TOPPeirce NEWS at other sitesVia ARISBE:FAQsPapers by PeircePeirce-related PapersSpecial Resources

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joseph Morton Ransdell

Joseph Morton Ransdell
June 5, 1931 - December 27, 2010.

I've discussed things with Joe for years on peirce-l and occasionally off-list.
I owe him; but for him and peirce-l I might have remained intellectually isolated and semi-articulate. I spoke with him for the first and only time, on November 19th by phone. His intelligence was as energetic as ever, but he was ill. I'm glad I called him and managed to mention that I look up to him.

Joe opposed the concept of intellectual authority; but he was marked by something similar but genuine: possession of ideas and understandings to which those who are interested in the same matters owe attention and response.

The obituary was posted today at Somebody added it to the Peirce article at Wikipedia and that's how I found out (so I emailed peirce-l). Robert Lane soon followed with this:

From: "Robert Lane"
To: [The Charles S. Peirce Society]
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2011 1:16 PM
Subject: Peirce Society: Joe Ransdell

Fellow members of the Charles S. Peirce Society,

I have just learned the sad news of the recent death of Joe Ransdell. Joe was a Peirce scholar who taught at Texas Tech University from 1974 until his retirement in 2000. Among his contributions to the study of Peirce and to the community of Peirce scholars were his creation of the "Arisbe: the Peirce Gateway" website ( and his founding of the Peirce-L Discussion Forum, for which he also served as moderator. Joe was a Fellow of the Peirce Society, having served as our president in 1999.

An online obituary is here:

A memorial service will be held this Saturday, January 8, in Lubbock,
Texas. Details are here:


Robert Lane, Ph.D.
Secretary-Treasurer, Charles S. Peirce Society
Associate Professor and Director of Philosophy
Department of English and Philosophy
University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118

[phone number & email removed]

I've just received this note on Joe from a past peirce-lister:
Blessed repose and eternal memory...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Perennial philosopher

Just a quick note to draw folks' attention to Cosma Shalizi's remark in the course of his 1998 review of Deborah G. Mayo's Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge (University of Chicago Press 1996). Here it is, with yellow highlight added:
In the next to last chapter Mayo tries her hand at one of American philosophy's perennial amusements, the game of Peirce Knew It All Along. (If, as Whitehead said, European thought is a series of footnotes to Plato, American thought is a series of footnotes to Peirce --- and Jonathan Edwards, worse luck.) Usually this is a mere demonstration of cleverness, like coining words from the names of opponents, or improving on the proof that if 1+1=3, then Bertrand Russell was the Pope. But in this case it seems that Mayo is really on to something. It is sometimes forgotten that Peirce was by training an experimental scientist, was employed as an experimental physicist for years, and as such lived and breathed error analysis. His opposition to subjective probabilities and paint-by-numbers inductivism is plain. For him "induction" meant the experimental testing of hypotheses; the probabilities employed in induction are the probabilities of inductive procedures leading to correct answers:
The theory here proposed does not assign any probability to the inductive or hypothetic conclusion, in the sense of undertaking to say how frequently that conclusion would be found true. It does not propose to look through all the possible universes, and say in what proportion of them a certain uniformity occurs; such a proceeding, were it possible, would be quite idle. The theory here presented only says how frequently, in this universe, the special form of induction or hypothesis would lead us right. The probability given by this theory is in every way different --- in meaning, numerical value, and form --- from that of those who would apply to ampliative inference the doctrine of inverse chances [i.e., Bayes's theorem]. [2.748, quoted p. 414]
Well, Shalizi seems a bit jaded at the amount of crediting of Peirce, but his "Peirce Knew It All Along" remark is too delicious to pass up. As to Shalizi, he's an assistant professor in the statistics department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his original training was in the statistical physics of complex systems.

Note: I redid Shalizi's broken link on coinages to go to the Internet Archive version of that to which he linked. The recentest version is the 2008 edition at an unrelated URL .

(Now let's see whether for once I've done a post that I don't need to revise afterward! Update: No such luck. I had omitted the year of Shalizi's 1998 review.)