Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

In the late 1800’s, Charles Sanders Peirce—in conversation with William James, Chauncey Wright, Nicholas St. John Green, and Oliver Wendell Holmes at informal meetings of the Metaphysical Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts—developed and clearly expressed the central ideas that became the core of pragmatism. In the United States, pragmatism largely replaced idealism, gained numerous adherents, and influenced many American philosophers. The thoughts of American pragmatists can be seen in linguistic empiricism, developed by Vienna positivists, who grounded philosophical claims in experience, and the British philosophers who emphasized the study of ordinary language in the multiplicity of its uses.

However, Peirce was more than the creator of pragmatism; he was a scientist, mathematician, logician, and teacher, although his career as a professor was limited. He lectured at Harvard and The Johns Hopkins University. Peirce’s failure to find, or to be offered, a university position suitable for one of his talents was a consequence of his independent and undisciplined nature. The result of his being free from academic restrictions was perhaps both fortunate and unfortunate. As an outsider, his creative powers had no formal limits; his intellect was brilliant, and he knew where to stop in his inventions and speculations. However, because he was an outsider, he had neither the security nor the incentive to fashion his essays into any coherent whole. Although...

(The entire section is 482 words.)