The Charles S. Peirce Society


Peter H. Hare


In Memoriam:

Frederic Harold Young (1905-2003)


the Founding of the Peirce Society


Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Summer 2004, Vol. XL, 393-415.




On October 15, 1945, while he was the minister of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey, and a Wyman Fellow in Philosophy at Princeton University, the Reverend Frederic Harold Young1 delivered to the Pike County Historical Society in Milford, Pennsylvania, an address entitled  "Charles Sanders Peirce: America's Greatest Logician and Most Original Philosopher." While revealing much of Young's own approach to Peirce, the address also tells us about the attitudes toward Peirce of several eminent philosophers of that day, philosophers Young had enlisted in support of his campaign to memorialize Peirce and promote the study of his writings.   The paper is important enough to the background of the establishment of the Peirce Society to be worth reproducing in full. 



      In this community where he spent the last twenty-seven years of his life, or more than a third of his lifetime, and where he composed so many of those papers which, since his death, have increasingly brought him world-recognition as a logician and philosopher, we are met under the auspices of the Pike County Historical Society to honor Charles Sanders Peirce. We are met to honor him, not only on and for this occasion, but to inspire a consideration of the best means whereby to establish a worthy memorial to him who was not only one of Milford's most distinguished citizens but who was also the greatest logician and the most original philosopher in our nation's history.


        In attempting to achieve an adequate understanding of this remarkable man, our subject inevitably divides itself into two main parts: the one, biographical; the other critical----that is to say, a statement and estimate of his achievements. We shall consider first the biographical, and then the critical and interpretive aspect of our theme.


         Charles Sanders Peirce----he did not acquire the additional name of "Santiago" until middle life----was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the tenth of September, 1839, the second son of Benjamin and Sarah Peirce. His father, professor of mathematics at Harvard, was recognized as the foremost mathematician of his time in America, and he took all pains to see that his son was given an incomparable training in the theory and application of physical science, mathematics, and philosophy. His method was to give the boy problems to work, and leave him to induct the general principle from the problems. Most of us experienced sufficient difficulty in working problems with the general formulae given in advance. What would have been our consciousness of incapacity had we been asked to work our way to the formulae for ourselves! He also drilled Charles in Chess and other games that required and developed logical ability. Sometimes he played double dummy with his son from ten in the evening until sunrise. The lad was reading Whately's LOGIC at thirteen. Entering Harvard at sixteen and graduating at twenty, he read widely in philosophy. So profoundly conversant was he with German philosophy that in a few years he was to tell the Metaphysical Club, which included such figures as Chauncey Wright, William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and a number of other notable minds, that the whole of German philosophy was only a "suggestion" of what true philosophy might be! This was unmitigated heresy to a generation that had based its ethical theory on Kant. But they had to listen to him because of his mastery of Kantian thought. He once remarked that soon after he was twenty he was able to recite the CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON almost word for word.


       Two years after his graduation from college he went into the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, in which activity he remained for thirty years and during a period of which he was Acting Chief of the Survey at Washington, He found time, however, to give lectures at Harvard in the Philosophy of Science when he was thirty. It is interesting to note that he was one of a group of special lecturers which included Ralph Waldo Emerson, James E. Cabot, and John Fiske. In 1877 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, before which body he delivered addresses on various occasions.


      Although eager to pursue an academic career, he taught only eight years in his life----including logic at Johns Hopkins for five years, and lecturing intermittently at Harvard for three years. His unhappy first marriage is regarded as one factor in preventing him from securing an university chair. At twenty-three, in 1862, he had married Harriett M. Fay, afterward noted in Cambridge as a writer and organizer. He divorced her in 1883 and shortly afterward married Mademoiselle Juliette Frissy of Nancy, France. The other negative factor seems to have been his own eccentric personality. In the article on Peirce in the DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, his biographer speaks of him as "emotional, easily duped, forgetful of appointments, and careless of appearance in later years." In connection with these remarks, I wish I possessed the advantage enjoyed by some members of this Society in being able to compare these impressions of Peirce with first-hand impressions of one's own.


    At the age of forty-eight, in 1887, he retired to this community in Pike County which he regarded as "the wildest county in the northern states." Here he bought the home known to you all, three miles from this spot on the road to Port Jervis, and now known as "Philwood." In that house he wrote some of his greatest papers.2 He began his literary activities in Milford with writing definitions for THE CENTURY DICTIONARY, and with book reviews for THE NATION. He was always extravagant financially, and he came to financial grief. It is recorded that he had a ladder leading to his attic, which ladder, after he ascended it, was pulled up, thus enabling him to evade creditors when they happened to appear at the door.3 By 1906 he was penniless. He applied to the Carnegie Fund to enable him to execute a project he long had contemplated, of producing a twelve-volume work in philosophy. It was to have been his "magnum opus." But the Fund refused a grant on the grounds that they were bound by the terms of the foundation to extend assistance only for work in a "natural science," and logic was not precisely a "natural science." It was during this pathetic period that William James and a few of Peirce's former students secured aid for him through an appeal. It was in recognition of his profound esteem for his dear friend William James, that Peirce added "Santiago" to his name which is, of course, the Spanish for "St. James."

