Charles S. Peirce (c.1907)

Transcripción de Juan Pablo Serra (2006)

This text is MS 325. MS 325 is a draft of a letter addressed to the editor of The Sun. No date or place of publication is given. The content of the manuscript suggests that it is a late text, written during the period when Peirce sought again and again to clarify what precisely pragmatism entails. "Pragmatism made easy" is cited in a footnote to The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2001, p. 226). The text is of relatively minor importance when compared to the influential manuscript "Pragmatism" (1907). Nevertheless, it is remarkable for its clarity of expression, the small number of corrections it contains, and Peirce's determination to explain the origins of pragmatism. In the introduction, Peirce attributes these origins to a theory of action based on belief by the lawyer Nicholas St John Green, which he goes on to argue derives from the work of the Scottish psychologist Alexander Bain.

To the editor of The Sun, Sir: ____

It is a well-settled rule among scientific men that every step in science, every new result, shall be credited to the name of him who first published it. It is a sensible rule, because the date of first publication is easily ascertained, and because while it is convenient to credit a discovery to some name, it makes no difference for most purposes, whether strict justice be done or not; and the presumption is that the man to whom this rule works injustice was too intent on his scientific work to take care to secure priority, and from the same cause will take little head or care for the mention of the vocable that has served his fathers for a family name. At the same time, when a step in science involves some new or extended idea, as for instance the idea of Energy was involved in the doctrine of what was at first called the "Correlation of Forces", or the "Preservation of Force", and as the idea that while a form might become indefinitely better adapted to cope with its environment, its becoming worse fitted to that end must stop at the point at wich it would be quite wiped out, was involved in the doctrine of Natural Selection, and as the idea of a cylindroid progression was involved in the Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements, —in any step like that, it is almost self-evident that simply to assign the idea to an individual can give little account of what the process was that actually took place.

The rule mentioned effectually prevents the sank and file of the scientific world from at all knowing, after a generation has elapsed what did take place; nor can the true history be recovered from consulting the scientific memoirs, for the obvious reason that a memoir is not a place where a scientist sets down the ideas that are floating in his mind, but only his positive and demonstrated results. The only way to learn the true history is from the living witnesses to whom the men of science at the time unburdened their breasts. Yet that true history is most interesting from a historical point of view, from a psychological point of view, and from a logical point of view. I must count it as one of the most fortunate circumstances of a life wich the study of scientific philosophy in a religious spirit has stepped in its joy, that I was able to know something of the inwardness of the early growth of several of the great ideas of the Nineteenth Century. By far the most interesting of these to me was the idea of pragmatism.

Philosophy is a study wich needs a very protracted concentrated study before one so much as begins to be at all expert in the handling of it, if one is to be precise, systematic, and scientific. I gave ten years to it before I ventured to offer half a dozen brief contributions of my own. Three years later, when I had produced something more elaborated, I went abroad and in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, learned from their own mouths what certain students at once of science and of philosophy were turning in their minds. After my return, a knot of us, Chauncey Wright, Nicholas St. John Green, William James, and others, including occasionally Francis Ellingwood Abbot and John Fiske, used frequently to meet to discuss fundamental questions. Green was especially impressed with the doctrines of Bain, and impressed the rest of us with them; and finally the writer of this brought forward what we called the principles of pragmatism. Several years later, this was set forth in two articles printed in the Popular Science Monthly (Nov. 1877 and Jan. 1878) and subsequently in the Revue Philosophique.

The particular point that had been made by Bain and that had most struck Green, and through him, the rest of us, was the insistence that what a man really believes is what he would be ready to act upon, and to risk much upon. The writer endeavoured to weave that truth in with others which he had made out for himself, so as to make a consistent doctrine of cognition. It appeared to him to be requisite to connect Bain’s doctrine, on the one hand, with physiological phenomena, and on another hand, with logical distinctions. It had long been said that the phenomena of consciousness were of three kinds, Feeling, Volition and Cognition. The writer proposed to amend that enumeration in one particular, so as to make it correspond with a logical division. Logical predicates are of three kinds; these of wich each is connected with a single subject, these of wich each is connected with two subjects, one grammatically called the subject nominative and the other the object, and these whose connections with subjects exceed two and wich are analyzable into predicated at once of subjects nominative, of direct objects, and of indirect objects.

Now feelings always arise as predicates of single objects; and it is only by subsequent reflexion, wich is not Feeling, that they may become connected with two or more subjects. In volition on the other hand, there is always a double consciousness, the volition being at once regarded as an effort of one subject and a resistance of another. Effort without resistance is unthinkable. Likewise in perception there is a double consciousness of an ego and a non-ego. Thus, there is a double consciousness wich ought to replace the narrower volition of the old division of consciousness. Finally, cognition is a consciousness of a sign, and is a triple consciousness of the sign, of the real object cognized, and of the meaning, or interpretation, of the sign wich the cognition connects with that object. This affords a definition of cognition, a more distinct and complete notion of what it consists in than any that had previously been proposed.


Fin de "Pragmatism Made Easy" (c.1907). Fuente textual en MS 325.

Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores traducciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a

Fecha del documento: 5 de junio 2006
Ultima actualización: 8 de septiembre 2020

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