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Rationale of
the website

Who is Charles
Sanders Peirce?

Why is this site
called "Arisbe"?

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purpose of Arisbe?

Who belong to this

What is the Peirce

What are the
resources here?


"...the EPC became nonfunctional"

     Since the future of Peirce's philosophy depends importantly on the availability of his work, and since this in turn depends on funding of one kind and another, it is important to be clear on the cause of this failure, which had nothing to do with the viability of the project itself or with any reticence on the part of the relevant funding agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation. Peirce's influence on American intellectual life outside of academia as well as within is more profound and pervasive than is commonly realized, and my belief is that there is and will continue to be opportunity to receive support at high levels of funding, beyond what people in the humanities are accustomed to accessing, provided it is understood what sorts of things the funding agencies are willing and indeed eager to fund, and what they expect of the people who wish to be funded.
   This is not the place to discuss the details of this, though, and my point here is that the failure of the EPC to be funded for this project, which probably would have run as high as 4 or 5 million dollars before it was completed, had nothing to do with the ambitions and viability of the project, which was given the strongest endorsement one could possibly hope for by people of great influence in networking development, but only with the inability of the persons involved in the project to maintain a minimum willingness to collaborate with one another. (This is not equally true of everyone involved but, again, this is not the place to sort these things out in detail.) This sort of inability is, unfortunately, a standing predisposition in the humanities, though, and I am very much afraid that future attempts to take advantage of the opportunities for doing justice to Peirce's legacy will falter and fail for what will at bottom be the same reason if the problems inherent in collaboration itself are not faced up to first.
   In reflecting on this subsequently, attempting to make some sense of what seemed to me at first to be simply incomprehensible, I have come to realize that whatever the truth may be about individual responsibility or fault in this particular case, it is also true -- and of much more importance -- that people in the humanities, unlike those in the hard sciences, not only have little or nothing to draw upon institutionally by way of traditional support for collaborative enterprises of this sort but are running so strongly against the currents that sustain and control professional life in these fields that the possibility of a five-person collaborative association of this sort being able to sustain itself effectively across a period of even a few years is far more unlikely than might at first appear, regardless of the qualifications and talents of the individual members and the soundness of the plan. Since the debilitating effects of this hostile (if largely invisible) professional environment will be highly individualized it is natural to want to assign blame to individuals exclusively when breakdowns in collaborative relationships occur, and it may sometimes be proper to do so, but I would suggest that the course of wisdom lies rather in facing up to the need for a much more realistic and critical understanding of the hostility towards collaborative relationships that is endemic in the practices and norms of the professional humanist.
   It did not occur to me to take this covert and systemic institutional hostility into account when I began the search for collaboration on this, and I don't suppose that it subsequently occurred to any of us as something that we should be dealing with explicitly as a problem to be thematized and explored with the aim of addressing it as straightforwardly as possible whenever necessary. But I now realize that had I taken it seriously from the beginning -- or rather had we, as a group, taken it seriously -- so that we had been alert to the many different ways in which it might manifest itself, and had we been ready to make the compensatory moves required to keep our enterprise afloat and headed in a direction we could all agree upon, this marvelous corpus of work -- the 100,000+ pages of Peirce's manuscript material -- might well be readily available to all of us today. The irony of it being precisely this collaborational inability that caused the failure to seize the opportunity will not be lost on those already well-acquainted with Peirce's work.

This is a footnote to "FAQ5: What is the Peirce Telecommunity Project?"

Last modified by B.U. April 27, 2012, earliest on July 18, 2011 — B.U.
Last modified August 10, 1998 — J.R.

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