     By 1909 he was a man of seventy, suffering from incipient cancer and using morphine regularly to alleviate the pain. However, he stuck to his writing, many times composing until sunrise, as he had so many years before played double dummy with his father the whole night through. Despite the imperial strength of his mind, his body grew weaker and the end grew near. On the 19th of April, 1914, he died of cancer in Milford at the age of seventy-five. To quote his biographer's tersely eloquent words: ". . .he died . . .a frustrated, isolated man, still working on his logic, without a publisher, with scarcely a disciple, unknown to the public at large."


     In such few and simple words is conveyed, hauntingly enough to transfix the sensitive imagination, a tragic vision of the last years and days of Charles Peirce's earthly pilgrimage. Of all that he wrote, later to fill six large volumes and four others projected, one book only was published during his life. Let us hope that, in the natural beauty of this region, in companionship with his devoted wife, and in the creative outpourings of his magnificent intellect, he found, amid the world's unheeding ways, a joy and peace which the world could neither give nor take away.



       The second part of our task opens before us. We are now to attempt an appreciation of Peirce's attainments in logic and philosophy. Observe that I say appreciation rather than evaluation, since evaluation is possible only to men competent to judge. There are two chief authorities on Peirce----Doctors Weiss and Hartshorne---who jointly edited Peirce's papers after his death. An intelligent appreciation of Peirce must rest primarily, then, upon the judgment of these editors. Although I myself have read rather widely in Peirce's writings, there is a marked difference between a student and an authority.


      Peirce's manuscripts, after his death, were bought from his wife by the Philosophy Department of Harvard University. What with leaves missing, pages unnumbered, dates omitted, and no sequence apparent on the surface, it was a vast undertaking to edit the hundreds of papers thus acquired, But it was done with consummate ability by the editors and issued in six volumes by the Harvard University Press from 1931-1935. The editors have given us to expect four more volumes at some future date. The titles of the published volumes are indicative of the range of Peirce's speculations:







     Besides the published works, which included material drawn chiefly from the fields of logic, mathematics, pragmatism, and metaphysics, there was a corpus of data in such diverse subject-matters as geodesy, religion, chemistry, astronomy, investigations in English and classical Greek pronunciation, criminology, psychical research, the history of science, Egyptology, ancient history, Napoleon, a thesaurus and editor's manual, and translations from Latin and German. We shall confine out attention to the two areas in which Peirce attained preeminence: logic and pragmatism.


     Although he was, as he once said, practically brought up in a laboratory, Peirce regarded himself primarily as a logician. The self-estimate appears to be perfectly accurate, since it is now generally recognized by authorities that he is one of the five or six creative intellects in logic since Aristotle wrote the ORGANON over twenty-three centuries ago. Bacon talked much about a NOVUM ORGANUM, but Peirce created one. The Peircian canon is itself a monument to one of the most powerful intellects in western thought. Little wonder that William James called him "the most original mind of his generation." He might have added: "and for many generations."


     In connection with Peirce's specific accomplishments in logic, I quote at length from Weiss' admirable article in the DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY:


    "In 1847, George Boole, the founder of modern logic, published THE MATHEMATICAL ANALYSIS OF LOGIC, followed in 1854 by his definitive work, AN INVESTIGATION OF THE LAWS OF THOUGHT. These works, destined to revolutionize the entire science of logic and free it from the thrall of the Aristotelian syllogism were practically unnoticed in America until Peirce . . . referred to Boole's work, and made a number of vital and permanent improvements in the Boolean system . . .(Peirce's) technical papers of 1867-1885 established him as the greatest formal logician of his time, and the most important single force in the period from Boole to Schroeder. These papers are difficult, inaccessible, scattered, and fragmentary, and their value might never have been known if it had not been that Schroeder based a large portion of his VORLESUNGEN UBER DIE ALGEBRA DER LOGIK on them . . .Peirce radically modified, extended, and transformed the Boolean algebra, making it applicable to propositions, relations, probability and arithmetic. Practically single-handed since De Morgan, Peirce laid the foundations of the logic of relations, the instrument for the logical analysis of mathematics. He invented the copula of inclusion, the most important symbol in the logic of classes, two new logical algebras, two new systems of logical graphs, discovered the link between the logic of classes and the logic of propositions, was the first to give the fundamental principle for the logical development of mathematics, and made exceedingly important contributions to probability theory, induction, and the logic of scientific methodology . . .. Many of his more important writings on logic, among which are his detailed papers on his new science of semiotics, he never published, and the final appreciation of his full strength and importance as a logician awaits the assimilation of the posthumous papers."


