. It does not correspond to the nature of uniformity to produce variations, nor that of the law to produce the individual case. When we stare at the diversity of nature, we are looking straight into the face of a living spontaneity. A day of wandering in the country should really bring that closer to us. (CP 6.553).

Peirce saw his view supported by the evolutionary way of thinking, as represented for him by Hegel in relation to history, Charles Lyell in relation to geology and Charles Darwin in biology. For Peirce, evolution was one of the fundamental principles of the world.

But Peirce went one step further. His question was not how knowledge is possible, but how are physical laws possible at all? He referred, among other things, to the 2nd law of thermodynamics and the phenomenon of entropy , as well as to the inexactness of molecular movements (MS 875). The tendency towards heterogeneity and the irreversibility of the processes were signs for him that the evolutionary process also applies in the physical world and has an inherent tendency to assume stable states ("habits").

But what is first for us is not the first in nature. The premises of the logical process in nature are all those independent and causeless factual elements which make up the multiplicity of nature which the Nezessitarian assumes exists from the foundation of the world, but which the Tychist understands as the product of a continuous process of growth. (CP 5.119).

Peirce would have found himself confirmed by the results of quantum physics with the transition to probabilistic explanatory models and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle .

Synechism (continuum)

Based on the idea of ​​chance and evolution, Peirce further developed his worldview into a comprehensive concept. The basis is the theme of the continuum that occupied him throughout his work. Peirce made the first step again in mathematical logic, where he dealt with the question of infinitesimal divisibility. An infinitesimal is a quantity that is smaller than any finite quantity but larger than zero. The classic example of a continuum is a line. The continuum is not metric, so points on the line are only potential points that are again an arbitrarily divisible infinitesimal interval. A continuum cannot be exhausted by a set of individual determinations (CP 6.170). In this context, Peirce developed mathematical notions that are discussed today in non-standard analysis and assumed that space is non-Euclidean .

Phenomena such as energy, which also includes gravity, or time are continua that are inherent in the process of evolution. Man cannot observe them himself, only their effects. So the time is initially only a pure vague feeling of possibility (firstness). The change or interaction is the experience of the opposite (second nature). The persistence of the ideas in time is spiritual continuity (thirdness).

How can a past idea be present? Not by proxy. Then only through direct perception. In other words, to be present, it must be ipso facto present. That means: it cannot be completely gone; it can only be about to become infinitesimal past, less past than any past date. So we come to the conclusion that the present is linked to the past by a series of truly infinitesimal steps. (CP 6.109).

For Peirce, the source of all reality was the spirit, which is nothing but sensation and quality, pure possibility without connection and regularity. Through a first event (a first dyadic step) this spirit created time, space, the existence of matter and the laws of nature which, as relatively constant regularities, set the continuous development of evolution in motion. In evolution there is the progression of growth to an ever more evolving heterogeneity, at the very distant end of which is complete regularity. Chance is the first, lawfulness is the second, and the tendency to develop habits is the third. (CP 6.27). The beginning and the end of evolution form (theoretical) borderline situations. For Peirce, reality was thus a reality of the mind, which also determines the reality of its objects. Consequently, he advocated an unrestricted universal realism. With this position of objective (logical) idealism , he saw himself in line with Schelling :

"The only plausible theory of the universe is that of objective idealism that matter is a powerless form of mind, that deeply rooted habits become laws of physics."

Agapism (love as a life principle)

Man is part of the evolutionary process that is reflected in his stream of consciousness as well as in the process of thinking in signs. Thinking in signs only works when people are together; because without the other and communication with him, human existence is not possible. From this horizon Peirce derived the basic thesis that only the principle of love ( agape ), overcoming selfishness and egoism, leads to harmony and progress. Like the teleological striving for heterogeneity in nature, human progress only comes from the thought that the individual allows his individuality to merge with his fellow human beings.

