Charles S. Peirce (23.01.03)

Arisbe, Milford, Pa.
1903 Jan 23

Dear William :

I this morning receive your "Syllabus of Philosophy, 3", which you have neglected to date1. It is a work demanding long study & will be extremely valuable to me. Its brief form is a great assistance & it is marvellously clear. I will now make such remarks as occur to me on a first perusal of it.

Berkeley on the whole has more right to be considered the introducer of pragmatism into philosophy than any other one man, though I was more explicit in enunciating it2.

To the question 'How explain this harmony?' you give a number of answer3. None of these are explanations but they are proposals of how to try to explain the harmony. They do not conflict with one another. They simply have different purposes in view. The theistic idea is the only one that satisfies practical needs. But a "design" is a thought. A thought by its nature cannot be present. It only exists in the sense that it is destined to work itself out. So, at least, says pragmatism. Hence, for the purpose of categories, or the doctrine of categories, it is necessary to transform the theistic into the transcendentalist idea. It remains the same at bottom. But this does not meet the questions of logic, for which it is needful to introduce the idea of the coevolution of mind and reality. But still there is nothing here that can be investigated scientifically. Hence the need of some hypothesis of the nature of Tychism, the value of which can only be estimated when sufficient time has elapsed to enable us to see what hopes there may be of predicting future knowledge on that basis. That which for scientific purposes can only be regarded as chance must undoubtedly be regarded by the pragmatist as designed, if it always tends to rationalization. But the idea of design, if proposed as a factor of science, becomes antiscientific.

At this point it seems to me necessary to insert the consideration of what psychical phenomena as distinct from physical and what mind is from a pragmatistic point of view. The inquiry seems to me to have little or nothing to do with psychology. But it is necessary for philosophical purposes & it seems to me it ought to come in. This will I think help much your splendid argumentation on the conterminousness of minds. As for Preëstablished Harmony it is a perfect ignoratio elenchi. It misses the point quite clean, as much as does divine assistance.

Nothing can be pointed out as taboo. Logic protests. But to say that nevertheless there is an element of the taboo is quite a different thing.

It suits Royce's philosophy to make the "time-span" far more definite than there is any reason to suppose it is, but certainly much that we say we are conscious of we are only conscious of in the process of time & never at an instant4.

I can't admit at all your metaphysical tychism which seems to me untenable. The true solution of the Problem of Evil is precisely that of "Substance & Shadow"5. There may be a something over us not infinite. But that it is a misnomer to call Divine. The continuous is the potential. But the real is composed of the potential & actual together. As for Zeno's "argument", what argument, I should be glad to know? State it definitely to a mathematician. I can admit your statement of the pragmatical conception of infinity6. I dont think you have sufficiently studied infinity.

very faithfully, but stopping abruptly to catch mail.
C S Peirce


1. For the syllabus see ML [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 181].

2. For WJ's reference to Berkeley see ML, 268 [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 182].

3. WJ raises the question of explaining the harmony between the conceived order of nature and nature itself; see ML, 268 [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 182].

4. Throughout the World and Individual Royce uses the concept of the specious present to describe the relation of the Absolute to time. WJ refers to this conception in his syllabus; see ML, 271[Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 182].

5. Henry James, Substance and Shadow: Or Morality and Religion in Their Relation to Life: An Essay upon the Physics of Creation (1863) [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 182].

6. In his syllabus WJ claims that Zeno's argument is conclusive; see ML, 272 [Nota de CWJ, XI, p. 182].

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. 180-181.

Fecha del documento: 28 de agosto 2006
Última actualización: 2 de noviembre 2010

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