The Range of Peirce's Relevance

The Monist 63 (3):269-276 (1980)
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Abstract

“Arisbe,” the Peirce home near Milford, Pennsylvania, belongs to the National Park Service, and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is responsible for its care. In 1979 a geodetic triangulation station was installed in the front yard and named the “C. S. Peirce Station.” This was intended, at least in part, as a recognition of the fact that Peirce's scientific career was in the service of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and that the first of his more than thirty years in its service was spent with triangulating parties along the coasts of Maine and of the Gulf states. It offers a suggestive metaphor for the present occasion. If the questions, methods, answers and reasons of another thinker, or of a whole movement of thought, whether earlier or later than Peirce, are illuminated by locating them, directly or indirectly, positively or negatively, in relation to those of the C. S. Peirce station, we may count that as part of the range of Peirce's relevance. In the case of an earlier thinker or movement, the relevance does not depend on Peirce's awareness or acknowledgment; in the case of a later thinker or movement, it does not depend on awareness or acknowledgment by that thinker or by one or more representatives of that movement. If the thinker is oneself, the triangulating will of course require a certain detachment. At least within limits, and perhaps even without limit, degrees of nearness or remoteness, likeness or difference, do not as such constitute degrees of relevance. And even if our interest is primarily in philosophical relevance, mathematical or scientific relevance may entail philosophical, and so be counted.

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