Peirce said little about practical ethics . After all, there is a little pamphlet in which he called for a fundamentally different view of criminal law. It is true that humans have the right to protect themselves from crime. But for the natural purpose of solidarity, he has no right to revenge. From this followed the demand for Peirce to rehabilitate criminals and to create conditions for them that enable them to return to the community.


William James

Peirce was hardly noticed in his day as a professional philosopher because he did not publish any fundamental writings on his subject. On the other hand, he was known as a scientist, mathematician and logician. So he was in direct contact with Augustus de Morgan . Ernst Schröder based his logic of algebra on Peirce. Via Schröder, Peirce also worked on Peano and the "Principia Mathematica" by Russell and Whitehead. Since he had been excluded from academic life in principle since 1884, references to his work arose primarily through the people who were personally acquainted with him. Above all, these were William James and the Hegelian Josiah Royce. According to William James, two writings from the 1870s should be mentioned that constitute the source of pragmatism. James also dedicated his book "The Will to Believe" to Peirce. Unlike James and later pragmatists, especially John Dewey, Peirce understood his pragmatism primarily as a method of clarifying the meaning of thoughts by applying scientific methodology to philosophy. The pragmatism of James, who as a physiologist dealt primarily with psychological topics and combined his pragmatism with questions of life philosophy (theory of emotion, philosophy of religion), Peirce considered an individualistic subjectivism, which he himself rejected. And of Dewey's logic, Peirce said that it was more of a "natural history of thought" than logic in the traditional sense of a doctrine of the normative principles and rules of thought and reasoning (The Nation 1904, 220). He criticized nominalist thinking in both of them. To distinguish it from simplistic forms of pragmatism (also against James and Dewey), Peirce called his form of semiotic pragmatism from around 1905 pragmatism .

Peirce's achievements were only gradually noticed. At the university he only worked in the field of logic for five years. His only book is a short text on astronomy ( Photometric Investigations of 1878) that received little attention. His contemporaries William James and Josiah Royce paid tribute to him, but only to a certain extent. When he died, Cassius Keyser of Columbia University and Morris Raphael Cohen of New York were perhaps his only followers. Two years after Peirce's death, a special issue of the Journal of Philosophy was published in 1916, dedicated to Peirce, with contributions from Royce, Dewey, Christine Ladd-Franklin, Joseph Jastrow, and Morris R. Cohen. The first work on Peirce is “A Survey of Symbolic Logic” by Clarence Irving Lewis , who advocated a conceptualistic pragmatism. Frank Plumpton Ramsey referred explicitly to the anthology “Chance, Love and Logic” in his work “Truth and Probability” from 1926. Ramsey, for his part, had critical discussions with Wittgenstein about the Tractatus . A similarity between the late Wittgenstein and Peirce emerges if one compares his understanding of the meaning of a term as its use with the pragmatic maxim of Peirce. Similar to how for Peirce the sign was inevitable and phenomenologically comprehensible only in the categories, for Wittgenstein language could only be described in application. Another early line of reception arises from the work "The Meaning of Meaning" by Charles Kay Ogden and Ivor Armstrong Richards from 1923, which contains some passages by Peirce in the appendix. The semiotic interpretation of Peirce then found its continuation with Charles William Morris (Foundations of a Theory of Signs, Chicago 1938), who, however, pursued a behaviorist approach.

The publication of his Collected Papers (1931–1935) did not lead to an immediate upswing in secondary literature . The editors, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss were not Peirce specialists. A verifiable reception only began with the work of James Feibleman (1946) and Thomas Goudge (1950), the second edition of the Collected Papers - edited by Philip Wiener and Frederick Young - as well as the extensive work of Max Fisch, the founder of the Peirce edition Project at Indiana University in Indianapolis. The "Charles Sanders Peirce Society" was founded in 1946. The journal Transactions of the Peirce Society , which specializes in Peirceiana, has existed since 1965 .

Jürgen von Kempski had the first systematic discussion with Peirce in Germany in 1952, but it still had little effect. Since the 1960s, Max Bense and Elisabeth Walther have developed their semiotics of the Stuttgart School on the basis of an intensive Peirce reception. At around the same time, the linguist Roman Jacobson founded his theory of signs based on Peirce, just as Umberto Eco's structuralist semiotics is linked to Peirce.