And in reference to Peirce's mathematical powers, Weiss says:


"In 1867 in his paper UPON THE LOGIC OF MATHEMATICS, he clearly anticipated the method for the derivation and definition of a number employed in the epochal PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA of A. N. Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, published in three volumes in 1910-1913 . . . Had all his mathematical papers been published during his lifetime . . . he would have been a more important factor in the history of mathematics than he is today. His work on the logical and philosophical problems of mathematics remains, however, among the foremost in the field." So much for Peirce's eminence as a logician.


      In the POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY for January 1878, appeared an article by Peirce entitled: "How to Make Our Ideas Clear." In this particular article was the statement which afterwards became famous as the "pragmatic maxim" and which led to his reputation as the founder of that philosophical movement in America known during the past fifty years as Pragmatism.


      Pragmatism, in layman's language, is that philosophy particularly concerned with judging the meaning of any thought or experience in terms of its effects and results. Ruggiero, an Italian philosopher, says: "Pragmatism was born in America, the country of business, and is, par excellence, the philosophy of the business man."


But this is a provincial view for an historian of philosophy to take. Just as idealism, realism, empiricism, and scepticism are permanently recurring tendencies in philosophic thought, so is pragmatism with its appeal to the practical judgment. That is why William James called Pragmatism "a new name for old ways of thinking." Immanuel Kant and Fichte, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, had, among other viewpoints, given stress to the "practical reason", and to the profound element of decision-for-action in the human ego. Kant occasionally used the word "pragmatic."


Returning to Peirce, I quote the maxim itself:


"Consider what effects which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object."


It is Peirce's exclusive emphasis upon "effects" as giving us "the whole of our conception of an object" which made him the founder of Pragmatism as a movement in America. Peirce was perfectly clear as to the nature, value, and limitations of this principle. In countering criticism of the maxim he stressed the fact that it was concerned with concepts rather than things, and that it was to be employed as a "principle of method" rather than as a proposition in metaphysics.


       Considering the maxim again, observe that the frame of reference is strictly to our conceptions, and not /an/ appeal to action or decision such as James later developed. Peirce coined the word "pragmaticism" to distinguish his position from that of James' "pragmatism", with its relatively greater emphasis on the will over the intellect. Peirce's maxim, as conceived and used by him, is a guiding principle of investigation within such fields as semantics, logic, and the epistemology of conception. But it has been applied by James, Dewey and others to such subject-matter as ethics, sociology, education, and psychology. Watson's doctrine of behaviorism in psychology is an illustration in point of the method of interpreting by "effects" as applied in a specific science; in this case, a reading of the human organism exclusively in terms of its visible, or measurable, responses rather than the emphasis on stimuli as in the older psychology. In a letter from Professor W. T. Stace of the Philosophy Department at Princeton University, it is pointed out that this maxim has been used also by the Logical Positivists in their "verifiability principle of meaning."


       Whatever the later applications by Pragmatists and Positivists, Peirce, because of his metaphysical and speculative bent, remained severely intellectualistic in his theory and use of the maxim.


     This mention of his speculative bent brings us to a recognition of his metaphysical power. He is perhaps the second mind since Aristotle----the other being Leibniz---to have gone so far in the construction of a completely scientific metaphysics. This point requires no further amplification here, since it is essentially contained in letters that I have received from present-day philosophers, whose estimate of our Philosopher I will shortly read to you.


     To indulge in a rapid summary: Peirce was preeminent as mathematician (greater than his father who was the greatest in America) scientist, logician, and metaphysician. He was the rarest of combinations in any domain of human thought---a man of immense erudition and equally a man of immense originality. In fact, he is a philosopher's philosopher, and that role has belonged to only a few such as Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel.


    Our foremost creative thinkers in American history may be counted with less than our ten fingers. In the 18th century we produced Jonathan Edwards, Count Rumford (who spent most of his life in exile), Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries we produced Willard Gibbs, Thorstein Veblen, Henry Adams, and Charles Peirce. These eight minds: Edwards in theology and philosophy, Rumford in physics, Franklin in science and statecraft, Jefferson in political science and education; Gibbs in physics, Veblen in economics and anthropology, Adams in social and historico-literary criticism, and Peirce in logic and metaphysics were intellects of the first rank; and among these eight, Peirce is surpassed by none in sheer intellectual power. Weiss concludes his article on Peirce with this estimate: This much is now certain: he is the most original and versatile of America's philosophers, and America's greatest logician."


