Peirce’s Scientific Metaphysics is the first book devoted to understanding Charles Sanders Peirce’s (1839–1914) metaphysics from the perspective of the scientific questions that motivated his thinking.
Deftly situating Peirce’s often original and pathbreaking ideas within their appropriate historical and scientific contexts, Reynolds traces his reliance upon the law of large numbers, which illustrated for Peirce the emergence of a stable order and regularity from a multitude of chance events, throughout his writings on late nineteenth-century physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and cosmology. Along the way, Peirce’s vision of an indeterministic and evolutionary cosmology is contrasted with the thought of other important late nineteenth-century scientists and philosophers, such as James Clerk Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, and Ernst Haeckel.
While offering a detailed account of the scientific ideas and theories essential for understanding Peirce’s metaphysical system (e.g., the irreversibility of time and the reversibility of physical laws, the statistical law of large numbers), this book is written in a manner accessible to the non-specialist. This will make it especially attractive to students of Peirce’s philosophy who lack familiarity with the scientific and mathematical ideas that are so central to his thought. Those with an interest in the history and philosophy of science, especially concerning the application of statistical and probabilistic thinking to physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and cosmology, will find this discussion of Peirce’s philosophy invaluable.