wisdom to win

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Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and LearningCharles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and Learning


Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce (1839-1914)


American philosopher (pictured right) and founder of pragmatism, the belief that something is good if it’s useful (see point 1).

He died in poverty, largely forgotten except by his close friend, William James (pictured right below), who also supported pragmatism 

 Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and Learning

What did he say about learning?


1. Be pragmatic

Knowledge, beliefs and ideas must be useful and produce results.

So, knowledge must be used to:Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and Learning

  • evaluate a problem.
  • propose solutions to it.


 Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and Learning

2. Your knowledge won’t always be true

Learning aims to find better solutions and explanations of what happens in the world around us.

Knowledge is always improving with new and better ideas, replacing obsolete ones.

So enquiry is vital i.e. constantly:

  • questioning your beliefs and ideas
  • evaluating them through observation, experience and experimentation.


 Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and Learning

3. Learning by doing

The best way to learn something is to do it.



4. Learn from your mistakes

When you make a mistake:

  • learn from it.
  • make sure it doesn’t happen again.


 Charles Sanders (C.S.) Peirce - Philosophy and Learning

5. You learn because you want to

You are motivated to want to know about something, because it may:

  • solve a problem, or
  • satisfy your curiosity about its truth.


Key quote on learning and wisdom

There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be.


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