    I am extremely happy on this occasion to present opinions of Peirce from several outstanding thinkers of the nation and the world, but before I quote from them, it will heighten, with a pathetic irony, the contrast of inappreciation in his own day and the profound appreciation of these days, if Charles Peirce be allowed to speak to us in his own words, taken from the Preface to Volume I of his COLLECTED PAPERS:


"I am a man of whom critics have never found anything good to say. When they could see no opportunity to injure me, they have held their peace. The little laudation I have had has come from such sources, that the only satisfaction I have derived from it, has been such slices of bread and butter as it might waft my way. Only once, as far as I remember, in all my lifetime have I experienced the pleasure of praise----not for what it might bring but in itself. That pleasure was beatific; and the praise that conferred it was meant for blame. It was that a critic said of me that I did not seem to be absolutely sure of my own conclusions. Never, if I can help it, shall that critic's eye ever rest on what I am now writing; for I owe a great pleasure to him; for such was his evident animus, that should he find that out, I fear the fires of hell would be fed with new fuel in his breast."


     He then proceeds:


   "My book is meant for people who want to find out; and people who want philosophy ladled out to them can go elsewhere. There are philosophical soup shops at every corner, thank God! . . .The first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness; and ninety-nine out of every hundred good heads are reduced to impotence by that malady----of whose inroads they are most strangely unaware!"


   Now let us attend to the tributes from some of our nationally known philosophers who, upon my solicitations, sent them especially for this occasion. The first quotation is from Sidney Hook, Professor of Philosophy at New York University. By him I was introduced to a study of Peirce:


"More than any one man in the history of human thought, Charles Peirce pointed the way to bridging the age-old dualism between things and human thought. This he did in his epoch-making conception of man as a sign-using animal, and his interpretation of the life of mind as the life inherent in symbols. It is by the use of symbols that man as a piece of nature becomes human; and it is through man's activity directed by symbols that nature becomes meaningful and reasonable. The rich implications of Peirce's fundamental insight are yet to be explored. Today he is just as much the philosopher's philosopher, just as much the pioneer of a second Copernican revolution in thought (one more genuine than Kant's) as he was when his meteoric genius first flashed across American skies."


     From Charles Hartshorne, of the Department of Philosophy, the University of Chicago, and co-editor with Paul Weiss of Peirce's papers:


"Besides being a great logician, Peirce was a great mathematician----according to a foremost English authority who was at Johns Hopkins with him, a 'much greater' mathematician than his father, Benjamin Peirce, who had been the leading mathematician of his day.

"In general philosophy, beyond logic, Peirce wrote brilliantly in several fields. And here, too, his views were revolutionary for his own day, and such as fifty years later came to be widely seen as important. The most ambitious and complete philosophy of our day, that of Whitehead, is more fully anticipated by Peirce, probably, than by anyone of his time, unless, perhaps, William James is an exception.

" . . .Other important doctrines are his classification of signs, his theory of the three categories, his synecism and tychism (the first and in some respects still the best efforts to do justice to the ideals of continuity and chance in philosophy), and his evolutionary 'agapism.'

" . . .Peirce, so far as I can find, combined more knowledge of exact science and the history of ideas with more inventive genius in philosophy than any man of his time . . . It was the first time since Leibniz that there had been such a phenomenon, a mathematician who was a logician and a physicist and a chemist and a metaphysician. He even did work in experimental psychology."


     From Professor F. C. S. Northrop, of the Department of Philosophy, Yale University:


"Charles Santiago [sic] Peirce ranks with Willard Gibbs as one of the greatest systematic theoretical and creative minds this country has ever produced. Not only did he formulate certain basic ideas in technical, mathematical, and symbolic logic, but also he laid the technical foundations of the philosophical movement known as pragmatism . . . For all their technical precision and originality, these doctrines of Peirce's grew out of a thorough  understanding of the works of the past, especially those of Immanuel Kant. In the field of empirical logic and scientific method similarly he combined a thorough understanding of the formal mathematical and deductive side of scientific and philosophical procedure with an informed emphasis upon its empirical inductive and pragmatic aspects. When one compares him with previous minds in the history of western thought, one thinks of Aristotle and Leibniz."


      From John Dewey, lately retired from the Philosophy Department of Columbia University, and generally regarded as the Dean of American philosophers today:


"C. S. Peirce was ahead of his times intellectually by more than a generation. Psychology and Philosophy are even now only slowly catching up, beginning to understand what he wrote. I note the following points: (1) What is called the 'external world' is not primarily a matter of knowledge but of that 'two-sided' direct interaction of organic-environmental conditions that occurs in 'effort-resistance', the effort side being called 'action', while the influence of the resisting conditions determine the 'perceptual' side. Peirce never separates 'motor' and 'sensory'; neither is primary, though we may distinguish phases in which one or the other is dominant. Contemporary psychology is just beginning to take account of the full force of this position. (2) What is called thought is a matter of that form of signs that constitutes languages. Thought is language, and language is thought, not an expression or clothing for it. Since language is a mode of communication, 'logic is rooted in the social principle'----Peirce's own words. (3) Language elevates habit, otherwise physical and physiological, to the plain of acknowledged continuity, generality, or reasonableness. (4) There is no fixity nor finality in the process. Its nature is growth, indefinite and continuous. The continuity of growth is our chief ground for hope with respect to the future of man."


