Return to the New List


Editorial Preface
Joseph Ransdell

      "On a New List of Categories" first appeared in print in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 7 (1868), pp. 287-98, but is usually referred to as an 1867 paper because it was delivered orally that year to the Academy (on May 14th). It can fairly be referred to as Peirce's first philosophical publication, since what he had published before that in print was in formal logic only. This should be qualified, though, by the understanding that Peirce--born in 1839--was in his late 20's by then, and already had many years of devotion to philosophy behind him: his interest in philosophy begins around the age of 13 or so, and he had, moreover, delivered two important series of lectures on the logic of science (a series of 12 at Harvard in 1865 and another series of 12 at the Lowell Institute in 1866) that are clearly of a piece with his subsequent work and which exhibit philosophical maturity of an avant garde character as well as unusual sophistication on the scholarly side. These should surely count as publication in the scholarly sense, too. Nevertheless, the "New List", as it is usually referred to, has a special initiatory and foundational role in his thinking which makes it appropriate to think of the public presentation of the line of argument therein, which he had been working on for several years, as his initial philosophical communication proper, with his previous formal papers and his public lectures (recoverable only from manuscripts and then only partially) as preliminary to this.

     In any case, throughout his long career--his last substantial writings are in 1911--Peirce continued to regard this paper as having special status as a foundational paper not only in his own thought but in philosophy generally, and repeatedly reaffirmed this view of its status during the last decade or so of his career. The three papers which appeared shortly thereafter as a set in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy in 1868-69, sometimes referred to as the "theory of cognition" papers--"Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man", "Some Consequences of Four Incapacities," and "Grounds of Validity of the Laws of Logic"--are closely related to it in that his aim in the present paper is to define the fundamental conceptions of logic in semiotical terms (after first establishing the categorial doctrine that yields the semiotical conceptions), and his aim in those is to explain the basis of the validity of the laws of logic in terms of the semiotical conception of mind as logically conceived.

      This is a digitized version of the paper as it originally appeared, which is in the public domain. However, we insert in the text both the page numbers of the version of the paper which appears in the recent chronological edition of Peirce's work, Writings of Charles S. Peirce (Indiana University Press), and the paragraph numbers of the version of it in the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (Harvard University Press). These numbers are shown within parentheses in the text and on the corresponding "buttons" in the jump-tables, e.g. "W2.49" means page 49 of Volume 2 in the Writings of Charles S. Peirce and "CP1.545" means paragraph 545 in Volume 1 of the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce.

     The rationale is to keep reference practices in on-line publication and discussion consistent with the practices that have developed prior to this in referring to passages in Peirce's work, and the papers in this set are almost always referenced by scholars as they appear in one of those two versions. (Since the pagination of the journal in which it originally appeared is never used in scholarly reference, it is not included here.) This eliminates the need for including special pagination for the on-line digital version of this set of papers.

     Conventions and practices of scholarly reference in on-line publication of Peirce's work in particular will have to be developed ad hoc because of the unusually various kinds of circumstances to be accounted for and the continuing development of the new medium. There should be a continuing attempt, though, toward the development of a small number of special paradigms that will eventuate in a reasonably simple and stable universal practice as regards Peirce in particular.

Return to the New List

Editorial Preface to
Charles Peirce's "On a New List of Categories"
by Joseph Ransdell

Dept of Philosophy, Texas Tech University,
Lubbock Texas 79409

The URL for this page is
Page last modified by B.U. June 29, 2012 — B.U.
Last modified in content February 15, 1998 — J.R.

Queries, comments, and suggestions to

Top of the Page