Charles S. Peirce (22.05.03)

Arisbe, Milford, Pa.
1903 May 22

[beginning of letter missing] This history of the finding of the Widow's Mite must go on file as particularly good evidence1.

As for the three difficulties of the theory of Spirit Communication they are readily answered. Beecher was a man of eminently clean-cut thought, for all his gush. I never knew him; but so he was often at large described to me by Edward Youmans, & I got this idea from careful reading, for the purpose, of a number of things of his, about the time when he was such a curious problem.

Now Beecher knew Funk, and therefore must have known the character of Funk's mind2. Dr. Funk long ago absolved me from all obligation to politeness in speaking about him & I have not the slightest objection to saying publicy what my opinion of him his3, especially as it is relatively favorable.

Funk is a man who does whatever he does with tremendous pertinacity, and always considers carefully what method ought to be pursued, and follows out that method as rigorously and energetically as he can. His Standard Dictionary affords full proof of this.

But like many of this bull-dog kind, his thought is muddy and blundering.

I have had dealings with several men who united these characters and I have always found them very liable to deceive themselves and to believe what for some reason they liked believing in; and in particular I have seen very striking instances of this in Dr. Funk. To believe otherwise, I should be forced to think him a low scoundrel, which I do not believe he is. All these men are remarkable for their inability to confine themselves to the precise point, because they do not see exactly what it is; and undoubtedly Beecher would understand that if he wanted to prove anything to Funk, the chief thing would be to confine himself strictly to one very definite point as free from all other associations as possible.

This is what he did. He did not communicate anything "worth while" in any other aspect than simply its evidential aspect.

Funk's "difficulties" show how wise that was.

Of course I am not to be understood as implicitly believing the theory that Spirit Communication explains this history. Still, it seems to me a strong instance.

C. S. Peirce


1. The incident involved a lost ancient coin, known as the widow's mite, which, it was alleged, was found through the assistance of the spirit of Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), American clergyman. For details or the case see EPR, 423; for WJ's view, EPR, 230 [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 251].

2. Isaac Kaufmann Funk (1839-1912), American publisher and author. Correspondence with WJ is known from 1906 and 1907. Funk asked various persons to comment on the case of the widow's mite. If Peirce was asked and responded, his answer was probably not published [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 251].

3. A slip for 'is' [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 251].

Fin de: "L 224: Letter to William James" (23.01.03). Fuente textual en I. Skrupskelis y E. Berkeley (eds.), The Correspondence of William James (CWJ), Charlottesvile, University of Virginia Press, 2003, XI, pp. 250-251.

Fecha del documento: 29 de agosto 2006
Última actualización: 11 de enero 2011

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