But it was only with the publication of a text volume by Karl-Otto Apel in 1967, followed by a second volume in 1970 (see writings), that a broader wave of reception began in Germany as well. Peirce provided a basic approach for Apel's intention to transform transcendental philosophy: “I would like to explain the critical point of the new communication-theoretical approach with the help of Wittgenstein's conception of the 'language game'. With the help of this conception it can be shown, in my opinion, that the semiotic or language-analytical transformation of epistemology and philosophy of science introduced by Peirce - and confirmed everywhere in our century - amounts to a radical overcoming of the 'methodical solipsism' that dominates philosophical epistemology from Descartes to Husserl has. ”Just one year after Apel, Jürgen Habermas also dealt intensively with Peirce. In contrast to Apel, Habermas saw Peirce not in the tradition of transcendental philosophy, but as a philosophy of science: “Peirce understands science from the horizon of methodical research, and he understands research as a life process. The logical analysis of research is therefore not directed towards the achievements of a transcendental consciousness, but towards the achievements of a subject who carries the research process as a whole, towards the collective of researchers. ”As a counterpoint to the prevailing nominalistic and empirical philosophy is the reception of Peirce grown to a wide range of application areas since the 1990s. This ranges from computer science to linguistics, semiotics, social sciences, literary theory, the philosophy of mathematics, natural philosophy and the philosophy of religion. This is how Ilya Prigogine rates his work: "Peirce dared to discard the universe of classical mechanics in favor of an evolutionary universe at a time when no experimental results were available that could have supported this thesis."

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz,
portrait of Christoph Bernhard Francke , around 1700; Duke Anton Ulrich Museum , Braunschweig
Parallels to Leibniz

In considering the scope of Peirce's subjects, one must call him a polymath to whom few in history can be compared. One finds particular similarity to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz , who, like him, dealt with mathematics, logic, natural sciences , history, philosophy of mind and language and metaphysics . Both were metaphysical realists and at least partially inclined to scholastic philosophy . So Peirce Duns admired Scotus . The ideas of both were initially only little appreciated in the follow-up and presented in a greatly simplified manner by the first interpreters. Leibniz differed from Peirce mainly in his financial situation, his beliefs and a correspondence of around 15,000 letters. Both published few books, but many essays and left an extensive legacy. The works of both authors are far from being completely edited.


