Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Philosophers - Philosopher of the Month

Philosopher of the Month

Looking for inspiration? Here you’ll meet a different philosopher every month. Read about renowned thinkers from a range of intellectual domains and make new discoveries too.

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Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)

Charles Sanders Peirce was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father, Benjamin Peirce, was a famous Harvard astronomer and mathematician, and Peirce graduated from Harvard with a degree in science in 1863. Peirce was employed for many years with the United States Coast and Geodesic Survey, precisely mapping the earth’s shape and surface, measuring the force of gravity, and settling international standards of weights and measures. Peirce also made significant contributions to astronomy and statistics. He became an internationally respected scientist during the late 1800s, but he put even more effort into scientific methodology, logic, and philosophy.
Peirce was the first intellectual in the world who was both an important scientist utilizing experimental techniques and a superb philosopher advancing fundamental insights. Before Peirce, only a few thinkers combined scientific and philosophical expertise, and not coincidentally they count among the most important philosophers of all time, such as Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, G.W. Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant. Peirce belongs with this exclusive company. Peirce inspired generations of pragmatists from William James and John Dewey to W.V. Quine and Hilary Putnam, and his work was developed into new areas of thought, such as algebraic logic, process philosophy, process theology, semiotics, and symbolic interactionism.