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Charles Peirce's Guess at the Riddle

Grounds for Human Significance

John K. Sheriff

Publication Year: 1994

"Sheriff's text moves the "guess" to a new level of understanding, while integrating much of Peirce's philosophy, and provokes many questions." -- Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy Newletter

"The purpose of Sheriff's work is to expound Peirce's unified theory of the universe -- from cosmology to semiotic -- and to discuss its ramifications for how we should live. He concludes that Peirce has given us a theory we can live with. The book makes an important contribution to philosophy of life and to the humanities in general."  -- Nathan Houser

"In clear and concise prose, Sheriff describes Peirce's 'theory of everything,' a vision of cosmic and human meaning that offers a positive alternative to popular pessimistic and relativistic approaches to life and meaning." -- Peirce Project Newsletter

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Charles Sanders Peirce is now recognized the world over as a great philosopher in the classic sense, but his greatness is often attributed to his technical achievements and his speculative subtlety and breadth. Now John Sheriff gives us another Peirce: a visionary, a wise man, a seer. ...

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pp. xiii-xxii

The human predicament, the situation of human intelligence, the conditions of our use of signs as Charles S. Peirce perceived them are as follows: truth is in the future, but in our consciousness we cannot help but assent to what we perceive to be the case in the particular contexts and language games within which we live. ...

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

While this work was in progress, I drew material from the Preface, chapter I, and chapter 2 for a short paper entitled "A Preface to Peirce's Guess at the Riddle," which was presented at the 1992 meeting of the Semiotic Society of America and will appear in Semiotics 1992, ...

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1. Peirce's Cosmogonic Philosophy

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pp. 1-16

Peirce was familiar with the biblical account of creation, with cosmological theories from the time of Democritus to his own day, and with the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, Chevalier de Lamarck, and Clarence King. Peirce's cosmogony was indebted to these theories, yet he did not fully agree with any of them. ...

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2. Mind

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pp. 17-30

In spite of all the work being done in linguistics, psychology, and biology, mental phenomena are still today very mysterious, and there is no general theory of mind that explains them satisfactorily. Therefore, the extensive theory of mind Peirce arrived at nearly a hundred years ago is particularly interesting. ...

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3. Signs

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pp. 31-47

In the foregoing account of Peirce's evolutionary cosmology, which hypothetically begins with nothing and arrives at thought, a subtle transition occurs somewhere along the way. We started describing Firstness (feeling of quality, chance, particularity) and ended by saying all thought is Thirdness (rule controlled, generality). ...

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4. Belief, Reality, and Truth

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pp. 48-59

In the previous chapter we showed some of what is behind Peirce's assertion that for logical thought to be possible, the mind must have three elements: first, ideas, or thoughts; second, general rules according to which one idea determines another, or the habitual connection between thoughts; and third, processes establishing habitual connection between thoughts (7.348, 355, 358). ...

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5. Esthetics, Ethics, and Logic

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pp. 60-82

The preceding chapters have clarified the human predicament described in the introduction to this book: truth is in the future,l but in our consciousness we cannot help but assent to what we perceive to be the case within the particular contexts and language games within which we live. Likewise, at every moment that we perceive beauty and goodness ...

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6. Philosophical Sentimentalism

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pp. 83-90

It is abundantly clear that the persons whom Peirce most respected were the true scientists, theoretical reasoners, and metaphysicians. Theory and practice are two masters that such persons cannot serve, for when human desires intervene, the "perfect balance of attention which is requisite for observing the system of things is utterly lost" (1.642). ...


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pp. 91-95


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pp. 96-101

E-ISBN-13: 9780253116536
E-ISBN-10: 0253116538
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352040

Page Count: 128
Illustrations: 7 illus.
Publication Year: 1994