     From Dr. Alfred North Whitehead, formerly of the Philosophy Department of Harvard University, and a man who is recognizedly one of the very greatest philosophical intellects living among men today:


"Peirce was a very great man, with a variety of interests in each of which he made original contributions. The essence of his thought was originality in every subject he taught. For this reason none of the conventional labels apply to him. He conceived every topic in his own original way."


    Lastly, from Paul Weiss of the Department of Philosophy of Bryn Mawr College, and co-editor with Hartshorne of Peirce's COLLECTED PAPERS. I quote first from a paper delivered by him, in 1939 on the hundredth anniversary of Peirce's birth, before the American Philosophical Association at Columbia University, and then from a personal letter with a memorandum for this particular occasion.


"I am not concerned with praising Peirce----that would be impertinent---but in doing honor to him on this hundredth anniversary of his birth . . . Peirce was a metaphysician as well as a logician, a realist as well as a semiotician, a speculative thinker as well as an experimental scientist, an idealist as well as a naturalist, and a pragmatist who had a theory of ethics which acknowledged a fixed and universal ideal. These were not for him, and they ought not be for us, inconsistent positions. Truth is rich and complex enough to accommodate both the abstract and the concrete, the temporal and the eternal, the general and the specific, the absolute and the relative, the probable and the certain. Peirce was a philosopher precisely because he saw that these different factors were facets of one encompassing truth and reality, and that philosophy was not a point of view but a study of that which embraces all points of view."


    I conclude this series of tributes with a paragraph from Dr. Weiss' letter for this occasion:


"Charles S. Peirce is one the great minds of the 19th century. He is one of the most unusual, original and erudite men born in America. He is the founder of pragmatism----America's great contribution to philosophy; he is the founder of the modern theory of signs; he is one of the founders of modern logic; he was one of the very few in the history of thought who was at home equally in the laboratory and the library, in ancient and modern thought, in English and German culture. He influenced Royce, James, Dewey, Cohen, his editors, and a host of other thinkers in this century, Almost entirely ignored in his day, he is now becoming better and better known as one of America's great contributions to civilization."



In contemplating and executing a worthy memorial to Charles Sanders Peirce in this community you are honoring not only him, but yourselves, and ultimately, the nation. It is the happy destiny of this village to have vouchsafed habitation to this man who lived quietly in your midst not so many years gone. You could hardly have understood that a titan of intellectual glory was living among you. Even university circles were strangely negligent and cruelly inappreciative, with far less excuse. Now that we better understand what manner of mind he was, it is time to pay our respects in a tangible and lasting form.


     In addressing you as members of the Pike County Historical Society, I would remind you that your Society, in contemplating this project, is acting not merely as a custodian of the past, but as trustees of the future, since the influence of this man grows with each passing year. Consequently, it behooves you to think of memorials that will themselves grow with the coming years.4 Obviously you will want to purchase the six volumes of his COLLECTED PAPERS, along with three books on him,namely: CHANCE, LOVE, and LOGIC, edited by Morris Cohen; THE PHILOSOPHY OF PEIRCE, by Justus Buchler; also, PEIRCE'S EMPIRICISM by Buchler. But I am thinking even more of the raising of funds for establishing a Charles S. Peirce Scholarship, the income from which to be given annually to that boy or girl graduating from the local academy who ranks highest in science and mathematics, thus enabling him or her to attend college. Perhaps the finest possibility of all for you to consider is the following suggestion from Dr. Weiss.  I was excited by the thought and I think you will be. He writes:


"It is good that Milford acknowledges him in this public way. In fact, it would be very nice if these ideas of yours could be supplemented by a yearly lectureship on some phase of Peirce. I think it would be necessary to put up no more than the fare and a modest stipend in order to get a distinguished scholar to lecture at Milford each year on the anniversary of Peirce's birth."-----which is the tenth of September.


     Do you not have a vision of what that would mean to Milford? You already have your summer theatre. The execution of this project would still further distinguish Milford as a community of culture, through the honoring of its great citizen and the bringing of distinguished scholars to its people.


Though not a completely native Milfordite like your Gifford Pinchot who, as I understand, knew Mr. Peirce in the flesh; yet, philosopher and citizen Peirce must have loved this town and countryside where he gave up his years to great thoughts. Milford, through the medium of this Historical Society, has a large trust to perform. Keeping alive the value of a very great man is not the kind of privilege and responsibility that falls to every town. The world of letters and scholarship is concerned with your action beyond this present occasion. Milford will not fail to do the generous and significant thing for herself, for the larger community of human culture, and for her immortal son.


