Joseph M. Ransdell
Professor Emeritus, Philosophy
Texas Tech University

June 5, 1931 – Dec. 27, 2010

The following stands as posted by Joseph Ransdell, except for
link updates, format repair, removal of obsolete contact information, and
Ransdell text inserted regarding one of his papers, as noted there. — B.U.

Ransdell received his B.A. in philosophy from San Francisco State in 1961 and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University in 1966 with a dissertation on the conception of representation of the American philosopher and scientist Charles Peirce. He was at the University of California at Santa Barbara before coming to Texas Tech.  His publications — see below for some papers presently available on the internet — are chiefly on topics related in one way or another to Peirce's philosophy, especially his "semiotic" or theory of representation, which is a generalized conception of logic as a theory of critical self-control processes, and he has authored a pedagogically oriented book on the history of philosophy in the West.
      Ransdell also has a special interest in the Platonic Socrates and the Socratic Plato, in the problematics of early modern philosophy, in the remarkable developments in American philosophy during the period from the end of the American Civil War to the beginning of the First World War, in the nature of scientific inquiry and the nature of truth as a regulative ideal, and he has been especially concerned in recent years with development of the internet as a universally accessible and independent resource and communications medium for philosophy.
      Ransdell's work on internet development began in 1990 and includes the establishment in 1993 and day-to-day management and moderation since then of the PEIRCE-L Philosophical Forum, with some 400 members especially interested in Charles Peirce's philosophy and its applications (see more on this below), and includes also the creation and ongoing development of the website ARISBE: THE PEIRCE GATEWAY, which is designed to function as the gateway to all resources on the World Wide Web related to the life and work of Charles Peirce and, in time, to provide an on-line center of communication for use by the world-wide Peirce telecommunity (see more on this below as well).
      Ransdell is a Fellow and past President of the Charles S. Peirce Society, completing this term of office at the same time that he retired from classroom teaching, at the end of the school year 1999-2000. But he remains active in on-line development work, both as owner/manager of the PEIRCE-L discussion forum and as architect and manager of the ARISBE website. He maintains a continuing formal relationship with the Department of Philosophy and also with the Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism, which is a primary archival resource for Peirce studies. He regards his retirement as providing him with the time needed to work toward an integration of the traditional community of Peirce scholarship, inquiry, and Peirce-related research with the more recent but more broadly based telecommunity of Peirce scholars and people both inside and outside of academia who find Peirce's work intellectually stimulating and relevant in one way and another to their own special intellectual interests. He is also devoting himself to the completion of a number of works in progress, including a two volume work on Peirce's semiotic, a book on the concept of truth, and a monograph on the logic of research acceptance and the role therein of peer review and peer criticism generally.

About PEIRCE-L:  a Place for Dialogical Inquiry

The PEIRCE-L discussion forum is unusual in its international character (people from some three dozen or so countries around the globe), its interdisciplinarity (the academic fields represented range across academia from literature to physics), and its higher-than-usual proportion of non-academic participants, given that it is academically based and sponsored. These special features of its constituency are due to the extraordinarily broad range of intellectual interests and activities of Peirce himself.
      Ransdell moderates the discussions informally and unobtrusively by direct participation in them on par with other contributors, rather than by filtering and editing the contributions or by playing a special formal role in its direction. The topics of discussion and the extent to which they are pursued is entirely up to the participants, who commonly take pride in the consistently high level of courtesy and content that has been characteristic of it from its beginning more than thirteen years ago. The forum is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and hosted by the Academic Computing Services at Texas Tech University.

CLICK HERE for more information about the PEIRCE-L Philosophical Forum, including information about how to join—it is open to the general public—and about how to access the publicly available archives (verbatim records) of all discussion that occurs or has occurred there. You can return from there to the present page if you wish.

