Why were all of Charles Peirce’s works published posthumously?

Charles Sanders Peirce Read more from
Chapter American Philosophy

Peirce neither published nor prepared for publication the greater part of his work. When he died, his widow, Juliette, sold his papers to the Harvard University Philosophy Department (for $6,000). Josiah Royce (1855–1916) was supposed to supervise their organization, but he died two years later; many of the papers were subsequently lost, misplaced, allowed to become disorganized, or simply taken. The late mathematics historian Carolyn Eisele, while conducting some research, chanced upon a trunk of Peirce’s writings in the mid 1950s in a corner of the basement of Widener Library.

The first edition of Peirce’s Collected Papers was put together by Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Burks during the 1930s. Critics have deemed this collection arbitrary and not truly representative of Peirce’s thought because it makes Peirce seem unnecessarily obscure and does not clarify the progression of his ideas. A Chronological Edition (1989) of Pierce’s work, edited by the Peirce Edition Project of the Indiana University at Indianapolis, has produced more coherent results, covering the period from 1857–1886. Two other well-regarded efforts are Peirce’s Cambridge Conferences Lectures of 1898 (1992) and Peirce’s Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism of 1903 (1997).


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