Before he sent his address to the Historical Society to be printed, Young added this:


NOTE: Three weeks after the delivery of the present paper, the author sent, to the chief philosophical journals of Britain and America, a notice in which he announced his intention of founding at Milford a Charles S. Peirce Society. Doctors Weiss and Hartshorne have consented to act as advisers. Membership will be open on a local, national, and international basis. Such a Society would consider and manage such projects as have been mentioned in the above paper, as well as others that may well be conceived and executed. For example: Peirce's remains are at present resting in a neglected plot, with only this inscription on the plainest and smallest of headstones: CHARLES S. PEIRCE; and then, below his name: Juliette Peirce, 1934. A fitting monument is one of the first considerations for a Peirce Society.


In his cover letter to the Historical Society, Young explained that he would be "addressing the American Philosophical Association soon after February 10th, and so I'm counting utterly on you to have them ready for me by then (of course you couldn't hurt my feelings if you happened to have them ready earlier!)."5 It was in conjunction with that APA meeting that the Peirce Society was founded and had its first meeting as announced subsequently in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (Vol. VI, June 1946, No. 4, pp., 657-658):


    The meeting was called by Rev'd Frederic H. Young of Princeton University for the founding of a Peirce Society was held on the 22nd of February 1946, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, after the tea for the American Philosophical Association which was on its second day in annual session, with the following result:

     Those present were: Paul Weiss----who acted as Chairman; Sidney Hook, Philip Wiener, Frederic H. Young, Albert Abarbanell, James K. Feibleman, A. P. Ushenko, Daniel Bronstein, S. J. Kahn, M. Wertz, A. W. Burks, J. Buchler, Joseph Ratner, Max Black, H. S. Leonard, A. J. Benson, G. V. Edwards, Jr., David [S]avan, Howard M. Wiedemann, Roderick M. Chisholm, W. H. Hay, Lenore D. Bloom, Otis Lee, J. E. Smith, and Martin Lyons.

     These gentlemen organized themselves, after considerable discussion of the purposes of a Peirce Society, into the Charles S. Peirce Society, and proceeded to elect temporary officers whose function was to draw up a statement of aims, and also to prepare a constitution and by-laws, to be submitted to each member present and to those who joined subsequent to this meeting. Mr. James Feibleman was assigned the task of preparing the data in the first instance, after which, subsequent to criticism of other officers, it was to be mailed to the members.

    These officers were elected: President, Dr. Paul Weiss; Secretary, Rev'd Frederic H. Young;6 Treasurer, James K. Feibleman. Mr. Young gave $20.00 to the treasurer as a donation from St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Newark, N. J., and from the graduate students in philosophy at Princeton. The meeting opened at 5:15 P.M. and adjourned at 6:00 P.M.

     Address communications to the Secretary, Graduate College, Princeton, N.J.

            Frederic H. Young

            Secretary, Charles S. Peirce Society


After completing his Wyman fellowship at Princeton, Young became a graduate student at Columbia University where he received a Ph.D. in 1948 with a dissertation directed by Herbert W. Schneider, The Philosophy of Henry James, Sr. (New York; Bookman Associates, 1951). His prefatory comments on his thesis suggest interests in some ways similar to those he had in the study of Peirce:


(T)he reader will find, in the accompanying exposition, a presentation of James's philosophy which, in its wholeness, constitutes a remarkably unified system; but this system in his thought-as-a-whole had to be discovered and articulated as such by the present writer. The task of exhibiting James's system as an interrelated totality was complicated by the fact that the literary unit of James's expression of his thought is not the sentence, nor the book-length, but rather the "essay" (or "letter"), as one who consults the full titles of his work will readily discover; moreover, there are no indexes in any of his books.

      James's philosophic vision is one of imposing vitality and possesses a kind of architectural grandeur. This vision is garmented in the sinewy yet graceful English of a prose master. It is hoped that James, Sr., long eclipsed in fame by his sons William and Henry, may come now into his own as a recognized brilliant thinker and author in the epic of American thought and literature.7


Near the end of the book Young describes James, Sr., Peirce and Josiah Royce as representatives of the same basic trends:


Another American thinker, Charles Sanders Peirce, was beginning to speculate on Chance ("Tychism") and Spontaneity before James died, but Peirce's "spontaneity" was weighted on the cosmological side as a theory of indeterminism, while James's was anthropological and sociological in reference. It would indeed be an attractive task to trace certain parallel directions of thought between James and Peirce: James's Spiritual Socialism and Peirce's "Unlimited Community," followed by Royce's "Beloved Community"; between James's Spontaneity and Peirce's "Tychism," between James's stress on the Divine Love as the supreme essence of God and Peirce's "Evolutionary Agapism."

