American Philosophy

Charles Sanders Peirce

What was Charles Peirce’s fourth system?

Peirce’s fourth system (1885–1914) introduced evolution to his second system. The whole system of sign-object-interpretant, with its infinite implications, is an evolving system. The system has evolved over time and continues to evolve, as does our knowledge of it, and every sign within it. Peirce worked out many details of this process, in logic and in what others considered “pragmatism.” He ended up with an extreme form of idealism that posited the entire universe as a living, feeling organism, with habits that are mirrored in our general laws of nature (descriptions of regularities).


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