J. Nubiola: "Review of C. S. Peirce: Reasoning and the Logic of Things".
The Philosophical Quarterly XLIV, (1993), pp. 547-548.

Reasoning and the Logic of Things. The Cambridge Conferences Lectures of 1898. By Charles Sanders Peirce. Edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner. With an Introduction by Kenneth Laine Ketner and Hilary Putnam. (Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard UP, 1992. Pp. xiv + 297. Price $85.95 h/b, $17.95 p/b.).

The appearance of this volume marks the publication for the first time of the entire set of lectures Charles S. Peirce gave in Cambridge, Mass., in 1898. It is a study edition of the lectures, reconstructed by Ketner from the manuscripts amongst the Charles S. Peirce Papers and the William James Papers in the Houghton Library at Harvard. Some extracts from discarded drafts and delivered lectures were included in the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (Cambridge, Mass.: 1931-58), but their piecemeal presentation has made any proper understanding difficult until now. Since the lectures were intended for a general audience, Peirce accepted William James' advice to avoid mathematics and complicated logic. As now published, the lectures present, in the words of Ketner and Putnam, 'the most convenient and complete means for gaining access to those ideas and insights in Peirce's philosophy which are especially relevant to a number of contemporary issues' (p. 3). The volume is dedicated to the novelist and writer, the late Walker Percy, whose prophecy concerning Peirce is also recorded: 'Most people have never heard of him, but they will' (ibid.).

The main part of the book consists of the set of eight lectures under the general title 'Reasoning and the Logic of Things' (pp. 103-268). Their content could be summarised in Peirce's words: 'metaphysics must draw its principles from logic, and that logic must draw its principles... from mathematics' (p. 123). The titles of the lectures give only hints of their content: (1) Philosophy and the Conduct of Life; (2) Types of Reasoning; (3) The Logic of Relatives; (4) First Rule of Logic; (5) Training in Reasoning; (6) Causation and Force; (7) Habit; and (8) The Logic of Continuity. The lectures are preceded by an introduction by Ketner and Putnam (pp. 1-54), and some extensive and valuable comments from the latter (pp. 55-102). The introduction includes a biographical sketch of Peirce and an account of Cambridge at the time, along with an explanation of the Peircean concept of continuity, which he identified with 'the notion of inexhaustible and creative possibility' (p. 37).

Putnam offers his comments on the lectures as a guide to background materials not conveniently available, and as a suggestion of 'real connections between Peirce's efforts and contemporary discussions' (p. 55). He succeeds in both goals, pointing out to the reader the differences from other pragmatist thinkers, introducing the scientific problems which Peirce was dealing with, and hinting a close links with present discussions in philosophy. In particular, Putnam suggests further exploration of the contrast between Peirce's attitude to logic and Frege's: 'it is fascinating that the two inventors of predicate calculus... disagreed on so fundamental a metaphysical issue, Frege seeing logic as totally non-empirical and Peirce seeing logic itself as involving something like mental experimentation with diagrams' (p. 72).

These Cambridge lectures were given in a private home near Harvard Yard from 10 February to 7 March 1898. In his recent biography of Peirce (Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life: Bloomington, 1993), Joseph Brent writes that James had asked the Harvard Corporation to allow Peirce to lecture on campus, but permission was denied. Almost a century later, these lectures are finally published by Harvard University Press, with fine illustrations and helpful comments from a distinguished member of the Harvard Department of Philosophy, whose company were described by Peirce: 'all true scholars, particularly marked by eagerness to learn and freedom from dogmatism' (p. 171).

Última actualización: 30 de octubre 2007

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Universidad de Navarra