With different presuppositions and conclusions, thinkers in a given age are often paralleling each other in the great basic trends of their thought. Regardless of technical differences, there is a much greater similarity in their mutual emphasis on the objective, the generalized, the socialized, between the elder James and Peirce than there is between either one of them and the individualistic William James.8


Young's work on Henry James, Sr. by no means ended his labors as secretary of the Peirce Society. When Arthur O. Lovejoy wrote him to suggest that the Society organize a "cooperative volume which would at once bring his whole scheme of ideas into clearer focus than he himself ever brought it, and present the most thorough critical examination both into the validity of his reasonings and the consistency of his conclusions,"9 Young accepted the challenge---with the aid of Philip P. Wiener.


In the foreword to the resulting volume they jointly edited, Wiener and Young proudly announced that "this volume is a first and significant step in attaining the aim of the Charles S. Peirce Society to encourage actively 'the study and development of Peirce's ideas'." Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce, published in 1952, immediately became, and remains today, a classic of Peirce scholarship. The short piece that Young contributed to the volume of which he was co-editor, "Charles Sanders Peirce: 1839-1914," recapitulates some of the points made in his address to the Pike County Historical Society seven years earlier. 


From 1948 until 1968 Young taught philosophy and world literature at Montclair State University in New Jersey. During that period he also lectured abroad often. Perhaps most noteworthy was a 1958-1959 Fulbright Lectureship in India. A few years later he was thrilled to deliver an address on June 16, 1964 ("Bloomsday") on the occasion of the unveiling of a plaque placed at James Joyce's birthplace in Dublin. The plaque was a gift to Dublin from his students at Montclair.


Having retired from full-time teaching in 1968, he taught courses in philosophy and religion for the World Campus Afloat program sponsored by Chapman College in Orange, California. Wanderlust still unsatisfied, he and his wife "took a year off for our own around-the-world trip (going to relatively out-of-the-way places such as Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iran, the Sudan, and Ethiopia),"10 In 1970 they moved permanently to California where Young taught at both Chapman College and at the Leisure World senior citizen community.  In 1990,  when he decided to stop even part-time teaching, he wrote his dean: "My 18 years of teaching at Leisure World (7 under the auspices of Saddleback Central School District, and 11 for the Emeritus Institute of Saddleback College) have been the creative climax of all my years as a professor."11 Teaching gave Young at least as much pleasure as travel, and, by all accounts, he was a gifted and much loved instructor. Among his most appreciative students was Lee A. DuBridge who had retired from the California Institute of Technology after serving twenty-three years as President of that institution. DuBridge wrote the Saddleback dean: "My wife and I have both attended his classes and we can assure you they were not only full of meaning for us but also a fascinating experience . . .Since we both spent our lives in educational work, I think we can both recognize a fine teacher when we see one."12  Always eager to teach at least informally, Young created and for many years hosted "The Very Idea", a TV interview program broadcast from Leisure World.


In 1993, shortly after Joseph Brent's biography of Peirce was published,13 Young, then 88 years old, wrote Brent:


What an intellectual delight, is your PEIRCE! Its knowledge, architectonic, and literary grace, are blended in a beautiful achievement. As you will note in perusing the enclosed material, I have had a special interest beginning in 1945. Therefore, you could not have a happier and more impressed reader of your book, than myself . . .From about 1955 I veered away from Peirce studies, to teach Comparative & Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of History, and World Literature. But Peirce was resurrected for me by your book for which I am inexpressibly grateful.14


In 2001, at age 96, Young wrote a letter to Nathan Houser to thank him for a complimentary copy of Volume I of The Essential Peirce:


[The volume] recalled so vividly that day when, at Sarah Lawrence College, we formed the Peirce Society on Feb. 22 (I think it was 1947 or 8---my memory is failing so). I had mailed out 7 or 8 invitations to the chief phi. Journals in USA and Britain, to form a Peirce Society, after discussing the idea with Paul Weiss.15


Gloria Tucker, Young's daughter by his first wife, reports that in the months before his death on February 28, 2003 at the age of 97, with a mind still clear and active, her father was reading Peirce and discussing his ideas with anyone he encountered.16


