Book Description

From Publishers Weekly Having published eight books on C.S. Peirce, the founder of American pragmatism, Ketner is an acknowledged authority on the man as well as a true believer. The collected papers of Peirce (pronounced Purse) were published in multivolume editions, but Peirce never wrote an autobiography. To make up for this omission, Ketner has begun to write one for him in the first of three planned volumes. To produce this work of literary nonfiction, Ketner has inserted imagined speeches by Peirce and passages from Peirce's letters and philosophic writings where he 'waxed autobiographical.' To move the story along, Ketner introduces a narrator and two other fictional characters who function as intellectual detectives, separating genuine revelations from bogus ones. Their sleuthing may be helped or hindered by the fact that the narrator believes he is possessed by the spirit of Peirce. The reader is therefore confronted by a real author (Ketner), a dead subject (Peirce), fictional characters and reconstructed and imagined events. Using this convention, Ketner is able to make Peirce more immediate, and he weaves together an impressive amount of research on Peirce's early life, connecting thoughts to the thinker. However, the device of fictional scholarship becomes very complicated, awkward and, ultimately, impossible to sustain. If, as pragmatism claims, truth is whatever works, then this book cannot be called true. (Aug.) FYI: Indiana University is releasing Joseph Brent's Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life in a revised and enlarged edition. ($35 ISBN 0-253-33350-4; paper $18.95 -21161-1)Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. Read more From Library Journal The word autobiography in the subtitle should be in quotes, because this is an autobiography only in the sense that Ketner (philosophy, Texas Tech Univ.) uses as his primary source Peirce's own words concerning the facts and events in his life as found in his published and unpublished writings. Ketner adopts an innovative, mystery novel-like approach here: he invents several contemporaneous fictional characters, then follows them on a journey to fill in the gaps of a manuscript, found in an old box, purporting to be Peirce's autobiography. These characters then track Peirce (1839-1914) through the first 28 years of his life (two more volumes are planned). This device not only allows Ketner to supply biographical information but also, along the way, to explicate Peirce's philosophical thinking up to that point in his life. This entertaining yet scholarly read would be accessible to the novice but could also prove useful and informative to the advanced student or professional philosopher. Highly recommended for academic and larger public library collections.?Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, DCCopyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. Read more See all Editorial Reviews