Charles Peirce

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The idea does not belong to the soul; it is the soul that belongs to the idea.

Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced purse[1]), (10 September 183919 April 1914) was an American polymath. Although educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for 30 years, he is now mostly seen as a philosopher.


  • Now, to say that a lot of objects is finite, is the same as to say that if we pass through the class from one to another we shall necessarily come round to one of those individuals already passed; that is, if every one of the lot is in any one-to-one relation to one of the lot, then to every one of the lot some one is in this same relation.
    • "On The Algebra of Logic : A Contribution to the Philosophy of Notation" in The American Journal of Mathematics 7 (1885), p. 180 - 202
  • It is the man of science, eager to have his every opinion regenerated, his every idea rationalized, by drinking at the fountain of fact, and devoting all the energies of his life to the cult of truth, not as he understands it, but as he does not yet understand it, that ought properly to be called a philosopher.
    • Review of the Nineteenth Century (1900)
  • In all the works on pedagogy that ever I read — and they have been many, big, and heavy — I don't remember that any one has advocated a system of teaching by practical jokes, mostly cruel. That, however, describes the method of our great teacher, Experience.
    • Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism (1903) CP 5.51
  • By "semiosis" I mean, on the contrary, an action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs.
    • 'Pragmatism', The Essential Peirce. Selected Philosophical Writings Vol. 2 (1907), p. 411, edited by the Peirce Edition Project, 1998. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • Unless man have a natural bent in accordance with nature's, he has no chance of understanding nature at all.
    • A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God in the Hibbert Journal VII:90 (1908)
  • I define a Sign as anything which is so determined by something else, called its Object, and so determines an effect upon a person, which effect I call its Interpretant, that the latter is thereby mediately determined by the former.
    • "A Letter to Lady Welby" (1908) SS 80-81
  • By an object, I mean anything that we can think, i.e. anything we can talk about.
    • "Reflections on Real and Unreal Objects", Undated, MS 966
  • The entire universe is perfused with signs, if it is not composed exclusively of signs.
    • Quoted in Essays in Zoosemiotics (1990) by Thomas A. Sebeok

Collected Papers (1931-1958)

  • Do not block the way of inquiry.
    • Vol. I, par. 135
  • The idea does not belong to the soul; it is the soul that belongs to the idea.
    • Vol. I, par. 216
  • Effort supposes resistance.
    • Vol. I, par. 320
  • Every man is fully satisfied that there is such a thing as truth, or he would not ask any question.
    • Vol. V, par. 211
  • To say, therefore, that thought cannot happen in an instant, but requires a time, is but another way of saying that every thought must be interpreted in another, or that all thought is in signs.
    • Vol. V, par. 254
  • Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.
    • Vol. V, par. 265
  • Consider what effects that might conceivably have practical bearings you conceive the objects of your conception to have. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object.
    • Vol. V, par. 438
  • All the evolution we know of proceeds from the vague to the definite.
    • Vol. VI, par. 191
  • Mere imagination would indeed be mere trifling; only no imagination is mere.
    • Vol. VI, par. 286
  • Our whole past experience is continually in our consciousness, though most of it sunk to a great depth of dimness. I think of consciousness as a bottomless lake, whose waters seem transparent, yet into which we can clearly see but a little way.
    • Vol. VII, par. 547


  1. "Peirce" -- in the case of Charles Sanders Peirce and his father Benjamin Peirce -- is pronounced exactly like the English-language word "purse": enPR: pûrs IPA: /pɜː(r)s/ SAMPA: /p3:(r)s/ Audio (US) (help·info). See "Note on the Pronunciation of 'Peirce'", The Peirce [Edition] Project Newsletter, Vol. 1, Nos. 3/4, Dec. 1994, Eprint.

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