  • Chance, Love and Logic: Philosophical Writings by the late CS Peirce, the Founder of Pragmatism. first anthology ed. by MR Cohen, New York 1923
  • Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Volumes I-VI ed. by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, 1931–1935; Volumes VII-VIII ed. by Arthur W. Burks 1958. University Press, Harvard, Cambridge / Mass. 1931–1958 ( Volume I online and Volume V online )
  • "On the Algebra of Logic". In: American Journal of Mathematics. Vol. 7, 1885, p. 202.
  • Microfilm Edition based on the Annotated Catalog of the Papers of Charles S. Peirce by Richard S. Robin, Amherst / Mass. 1967
  • The New Elements of Mathematics by Charles S. Peirce. 4 volumes. Edited by Carolyn Eisele, Den Haag u. a. 1976. ( Review by Arthur W. Burks )
  • Semiotics and Significs. The Correspondence between Charles S. Peirce and Victoria Lady Welby , ed. by Charles S. Hardwick, Bloomington / London 1977. Press of the Arisbe Associates 2001.
  • Historical Perspectives on Peirce's Logic of Science. A History of Science 2 volumes. Edited by Carolyn Eisele , Berlin / New York / Amsterdam 1985
  • The Essential Peirce. Selected Philosophical Writings , Volume 1 (1867-1893) ed. by Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel, Bloomington / Indianapolis 1992, ISBN 0-253-32849-7 ; Volume 2 (1893-1913) ed. from the Peirce Edition Project, Bloomington / Indianapolis 1998, ISBN 0-253-21190-5 (study edition)
  • The Essential Writings. Edited by Edward C. Moore, Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY 1998, ISBN 1-57392-256-0 .
  • Writings of Charles S. Peirce. A Chronological Edition. Edited by the Peirce Edition Project. Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, Bloomington 1982ff. (So ​​far volumes 1–6 and 8, planned 30 volumes)
  • Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking. The 1903 Harvard "Lectures on Pragmatism", edited by Patricia Ann Turrisi. State of New York Press, Albany, NY 1997.
  • Charles S. Peirce. The Logic of Interdisciplinarity. The Monist Series. ed. by Elize Bisanz, Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-05-004410-1 .
  • Charles S. Peirce. Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected Writings . ed. by Matthew E. Moore, Indiana University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-253-22265-7 ( review )
  • Prolegomena to a Science of Reasoning. Phaneroscopy, Semeiotic, Logic. ed. by Elize Bisanz, Peter Lang Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-631-66602-9 .
German-language editions
  • Karl-Otto Apel (ed.): Writings on pragmatism and pragmatism . Suhrkamp , Frankfurt am Main 1976, ISBN 3-518-06029-5 (contains: "On the emergence of pragmatism" and "From pragmatism to pragmatism" ).
  • Klaus Oehler (Ed.): Charles S. Peirce. About the clarity of thought . 3. Edition. Klostermann , Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-465-01650-5 .
  • Elisabeth Walther (Ed.): The consolidation of conviction and other writings . AGIS , Baden-Baden 1986, ISBN 3-87007-005-6 .
  • Elisabeth Walther (Ed.): Lectures on pragmatism . Meiner , Hamburg 1991, ISBN 3-7873-0984-5 .
  • Helmut Pape (Ed.): Charles S. Peirce. Phenomenon and logic of signs. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-518-28025-2 .
  • Hermann Deuser (Ed.): Religious-philosophical writings. Meiner, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-7873-1460-1 .
  • Helmut Pape (ed.): Natural order and drawing process. Writings on semiotics and natural philosophy. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-28512-2 .
  • Christian Kloesel, Helmut Pape (eds.): Charles S. Peirce . Semiotic Fonts. 3 volumes. tape 1 (1865-1903) . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-29080-0 .
  • Kenneth Laine Ketner (Ed.): The Thought and Logic of the Universe: The Lectures of the Cambridge Conferences of 1898; with an appendix of unpublished manuscripts. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-518-58325-5 (original title: Reasoning and the Logic of Things).
How to quote
  • Collected Papers: Decimal by volume and section number (CP 5.11 = volume five, section 11)
  • Microfilm Edition: MS plus page number
  • The New Elements of Mathematics: NEM volume plus page number (NEM III / 2, 11 = NEM volume 3, 2nd half volume, p. 11)
  • Semiotics and Significs: S&S plus page number

The quotations contained in the text come from the German editions or the literature mentioned.


  • The definition of finitude from “On the algebra of logic” : “Now, to say that a lot of objects is finite, is the same as to say that if we pass through the class from one to another we shall necessarily come round to one of those individuals already passed; that is, if every one of the lot is in any one-to-one relation to one of the lot, then to every one of the lot some one is in this same relation. "
  • The pragmatic maxim in the first version as in “How to make our ideas clear”: "Think about which effects, which could conceivably have practical meaning, we ascribe to the object of our concept. Then our concept of these effects is the entire scope of our concept of Subject. "


Philosophy bibliography : Charles Sanders Peirce - Additional references on the subject