University at Buffalo






1.      Frederic Harold Young was born March 2, 1905, in Indiana, the eldest of five children of Rev. Harold E. Young and Gertrude Young. His father was an itinerant clergyman in Maine, and Frederic was raised and attended schools in Kennebunkport, Maine. He received a B. A. from Bates College in 1927, a Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 1930, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1948. He served as Acting Head of the Music Department and English Master at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., 1930-1931. Having been earlier ordained a Congregational minister, he was ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1937 and a priest in 1938. He was Pastor-Rector of Congregational and Episcopal Parishes in Montana, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Jersey, 1931-1948. While a Captain-Chaplain in the National Guard, 1940-1941, marital troubles and divorce led to advice from his bishop that his prospects as a full-time priest were limited, so he "decided to resume my original intention of becoming a professor of philosophy and religion," while continuing to serve as a minister "on a demand-and-supply basis"("Personal Sketch for the Rt. Rev'd Frederick H. Borsch," by F.H.Y., undated). His first wife was Myrna Hawkes; his second was Valesca von Heidt Herzog. In 1961 he married a third time, to Diana Boyce. Beyond the publications discussed in the text above, Young's chief publications were Contemporary Philosophy in the USA, 1900-1950 (published in Spanish, 1960), and "Historical Survey of Oriental Philosophy in America," The Indian Philosophical Annual (1971). Poems and other essays were published in various magazines. His alma mater Bates College published an obituary at: His successes as an undergraduate were many. He won the freshman prize for debate, the sophomore prize for speaking, and the junior prize for declamation. He was a choir organist and debater. To the experience of college debating Young credited "the mental critical habits that have served me well in my career." Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he wrote a philosophy honors thesis, "A Study of the Conscience of Man," that is an historical and critical essay of impressive maturity.

2.      Accompanying Young's letter to Joseph Brent (see note #14 below), was a copy of his address and a note titled "A Pleasant Detail": "After giving my Milford address to the Pike County Historical Society, I visited 'Arisbe', and as I talked with the people living there then, in 1945, they graciously offered me any souvenir I might desire. I chose a tile from the French tiles that once surrounded the frame of the main fireplace. (Probably chosen by Juliette. All the tiles were of scenes of the New Testament.)"

3.      Max Fisch, in a letter of February 25, 1970, asked Young: "Do you know the source of the creditors-attic-ladder story? Mrs. Quick said there was nothing to it; neither in the house nor in the barn was there any attic or other room which could have been used in that way."  Young replied: "I do not know the source of the 'creditors-attic-ladder story.' (I think I read it first in Weiss's (?) account in Dict. of Amer. Biog.[)] Whether or not Young first learned of the story in Weiss's biography, the tale does, in fact, appear briefly in Weiss's DAB article.

4.      Norman B. Lehde, President of the Pike County Historical Society, in a letter of April 23, 1949, told Max Fisch that the Society had purchased all the books recommended for purchase by Young, and had presented them to the public library in Milford. On April 25, 1946, the Milford Dispatch, in an article titled "Peirce Society Formed", reported: "Recently there has been established by members of the American Philosophical Society a special group known as the Peirce Society . . .The new society has plans to extend appreciation of the genius of Prof. Peirce, as was suggested by Reverend Frederic H. Young of Newark and Princeton, who has become known to Milford residents by his several visits here. His paper on the life and attainments of Peirce, which he read at a meeting last autumn before the Pike County Historical Society, has been published by that society, and is having interested purchasers, the proceeds from its sale will benefit Milford High School as a prize for a student excelling in mathematics." Today the Pike County Historical Society has a Peirce Room in its museum. The Milford Public Library has a Peirce Corner.

5.      Letter of Young to Mr. Terwilliger of the Pike County Historical Society, January 14, 1946.

6.      Although the Peirce Society's Constitution recognizes Young as "Founder," and the narrative I have given amply demonstrates the appropriateness of that title, it should be acknowledged that Young sometimes hesitated to give himself that title (using instead "Founder Member," "Co-Founder," or "Founding Member") when preparing a curriculum vitae or other autobiographical sketch. I surmise that, though proud of what he had accomplished, he was a little embarrassed, as a "student" of Peirce, not an "authority," to call himself by such a grand title. Let us add humility to the long list of Reverend Young's virtues.

7.      Op.cit., p. vii.

8.      Ibid., pp. 179-180.

9.      (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), p. v.

10.  Letter of Young to Max Fisch, June 10, 1972.

11.  Letter of Young to Kathie O'C Hodge (Dean, Emeritus Institute, Saddleback College), February 11, 1990.

12.  Letter of DuBridge to Lee McGrew (Dean, Saddleback Community College), August 1, 1978.

13.  Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993). IUP published a revised edition in 1998.

14.  Letter of Young to Joseph Brent, July 22, 1993.

15.  Letter of Young to Nathan Houser, August 27, 2001. Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel (eds.), The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, Volume 1 (1867-1893) (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992).

16.  PHH interview of Gloria Tucker, February 3, 2004. For help in preparing this paper, I wish to extend my thanks not only to Gloria Tucker but also to Nathan Houser (General Editor of the Peirce Edition Project), Joseph Brent, the staff of the Pike County Historical Society, and the staff of the Muskie Archives and Special Collections of Bates College. Joseph Brent and Nathan Houser have generously given permission to quote from Young's letters to them.


Transactions Homepage | Peirce Society Homepage

Questions about our web site? Contact Jerome Vogel.