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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Call for papers on Ransdell


of the Charles S. Peirce Society
Special Issue

“The Meaning of a Thought is Altogether Something Virtual”: Joseph Ransdell and His Legacy

Catherine Legg, University of Waikato, New Zealand
Gary Richmond, LaGuardia College – City University of New York

Joseph Ransdell (1931–2010), based for most of his career at Texas Tech University, offered a highly original and focused challenge within academic philosophy at the end of the Second Millennium. His guiding philosophical passion was truth-directed communication. This led him to think deeply about the Platonic Socrates and the Socratic Plato, and the problematics of early modern philosophy. Most of all, however, he claimed that the thought of Charles Sanders Peirce held the key not just to endorsing truth as a regulative ideal, but to showing how the ideal might be worked out in practice by means of a community of inquiry exercising critical self-control.

From early in his career Joe was concerned that professional gatekeeping was hindering progress in philosophy, and was unafraid to speak about it. From the initial evolution of the Internet he grasped its potential as a place “where people can and do critically question and challenge one another without the usual protections of office, rank, agenda, and official moderation”, something that he argued had “all but disappeared from public life — including intellectual life — in the U.S. and many other countries as well during the 20th Century”.

Thereafter he threw enormous effort and enterprise into realizing this vision, swimming against a rising tide of other kinds of institutional reward. This resulted in the email list and online community peirce-l, which he founded in 1993 and moderated in unique style until his death, and the accompanying website that he beta-launched in 1997 and called Arisbe, after the house where Peirce lived during the later years of his life and dreamed of establishing a research centre.

Joe’s exceptionally conscious and critical approach to nurturing online communication may be seen in the “How the Forum Works” guidelines that he wrote for peirce-l: Much there now seems prescient in the light of subsequent developments on the Internet, whereby ordinary persons build public knowledge resources with no thought of monetary reward. A key example is of course the astounding Wikipedia, whose success was also arguably due to its open, self-correcting development of its own processes (and who would have guessed that so many would gather there and freely give so much energy to help others learn - except perhaps Charles Peirce?)

Many felt that the mores Joe charted for peirce-l made it a unique and valuable place to do philosophy. Another noteworthy feaure of the list was the way in which its composition mirrored the polymathic and international outlook of Peirce himself. One might find, for instance, a semiotician, a theologian, a computer scientist, and a book translator discussing Peirce’s relation to Leibniz.

We are interested in papers which record, honour, explicate, and critically appraise Joe’s published writings, his online efforts and their ongoing legacy, and the relation between the two. In keeping with the spirit of peirce-l, we welcome submissions from a wealth of disciplines, although we expect philosophy to make a prominent showing.

All papers will be blind-refereed, and should be prepared as such. Submissions should follow the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society manuscript guidelines, online at: They may be submitted by email to Catherine Legg at . The deadline for submissions is September 1st, 2012.

Joseph Ransdell

“Symbols grow” – Charles Peirce