Paper three, “Peirce’s First Pragmatic Papers, 1877-1878” (23-33), is a brief yet

tantalizing study in intellectual biography. As is suitable from the author’s culture, it focuses

on an aspect of the “French connection” in Peirce’s life. Peirce travelled to France, spoke

French fluently and wrote in it often. In 1904 he was given the great honour of election as

foreign associate to the French academy of science.

This paper compares French and English versions of well-known and seminal

papers, “How To Make Our Ideas Clear” and “The Fixation of Belief” (both published in

Revue Philosophique, 1878-79). It demonstrates subtle inflections and differences of

meaning that resulted from changes in language and audience. It also outlines the possible

historical influence of French politics, including the Paris Commune and libertarian thought,

on the social philosophy of “The Fixation of Habit.”

The result is no arcane or dry hermeneutic, but something representative of a type of

intellectual biography that integrates very particular circumstances and events of a

subject’s professional and personal life, with the content of their ideas. Such an approach

makes a lot of sense for a pragmatist who argued ideas need to be assessed in terms of

their outcome or communication in sign acts. As detailed as it is, what is frustrating about

the paper remains its strength: its specialism and concision. How many other digressive

narrative sequences, involving Peirce’s work at Johns Hopkins, with the Metaphysical Club,

in travels to Europe, in the Coastal Survey or while at Arisbe, await further analysis?

A sense of concision and brevity is shared with other papers, and it is not really a

judgement on the anthology to note as much: within and between papers many different

themes and points are made, seemingly in passing. These cannot all be taken up with the

constraints or purposes of the present volume, yet we are tempted on occasions to want

more development.


Part Two is “devoted to Peirce’s theory of signs” (35). It takes up themes introduced

in the first part directly. The organization of the First and Second section is thus very clear:

having clarified the philosophical background, the focus is on distinct features of semiotic

theory. “Sign: Semiosis and Representamen” and “Sign: the Concept and its Use” focus

immediately on themes that Deledalle regards as central to a pragmatic understanding of

Peirce. A sign has two aspects or “acceptations”: the sign object (representamen) and the

sign action (semiosis) (37). These two aspects function with an effect that is conceived as

the interpretant, third acceptation of the sign.