Turning Signs (Contents) gnoxic blog

updated 7 June 2024

Charles S. Peirce

Peirce (1839-1914; the name is pronounced like purse), considered by many the greatest American philosopher, laid the groundwork for both pragmatism and semiotics, the science of signs. As many of the crucial concepts in my own work Turning Signs have been ‘mined’ from Peirce's work, i've put this page together to help others get some sense of the whole of that work.

Peirce was and is recognized for his contributions to physical science and mathematics, but considered himself primarily a logician, for whom logic and semiotic are the same discipline.

Logic is a branch of philosophy. That is to say it is an experiential, or positive science, but a science which rests on no special observations, made by special observational means, but on phenomena which lie open to the observation of every man, every day and hour.
— Peirce (CP 7.526)
Abbreviations for citing Peirce's works

Selections from Peirce

Peirce works on this site:
• from Baldwin's Dictionary (1901-2)
• New Elements (1901?)
• Lowell Lectures of 1903
draft letter from Peirce to Lady Welby, March 9, 1906
• Prolegomena to an Apology for Pragmaticism (1906)
• The Bed-rock Beneath Pragmaticism (1908)
• the Neglected Argument (1908) and more on God
• How to Define (1909-10), mostly on Phaneroscopy, with some autobiographical digressions

resource links

Peirce's work is very systematic and does not lend itself to being quoted out of context. On this and the other Peirce pages on this site (listed above), i present some of the longer passages from which i have quoted in my own work, so that readers might begin to develop their own understanding of Peircean terms and concepts apart from my uses of them. This page might also serve as a gateway to a more intensive study of Peirce — which is well worth the effort, in my opinion — so i have listed here the resources i have found most useful for that purpose: standard print sources, internet sources, and secondary print sources.

Key to abbreviations (standard primary sources)

EP1 and EP2: The most comprehensive selection of Peirce's work now available to the average reader is The Essential Peirce: Volume 1 (1867-1893) and Volume 2 (1893-1913), edited by the Peirce Edition Project and published by Indiana University Press (1992 and 1998).

W: Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition, edited by the Peirce Edition Project and published by Indiana University Press beginning in 1982. This is now the standard scholarly edition of Peirce's works, but as of December 2009 only Volumes 1–6 and 8 have appeared, covering Peirce's works through 1892 (Vol. 7 will be devoted to Century Dictionary entries). Each volume includes a lengthy introduction relating Peirce's works to his life, and plenty of annotation. Online access to Volumes 1-6 is also available from Intelex. The PEP website gives lots of useful information on this edition. In citations, W6:123 refers to Volume 6, page 123.

CP: The Collected Papers, Vols. I-VI ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931-1935), Vols. VII-VIII ed. Arthur W. Burks (same publisher, 1958) — currently the most extensive collection containing works from all periods of Peirce's life, but the arrangement is by topic rather than chronological, and the editors often scattered parts of a single manuscript into different sections among the 8 volumes. Access to the whole as an online database can be purchased from InteLex. In citations, CP 8.123 refers to Volume 8, paragraph 123. (Sometimes this is followed by the year when Peirce wrote the text).

NEM: The New Elements of Mathematics, Vols. I-IV, ed. Carolyn Eisele (Mouton, 1976) is a voluminous collection of previously unpublished works by Peirce related to mathematics. Difficult to find in print, outside of university libraries. In citations, ‘NEM3, 234’ refers to Volume III, p. 234.

LoF: Logic of the Future, in 3 volumes edited by Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen, collects all of Peirce's previously unpublished writings related to the subject of Existential Graphs. In citations, ‘LoF 1’ (followed by page number or Kindle location) refers to Volume 1. Volume 2 is divided into two parts, referred to as LoF 2/1 and 2/2.

SS: Semiotic and Significs, the correspondence (1903-1912) between Peirce and Victoria Welby, edited (1977) by Charles Hardwick — includes a very readable summary by Peirce of his work on semiotics, and an introduction to existential graphs, along with an introduction to Welby's ‘significs’ and biographical context (both were in the final decade of their lives). Some of these letters are online at the Grupo de Estudios Peirceanos website.

MS and R: Many of Peirce's manuscripts remain unpublished in book form, but diligent scholarly work is making images and transcriptions of them available on the internet, notably through SPIN project. Most scholars cite them using the MS numbers assigned by Richard Robin, sometimes preceded by “R” instead of “MS”. See the top three sources on this list for more information on manuscript numbering.

RLT: Reasoning and the Logic of Things is the title of the Cambridge Lecture series given by Peirce in 1898. Parts of the series have been published in EP2 and (widely scattered) in CP, but the complete edition edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner (1992), with its introduction and extensive commentary by Ketner and Hilary Putnam, puts it back together.

HL: Peirce's Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism (1903) are included in EP (and CP), but the 1997 edition by Patricia Ann Turrisi, Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking, also includes some draft material that Peirce decided not to deliver (mostly for lack of time), along with Turrisi's commentary.

ILS: Illustrations of the Logic of Science, edited by Cornelis de Waal (2014): The Illustrations first appeared in the Popular Science Monthly in 1877–78, but Peirce later revised and added to them. This edition supplements the originally published articles with selections from the manuscripts containing proposed additions and revisions, many made near the end of Peirce's life.

PM: Philosophy of Mathematics, Selected Writings, edited (2010) by Matthew E. Moore (includes a few items not found in the other sources listed here).

SWS: Selected Writings on Semiotics, 1894-1912, edited (2020) by Francesco Bellucci (de Gruyter).

BD: J.M. Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology (2 volumes, Macmillan, 1901/2) also contains many entries by Peirce. Some of these, and a list of the rest, are given here on my Peirce/Baldwin page, along with links to a scan of the entire Dictionary viewable through www.archive.org. Cited by title of entry in ‘quotation marks’.

CD: The Century Dictionary, a massive reference work (first edition 1889, Supplement 1909, final edition 1914) contains many thousands of definitions by Peirce. For an article on Peirce's CD work, see the Peirce Project Newsletter 3:1 (1999). The entire CD is now online in a searchable format. Cited by title of entry in ‘quotation marks’.

Internet resources:

Secondary print sources:

Excerpts from Peirce:

—with a few comments. Certain crucial passages are presented here in bold; this highlighting is not due to Peirce, whose texts use italics for emphasis. For a much more complete and well-organized glossary of Peircean terms, given in Peirce's own words, see the Commens Dictionary.

list of topics and keywords

for excerpts on this page (many of these are more fully explained and correlated in the complete Peirce texts on this website):

References SourceNet gnoxic home