Further information

  • Ulrich Baltzer: Knowledge as a network of relations. Categories at Charles S. Peirce. Schöningh, Paderborn 1994, ISBN 3-506-70559-8 .
  • Joseph Brent: Charles S. Peirce. A life. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1998, ISBN 0-253-33350-4 . ( Review ; PDF; 988 kB)
  • Carl R. Hausman: Charles S. Peirce's Evolutionary Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, New York 1993.
  • Michael HG Hoffmann: Knowledge development. A semiotic-pragmatic approach. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-465-03439-2 .
  • Stefan Kappner: Intentionality from a semiotic point of view. Peircean perspectives. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2004, ISBN 3-11-018288-2 .
  • Friedrich Kuhn: Another picture of pragmatism. Probability theory and justification of induction as decisive influencing variables in the "Illustrations of the Logic of Science" by Charles Sanders Peirce. Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-465-02858-9 .
  • Farid Lighvani: The Importance of Charles Sanders Peirce for American Pragmatism. Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8300-3023-2 .
  • Louis Menand : The Metaphysical Club. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York 2001, ISBN 0-374-52849-7 .
  • Ralf Müller: The dynamic logic of cognition in Charles S. Peirce. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1999, ISBN 3-631-48338-4 .
  • Ansgar Richter: The concept of abduction in Charles S. Peirce. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-631-48338-4 .
  • Don D. Roberts: The Existential Graphs of Charles S. Peirce. (= Approaches To Semiotics. 27). Mouton, The Hague 1973.
  • Karl-Hermann Schäfer: Peirce: Communication theory as semiotics. In: Karl-Hermann Schäfer: Communication and interaction, basic concepts of a pedagogy of pragmatism. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-14529-0 , pp. 63–116.
  • Gerhard Schönrich: Drawing . Investigations on the concept of semiotic reason in the outcome of Ch. S. Peirce. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990, ISBN 3-518-58024-8 .
  • Uwe Wirth (ed.): The world as a sign and hypothesis. Perspectives on Semiotic Pragmatism by Charles S. Peirce. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-29079-7 .
  • Julia Zink: Continuum and Constitution of Reality. Analysis and reconstruction of Peirce's continuum thought. Dissertation. Munich 2004. (PDF)

Web links

Commons : Charles Sanders Peirce  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Lexicon entries
Secondary literature

