Peirce's lectures on pragmatism

John F. Sowa (
Mon, 16 Jun 1997 22:37:55 -0400

In some discussions on ontology, I have been trying to explain Peirce's
categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness, but without complete
success. Recently, a series of 7 lectures, which Peirce gave at Harvard
in 1903 have been published in book form. Lectures 2, 3, and 4 are
primarily devoted to explaining his categories. Following is the reference:

Charles Sanders Peirce, _Pragmatism as a Principle and Method
of Right Thinking: The 1903 Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism_,
edited by Patricia Ann Turrisi, State University of New York Press,
Albany, 1997. Available in paperback for $18.95.

William James arranged for Peirce to deliver these lectures, and the
title was suggested by James. Peirce, however, diverged significantly
from what James had expected, and James refused to recommend the lectures
for publication. Briefly, James used psychological arguments and
rather popular examples to support his version of pragmatism, but
Peirce used logic, mathematics, and his 3 categories as the foundation
for his version.

After this series, Peirce started calling his version "pragmaticism",
which he said was a sufficiently "ugly" word that no one else would be
tempted to appropriate it.

During the week of the 7th lecture in this series, Peirce gave another
lecture on his existential graphs in the Harvard math. department.
Unfortunately, the editor of this book did not see fit to include it.

John Sowa