Charles S. Peirce (25.11.02)

Arisbe, Milford, Pa.
1902 Nov 25

My dear William :

I am always begging favors of you; but they are not exclusively personal.

You feel, as I do, that the importance of pragmatism is not confined to philosophy. The country is at this moment in immanent danger on which I need not expatiate. In philosophy those who think themselves pragmatists, like Mr. Schiller, miss the very point of it, that one simply can't form any conception that is other than pragmatistic.

But I seem to myself to be the sole depository at present of the completely developed system, which all hangs together and cannot receive any proper presentation in fragments. My own view in 1877 was crude1. Even when I gave my Cambridge lectures I had not really got to the bottom of it or seen the unity of the whole thing2. It was not until after that that I obtainde the proof that logic must be founded on ethics, of which it is a higher development. Even then, I was for some time so stupid as not to see that ethics rests in the same manner on a foundation of esthetics, —by which, it is needless to say, I don't mean milk and water and sugar.

These three normative sciences correspond to my three categories, which in their psychological aspect, appear as Feeling, Reaction, Thought. I have advanced my understanding of these categories much since Cambridge days; and can now put them in a much clearer light and more convincingly. The true nature of pragmatism cannot be understood without them. It does not, as I seem to have thought at first, take Reaction as the be-all, but it takes the end-all as the be-all, and the End is something that gives its sanction to action. It is of the third category. Only one must not take a nominalistic view of Thought as if it were something that a man had in his conciousness. Consciousness may mean any one of the three categories. But if it is to mean Thought it is more without us than within. It is we that are in it, rather than it in any of us. Of course I can't explain myself in a few words, but I think it would do the psychologists a great service to explain to them my conception of the nature of thought.

This then leads to synechism, which is the keystone of the arch.

If the theory and habit of logic of which such ideas are a part could be expounded for ten years from a university chair, the benefit to science and to the country would not be trifling.

Somebody wrote to me the other day and wanted me to write some "luminous and brilliant articles" (gratuitously, of course). Apart from the humbung, such request enrage me. It is not fragments, but the whole thing minutely worked out that is wanted. As for the Nation, I get $250 a year from it on which we live; and therefore I cannot speak above a whisper about it. But the way my bits (bad enough, at best) are cut is awful. I was really wounded at the way all the praise was cut out of my notice of Royce. All recognition of excellence in any American student is systematically cut out. This is the inheritance from abolitionism. But of course I am exaggerating when I talk so.

That Nicolas Murray Butler is of the type of a high-school principal, —not up to the average of such either in head, in temper, or in heart3. But if somebody having authority were to tell him there was something in pragmatism that might serve his purposes, he is the kind or person who might think he saw it.

I have no idea why Hyslop resigned. If he was forced out because of his other-world-ism it was a barbarous act. Believing in such things is, on the whole, rather in favor of a man's being a good logician than the reverse—

Pardon the long letter & believe me

as ever & more & more so
C Peirce

Old age is showing itself in me in my omitting letters in writing words. This is very convenient, for I have only to take a census from time to time to see just how fast I am going.



1. Peirce likely has in mind the publication of "The fixation of Belief", Popular Science Monthly 12 (November 1877): 1-15, generally considered one of the founding documents of pragmatism [Nota de The Correspondence of William James, XI, p. 158].

2. In 1898 Peirce delivered a series of lectures in Cambridge. The are discussed extensively in Correspondence, vol. 8 [Nota de The Correspondence of William James, XI, p. 158].

3. WJ interpreted this as an expression of hope for an appointment at Columbia University (see letter to Peirce of 27 November 1902). Butler became president of Columbia in 1902 [Nota de The Correspondence of William James, XI, p. 158].

Fin de: "L 224: Letter to William James" (25.11.02). Fuente textual en I. Skrupskelis y E. Berkeley (eds.), The Correspondence of William James, Charlottesvile, University of Virginia Press, 2003, XI, pp. 157-158.

Fecha del documento: 27 de agosto 2006
Última actualización: 31 de agosto 2009

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