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Reviewed by:
  • The Cambridge School of Pragmatism (Series: History of American Thought)
  • Henrik Rydenfelt
John R. Shook and André De Tienne (eds.) The Cambridge School of Pragmatism (Series: History of American Thought) 4 vols. Thoemmes Continuum, 2006

The Cambridge School of Pragmatism is a set of four thick volumes, comprising a total of more than 1300 pages of writings by and on six American thinkers all of whom at a time lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and studied or lectured at Harvard University. It includes 110 selections spanning from 1878 to the late 1930s, with some texts from the 1940s and 1950s. Together with other such collections in the History of American Thought series from Thoemmes Continuum, especially the Chicago School of Pragmatism (2000), Early Critics of Pragmatism (2001), and Early Defenders of Pragmatism (2001), it offers scholars and students an extensive collection of the most central writings of early pragmatists and their commentators.

The first two volumes, the pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce (volume 1) and William James (volume 2), each include—in addition to excellent introductions—selected writings, remembrances of contemporaries and evaluations by later scholars. The latter two volumes are composed of selected writings and evaluations of Josiah Royce and John Elof Boodin (volume 3) and George Santayana and Clarence Irving Lewis (volume 4). Because of the wide scope of the collection, this review will be limited to describing its contents and briefly commenting on the selections made and introductions written for each volume.


The first section of the first volume opens quite naturally with Peirce's first two pieces in the Illustrations of the Logic of Science series, "The Fixation of Belief" and "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" (1878–79). Although Peirce's earlier writings of the 1860s are not included, their essence is covered in André De Tienne's valuable introduction. The next selection, "The Law of Mind" (1892), presents in a concise form many of Peirce's central philosophical developments of the 1880s and 1890s, especially his synechism, tychism, evolutionism, and realism of general ideas. Despite its difficulty and the absence of commentary on the concept of pragmatism itself, this is a well-founded choice for the [End Page 586] volume: together with De Tienne's introduction it bridges the "gap" between Peirce's early and late writings on pragmatism. The fourth selection, Peirce's definition of "Pragmatism" for Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology (1902) is followed by the first and the last of Peirce's seven 1903 Harvard Lectures on pragmatism. "The Maxim of Pragmatism" begins Peirce's long attempt at a proof of the truth of the maxim of pragmatism, reformulated in terms of the meaning of a proposition, while also elucidating his classification of sciences; "Pragmatism as the Logic of Abduction" builds upon the theory of perception already presented in "The Law of Mind" in showing that generality is an element of perceptual judgment.

The last five selections have been carefully picked to shed further light on Peirce's late pragmatism from different points of view of his later thought. In "What Pragmatism Is" (1905) Peirce separates his realistic pragmaticism from pragmatism as used by the term's notorious "kidnappers"; in "Pragmaticism" (R 291, 1905) and "Issues of Pragmaticism" (1905) pragmati(ci)sm is approached from the point of view of critical common-sensism; and in "The Basis of Pragmaticism" (R 283, 1906) and "Pragmatism" (third version of R 318, 1907) pragmatist ideas are discussed largely from a logical and semiotic perspective. However, what slightly reduces the value of this particular volume is that all of the selections of Peirce's writings have been published in the highly accessible Essential Peirce volumes—with the exception of "Pragmaticism" (R 291), which, too, has appeared in the Collected Papers (5.502–537). Peirce's manuscripts of the years 1905–1908 include a variety of elucidations and attempts at a proof of pragmati(ci)sm, and the inclusion of one of these previously unpublished writings would have made this volume all the more interesting for those already acquainted with Peirce's key texts.

The second section includes seven interesting remembrances of Peirce by his students Ellery W. Davis, Christine Ladd-Franklin...