Writings of Charles S Peirce Preface

The five volumes of Writings of Charles S Peirce appeared in 1982, 1984, 1986, 1986, and 1993. All were published by Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana. Volume 1 covers the writings of Charles S Peirce during 1857-1866. It is edited by and contains an introduction by Max H Fisch, and has an Preface by Edward C Moore. Volume 2 covers the writings of Charles S Peirce during 1867-1871. It is edited by and has a Preface by Edward C Moore, and has an introduction by Max H Fisch, C F Delaney and Daniel D Merrill. Volume 3 covers the writings of Charles S Peirce during 1872-1878. In is edited by Christian J W Kloesel, and has an introduction by Max H Fisch. Volume 4 covers the writings of Charles S Peirce during 1879-1884. In is edited by Christian J W Kloesel, and has an introduction by Nathan Houser. Volume 5 covers the writings of Charles S Peirce during 1884-1886. In is edited by Christian J W Kloesel, and has an introduction by Nathan Houser.

Each of the five volumes has its own Preface. We quote here from the Preface of Volume 1 written by Edward C Moore:-


The writings Peirce himself published run to approximately twelve thousand printed pages. At five hundred pages to the volume, these would make 24 volumes. The known manuscripts that he left unpublished run to approximately eighty thousand handwritten pages. If, on the average, two manuscript pages yield one book page, it would take 80 additional volumes for the unpublished papers and a total of 104 volumes for his complete works. Every previous letterpress edition of Peirce's writings might therefore fairly be entitled 'selected papers', with a subtitle indicating the scope of the selection. The present edition is no exception. What follows is a statement of the aims and editorial policies that have governed the selections for the Writings of Charles S Peirce: a chronological edition.

Our primary aim is to facilitate the study of the historical development of Peirce's thought. The Peirce corpus extends over sixty years, and Peirce returns again and again to his most difficult problems. To understand the positions he finally reached it is necessary to understand the problems he discovered along the way and to see why he felt forced to resolve them as he did. For that reason the present edition brings Peirce's writings into a single chronological order according to date of publication or, in the case of unpublished papers, date of composition.

To distinguish the papers Peirce published, the place and date of publication are given immediately following the title, while unpublished writings are identified by a manuscript number and the date of composition as noted by Peirce himself or as determined from other evidence. For papers datable only within a year or two, some latitude was taken in placing them in relation to dated papers.

The second aim of our edition is to demonstrate the degree of coherence and systematic unity of Peirce's thought at each stage of its development. Accordingly, it was necessary to depart occasionally from the strict chronological arrangement in order to present series of papers as uninterrupted units. There are few excerpts in A chronological edition; when an incomplete paper appears, it is, unless otherwise indicated, Peirce's complete fragment. It is hoped that these procedures will preserve the integrity of the efforts Peirce made to give an orderly and more or less complete exposition of his views. Our third aim is to include as high a proportion of previously unpublished papers as possible. In all cases of material not published by Peirce himself, we have returned to the original manuscripts and edited them anew. Overall, we plan to present roughly one-half new material, that is, papers that have not previously appeared in printed form.

In choosing papers for A chronological edition, preference was in general given to the more significant writings in the philosophy of science, in logic, and in metaphysics. Although fewer purely technical writings in science and mathematics are included, we have not overlooked the fact that Peirce's professional career was in science, not in philosophy. Peirce made original contributions to an extraordinarily wide range of the physical sciences, to pure mathematics as well as to mathematical pedagogy, and to the history of science and mathematics. Accordingly, some technical papers have been included when they seemed most useful to our purpose. Because of the work that others have done on Peirce's scientific papers, we believe that twenty volumes will allow us to accomplish the goals we have set for the present edition.

Each volume contains a brief historical introduction giving an account of the activities of Peirce within its time span, including the work he was doing in the sciences, in mathematics, and in the history of science. Each volume will also include a single chronological list of all the papers Peirce wrote within the period covered by that volume. The historical introduction near the beginning and the chronological list near the end of each volume will serve as a frame for the papers that appear between them. It is hoped that reference to these additional materials will provide a comprehensive sense of Peirce's work in mathematics, the sciences, and philosophy.

In 1993, the year volume 5 of the Writings of Charles S Peirce appeared, another book on Charles S Peirce was published, namely C F Delaney, Science, knowledge, and mind : A study in the philosophy of C S Peirce. This was published by University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. Delaney, the author of this book, also assisted with the Writings of Charles S Peirce. We quote from the Preface of Science, knowledge, and mind:-

Charles S Peirce is the most important figure in the history of American philosophy to date for several interrelated reasons. First, with regard to that intangible mix of abilities that philosophers are wont to identify as constituting a great philosophical mind - that combination of analytic acumen and imaginative vision - Peirce is clearly America's candidate for a place on the roster of the great philosophers. Given his expertise both in mathematics and the physical sciences, he possessed to an extraordinary degree those technical skills philosophers so prize, and he mobilized these in the service of a systematic vision of the workings of the human mind and its place in the cosmos. Secondly, the interaction of his personal character traits with the social expectations of the nineteenth century made of his life the kind of personal tragedy that proves continually fascinating. The association of genuine creative genius with personal failure is the stuff, if not always of legends, at least of enduring curiosity. Finally, the issues in the philosophy of science, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind that were central to his philosophical project just happen to be ones that are still on center stage on the contemporary philosophical scene. His reflections still speak directly to our questions and, given the ineradicable egocentrism of human enterprises, this assures him of our continued attention.

For these and other reasons Peirce deserves a voice in our present conversation and the conversation would be enriched by his contribution. This book is an attempt to facilitate that entry. My interest in Peirce is much more than merely historical inasmuch as I feel that his version of pragmatism can function as an antidote to the anti-rational and anti-scientific strains that go under that label today. It seems to me that a pragmatism in the Peircean tradition represents a way of transcending many of the limitations of twentieth-century philosophy without turning our backs on its genuine advances over past ways of philosophizing.


JOC/EFR March 2006

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