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  • Illustrations of the Logic of Science by Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Randall Auxier
Charles Sanders Peirce
Illustrations of the Logic of Science
Edited and Introduced by Cornelis de Waal
Chicago: Open Court, 2014. viii + 299 pp., incl. index

Finally someone has saved future Peirce scholars (and others who simply teach Peirce as part of a course in American philosophy) from having to piece together for themselves the comparative points in Peirce’s development as it concerns his most widely read essays. The significance of the Popular Science Monthly articles of 1877–78 for pragmatism and for Peirce’s thought is universally known. But we have had to dig for ourselves, one by one, repeating each other’s labors, to learn how the ideas at the root of pragmati(ci)sm evolved in Peirce’s own estimation.

Cornelis de Waal here brings together the comprehensive story of these articles and their eventual fate. He documents it in a way that anyone can grasp, and through careful study of this text, many essentials relating to the development of Peirce’s thought can be learned. In the “proposed” Preface for this book (that was never finished to Peirce’s satisfaction), Paul Carus puts readers on notice from the outset that the [End Page 626] Illustrations is independent of Peirce’s logic. This is a point often missed by readers of Peirce (although well known among the specialists), and it is a fitting way to introduce this work.

The relation of pragmatism and the logic of science to logic as a normative science has never been very clear in the minds of people who followed James or Dewey. The latter two tended to collapse logic into the logic of inquiry and never embraced or even fully grasped what logic was in Peirce’s view, which I will refer to here as “the broader view of logic.” They had their reasons, of course, and their case for collapsing the wider project into a narrower one. Most Peirceans are unconvinced, as indeed are most Royceans and all others who are serious about the independence of logic from the genealogy of actual inquiry. The misunderstanding of this relation between the logic of science (and that is only one application of the logic of inquiry, I grant, but the exemplary application, all hands agree) and logic as normative for the relation of reflection and active thinking, persists among scholars of Dewey and James, although it must be said that Dewey made significant steps in Peirce’s direction in his later logic (1938). Still, Dewey’s followers have not generally shared the trajectory of their master, preferring to bury logic in methods of inquiry and floundering when a viable ontology is needed (one that does not reduce possibility, or the fringes of experience, to what can be made clear in and through action).

Here, de Waal has packaged for them (and for others who need to understand Peirce but will not become specialists) the essentials one needs in order to grasp the role of the Illustrations in Peirce’s philosophy, and to avoid errors, all too common in the past, of conflating the pattern of inquiry with logic (as Peirce understood it). This is certainly among the valuable contributions of this volume to our present scholarly culture.

Yet, that contribution, valuable as it is, is only the surface of the achievement here. Experienced editors will appreciate the myriad decisions in presentation, documentation, inclusion and exclusion here. The purposes served by the project are numerous, but apart from that set out above, we achieve new insight into Peirce’s ambivalent relation to the pragmatic movement as a whole, and to his own effort to overcome nominalism, as well as to his careful consideration of the relation of inquiry to logic more generally. Due to careful dating and the form of presentation chosen by de Waal, many pages are clarified that were opaque even to Peirce himself, as indeed to many generations of scholars who did not enjoy the fullest picture of his thinking, in its stages, relative to the important subjects tackled in this “book.”

So a word must be offered about the status of this...


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