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pronunciation of "Peirce"
  2. "I proposed that the word" pragmatism "should hereafter be used somewhat loosely to signify affiliation with Schiller, James, Dewey, Royce, and the rest of us, while the particular doctrine which I invented the word to denote, which is your first kind of pragmatism, should be called "pragmaticism." The extra syllable will indicate the narrower meaning. " (Letter to Calderoni, CP 8.205)
  3. ^ Bertrand Russell: Wisdom of the West. A historical survey of Western philosophy in its social and political setting. Doubleday 1959, p. 276.
  4. ^ Karl-Otto Apel (ed.): Writings on pragmatism and pragmatism. Volume 1, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1967, p. 19.
  5. ^ Karl Popper: Objective Knowledge. Oxford 1979, p. 212.
  6. The list of articles (PDF; 2.4 MB) as recorded by the Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism comprises 40 three-column printed pages.
  7. Patrick J. Coppock: Grammar, logic and community in science: Charles Sanders Peirce and his presuppositional classification of the sciences. ( Memento of September 4, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 895 kB), accessed on July 7, 2013.
  8. The articles come from two series of essays: A) from Popular Science Monthly (1877/78): Proem (the first three pages of "Some Consequences of Four Incapacities"); The Fixation of Belief; How To Make Our Ideas Clear; The Doctrine of Chances; The probability of induction; The Order of Nature; Deduction, Induction, and Hypothesis; and B) from The Monist (1891-1893): The Architecture of Theories; The Doctrine of Chance Examined; The Law of Mind; Man's Glassy Essence; Evolutionary Love
  9. Appendix from CS Peirce on Benjamin Peirce : Linear associative algebras. In: American Journal of Mathematics. Volume 4, 1881, pp. 221-226.
  10. ^ M. Koecher, R. Remmert: Isomorphiesätze von Frobenius and Hopf. In: H.-D. Ebbinghaus u. a .: Numbers. Springer 1983, p. 155f.
  11. Thomas Hünefeldt: Deconstruction of the transcendental philosophy into a phenomenological logic . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2002, Chapter 5 (p. 59 ff) and: Alessandro Topa: The Genesis of Peirce's Logic. Part 1: The category problem (1857–1865) . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2007, especially Chapter 4.2 (p. 181ff)
  12. ^ Charles S. Peirce: On a New List of Categories . Presented 14 May 1867 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Published 1868 in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 7 and in the essay: One, Two, Three: Fundamental Categories of Thought and of Nature from 1885 (CP 2,369–372 and 376–378 parts)
  13. According to Wolff, Kant distinguishes between upper and lower faculties, each of which is differentiated as a triad like in Tetens: feeling (pleasure and displeasure) and taste = firstness in Peirce, desire and will = secondness, and sensuality and knowledge = thirdness, whereby the cognitive faculty is at Kant is again divided into three steps into understanding, reason and judgment
  14. With Johannes Nikolaus Tetens : Feeling, understanding, activity or will , on human nature I. Trial X, Leipzig, 1777. 619ff., Parallel to this Moses Mendelssohn : Knowledge, Sensitivity or Capability of Approval and Desire, in: Morgen Stunden or Vorlesungen über the existence of God, Lecture VII , 1785; Cf. also Theodor Lipps : Vom Fühlen, Wollen und Denk , Barth, Leipzig 1902
  15. Ralf Müller: The dynamic logic of recognition by Charles S. Peirce. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1999, p. 108 with reference to CP1.532
  16. Nicola Erny: Concrete Reason. On the conception of a pragmatic ethic in Charles Sanders Peirce. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2005, pp. 143ff.
  17. Roland Posner: The behavioral foundations of semiotics in Morris and Mead, 101–114, here 111, especially the FN, in: Annemarie Lange-Seidl (Ed.): Sign constitution. Files of the 2nd Semiotic Colloquium Regensburg 1978
  18. : " ... action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs. "(" Pragmatism ", Essential Peirce 2: 411; written 1907)
  19. Gerhard Schönrich: Idealism or Pragmatism of the Concept of Sign ? Kant's unity of consciousness and Peirce's consistency of the sign. In: Stefan Büttner, Andrea Esser, Gerhard Gönner (eds.): Infinity and self-reference. For Peter Reisinger on his 65th birthday. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2002, pp. 90-103.
  20. Andreas Wolf: The concept of truth in the theory of signs by Ch. S. Peirce. (accessed on February 10, 2011)
  21. ^ Richard Beatty: Peirce's Development of Quantifiers and Predicate Logic. In: Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic. Volume X, Number 1, January 1969, pp. 74-76.
  22. ^ Wolfgang Schäffner: »Electric Graphs. Charles Sanders Peirce and the Media «. In: Michael Franz , Wolfgang Schäffner, Bernhard Siegert u. a. (Ed.): Electric Laocoon. Characters and media, from punch cards to grammar. Berlin 2007, p. 322.
  23. Peirce's Deductive Logic. In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy .Template: SEP / Maintenance / Parameter 1 and Parameter 2 and not Parameter 3
  24. ^ EC Moore (Ed.): The Essential Writings of Charles Peirce. P. 168, quoted from Anthony Kenny : History of Occidental Philosophy. Volume IV. Modern. 2nd Edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2014, ISBN 978-3-534-73858-8 , p. 193.
  25. ^ The Fixation of Belief and How To Make Our Ideas Clear.
  26. ^ Charles S. Peirce and Pragmatism. Stuttgart / Cologne 1952.
  27. The Universe of Signs. Essays on the expansion of semiotics, Baden-Baden 1983.
  28. A la recherche de l'essence du language. In: Diogène. 51, 1965, pp. 22-38.
  29. Introduction to Semiotics. Munich 1972.
  30. Discourse and Responsibility. The problem of the transition to post-conventional morality. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1988, p. 164.
  31. Knowledge and Interest. 3. Edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1975, p. 120.
  32. Preface to the order of nature and the drawing process. P. 8.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on January 8, 2006 .