About ARISBE:  The Peirce Gateway

The aim of the Arisbe website is to function as a gathering place, in two senses: first of all, as a place where people can go to access and gather resources relevant to their interests in Peirce's life and works, but, prospectively, as funding is acquired which will make the necessary facilities possible, a gathering place in another sense as well, namely, a place where people gather together in communication and collaboration because of their common and overlapping interests and projects. In the first sense Arisbe can also be regarded as a gateway to the internet as a whole, considered as a field of Peirce resources in particular.
      It is Ransdell's conviction, as creator of the website, that it will be an inevitable consequence of the increasing use of the internet that many places on the world wide web (which provides the basis for a geography of the internet) will come to function as attractor sites for people with interests which coincide or intersect or draw upon one another in any of many different ways in which human interests relate, so that there will be a natural tendency for such places to grow without limit, both in size and complexity of function, much as cities grow, provided resources and communication facilities are available there which can sustain it.
      There are any number of possible bases for such communities of place, and it will be more the exception than the rule for such places to develop around interest in single figures, as in the case of the Peirce website. But there is reason to think there is something about Peirce in particular that makes his life and work a natural attractor for such a development, as is evident from the kinds of people who have availed themselves of the opportunity for communication about Peirce, his ideas, and their possible applications that the on-line discussion forum PEIRCE-L has provided.
      The conviction is that it is important that it be established as a place which is independent of the academic world while nevertheless being informed by it and responsive to it, which is why the website has been developed off-campus from the beginning. There are no plans for relocating it within academia in the future, provided it continues to develop as hoped, since this would compromise its potentiality as a place from which responsible criticism of academia, from both an internal and external perspective, can develop as needed, and which can at the same time function as a place from which academics can address other institutions in society critically, as citizens, without confusion arising about the responsibility of the academic institutions which support them professionally. It is important that such a place be one in which academics and non-academics are equally at home and are accustomed to relating to one another as fellow citizens on par with one another as such.
      Envisioned as a gathering place in this way, such a place would be rather like a city, originating as cities commonly do originate, not on the basis of agendas common to those who settle in them but rather on the basis of resources of sufficient value to encourage exploitation and development of them, resulting in places with unique personalities in spite of the great variety of types of people who go to make them up: cities like, say, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, or New York, which have distinct personalities of their own. Such places thrive because they are resource and communication centers, and if they may be said to have a purpose it is simply the purpose of providing this sort of basis for human community. So also with the virtual — and still largely only prospective — ARISBE website, considered as a contribution to the aim of turning the rough frontier of "cyberspace" into something civilized and civilizing, one place at a time. Models for this are wanted and it is hoped that Arisbe will some day mature into just such a model.

CLICK HERE if you are interested in understanding more about the rationale for the development of the virtual ARISBE on the internet. This will take you to a series of web pages on the ARISBE website that explain this aspect of it to its visitors, from which you can return to the present page if you wish.
      The website for the international Peirce Telecommunity is called "ARISBE" after the fine old three-story house of the same name near Milford, Pennsylvania in which Peirce and his second wife, Juliette, lived—indeed, largely built themselves—in their later years, which is now under the protection of the National Park Service as part of the national heritage. The original Arisbe was recently renovated by the Service and, while retaining some museum-like characteristics (the renovation is largely restricted to a modernization of the invisible infra-structure), is being put to fitting use as the location for several scientific research agencies that work in cooperation with the area known as the Delaware Water Gap.
      The long-range but as yet unrealized plan for the "virtual" ARISBE (the website) includes the development of an effective visual simulation of the interior of the original Arisbe as a visual architectural metaphor for the website, using the layout of the several floors and various rooms as mnemonically effective locations for the various resources and facilities to be developed on-line (using the sort of tecnology originally developed for game simulations like the "DOOM" games). The idea is to enable people not only to move about but to interact with one another and with resource material as well at the same time, looking at documents together while discussing them, and so forth. (Developing this sort of capability was one of the aims motivating the original creation of the World Wide Web, when it was first conceived as an instrument for the global collaborative research of physicists at a distance.) The basis for this, in the case of the virtual ARISBE, was actually prepared years ago, though quite unknowingly, by plans drawn up at one time for the conversion of the original house into a Peirce museum. In the event, funding for this fell through, but the house itself was saved and restored by the National Park Service to something very like its condition at the time of the death of Peirce's widow in 1934, and there is reason to think this agency might still be willing to cooperate in establishing a continuity between the original and the virtual Arisbe through the development of the latter, given its own extensive commitment to the use of the Web as a means of preservation of the national heritage.

CLICK HERE if you are interested in learning more about the original Arisbe — the actual three-story house near Milford — it will take you to a page on the ARISBE website from which you can return to the present page if you wish.

