Peirce’s Dragon-Head Logic (R 501, 1901)

Minghui Ma, Ahti Veikko Pietarinen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Peirce wrote in late 1901 a text on formal logic using a special Dragon-Head and Dragon-Tail notation in order to express the relation of logical consequence and its properties. These texts have not been referred to in the literature before. We provide a complete reconstruction and transcription of these previously unpublished sets of manuscript sheets and analyse their main content. In the reconstructed text, Peirce is seen to outline both a general theory of deduction and a general theory of consequence relation. The two are the cornerstones of modern logic and have played a crucial role in its development. From the wider perspective, Peirce is led to these theories by three important generalizations: propositions to all signs, truth to scriptibility, and derivation to transformability. We provide an exposition of such proposed semiotic foundation for logical constants and point out a couple of further innovations in this rare text, including the sheet of assertion, correction as a dual of deduction and the nature of conditionals as variably strict conditionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-317
Number of pages57
JournalArchive for History of Exact Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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