Papers by Ransdell Available On-Line

* "Peirce and the Socratic Tradition"
Presidential address to the Charles S. Peirce Society in 1999 suggesting that Peirce can be best understood historically as the first major heir since Plato to the Socratic tradition, which is the tradition in philosophy dedicated to working out the implications of "Socratic wisdom": the recognition of the impossibility of taking a god's-eye view of things. The difference in perspective this yields is illustrated with reference to the way the norms of scientific inquiry and the task of philosophy of science are viewed in this tradition.
* "Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)", Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics
A monograph-length overview of Peirce's semiotic written for the reference volume indicated. The original version, published in 1986, is in need of revision and this later version is posted for purposes of soliciting critical feedback before submitting it for replacement of the original.
* "The Epistemic Function of Iconicity in Perception"
[Ransdell to peirce-l, Ransdell paper: Epistemic Function of Iconicity, 2004-06-03 15:50:05 —
The thesis is that Peirce showed the way to solve or dissolve the problem usually associated with the idea that all perception involves mediating representation, namely, that this results in an obscuring of the perceived object by the representation of it in perception. This is possible because of the peculiar nature of the iconic sign, which enables us to regard the object of perception as being at once immediately and representatively present in virtue of being self-representative.
— B.U.]
* "Sciences as Communicational Communities"
Originally delivered as an invited paper at a meeting of the American Physical Society at Texas Tech in 1995, this paper—currently being revised and expanded into a book centrally concerned with objectivity and truth as intrinsic norms of scientific inquiry—addresses the problem of the proper response of the research scientist to the attempts to politicize inquiry, arguing that the most effective defense is to refuse to adopt a political stance oneself, regardless of the provocation, and to focus attention instead on understanding and living up to the commonly acknowledged but not always adequately realized ideals of the scientific life, particularly as they inform and control the communicational and collegial practices in one's field.
* "The Relevance of Peircean Semiotic to Computational Intelligence Augmentation"
Using a distinction drawn by the Peirce scholar Peter Skagestad between two kinds of research into computer-based intelligence — Artificial Intelligence or "AI" and Intelligence Augmentation or "IA" — this paper draws attention to a special sort of IA research, namely, computer programming which aims at supporting, augmenting, and perfecting the critical control of research communication and publication. As an exemple of Intelligence Augmentation of this special sort which seems to have gone unnoticed as such, I describe the automated archive and server system of primary publication created by the physicist Paul Ginsparg at Los Alamos National Laboratory some 15 years ago, which is presently in successful use in the fields of high energy theoretical physics and several closely associated fields in physics, astronomy, and mathematics. I argue that a proper understanding of the reason for the success of this system in the fields in which it was applied, which was of great practical as well as theoretical importance, was aborted by a refusal to allow for dicussion of its relationship to what is referred to, misleadingly, as the peer review system of editorial assessment in the discussion forum which was established for the very purpose of assessing the feasibility of a univeraal implementation of the Ginsparg system in research publication in general.
* "Is Peirce a Phenomenologist?"
Peirce's logical theory (also called "semiotic") is based in what he called "phenomenological" rather than metaphysical presuppositions. Peirce's conception of phenomenology was developed independently of Husserl's, though, and this paper explains some things about where they agree and where they differ. The published version (1989) is in French; this is the English version on which it is based, not previously published.
* "Teleology and the Autonomy of the Semiosis Process"
Peirce regards meaning as an active power of meaningful things, and regards interpretation as an intelligent process of active observation of the actualization of these powers. This paper (delivered in 1989 and published in 1992) explains some things about this way of thinking of meaning theoretically.
* "On Peirce's Conception of the Iconic Sign"
A revised version of a paper of 1986 that originally appeared in a Festschrift volume that explains the functional difference captured in the icon/index/symbol distinction and focuses especially on the conception of the iconic sign as making it possible to regard perception as at once immediate and representative. Critical feedback appreciated.
* "Some Leading Ideas of Peirce's Semiotic"
A slightly revised version of a conference address subsequently published in 1977: an introductory overview of Peirce's general theory of representation, distinguishing it from other things that were then going under the label of "semiotic".
* "On the Paradigm of Experience Appropriate to Semiotics"
A paper of 1980 that attempts to recover the much-abused term "experience" as a useful philosophical term, arguing that the frequent association of it in modern times exclusively with sensory perception is unwarranted and unduly restrictive as regards the legitimate scope of empirical inquiry.

Department of Philosophy
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409

This page updated September 27, 2011 by B.U. and last modified January 22, 2014 — B.U.
Last Ransdell version:
Last updated: September 12, 2006 — J.R.

Ransdell's Google Blogger Profile
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Earliest Internet Archive copies of Ransdell's professional home page:

October 8, 1999 - from

February 25, 2002 - from

December 11, 2006 - from

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