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Pragmatism's EvolutionOrganism and Environment in American Philosophy$
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Trevor Pearce

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226719887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226720081.001.0001

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The Metaphysical Club and the Origin of Species

The Metaphysical Club and the Origin of Species

(p.23) One The Metaphysical Club and the Origin of Species
Pragmatism's Evolution

Trevor Pearce

University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes how the philosophers connected to the Metaphysical Club—a Cambridge, Massachusetts discussion group that met in the early 1870s—reacted to the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. There is no clear evidence that William James or Charles Sanders Peirce, both of whom worked for Darwin’s opponent Louis Agassiz, adopted evolutionary views prior to the late 1860s or even the 1870s. The chapter suggests that it was the positivist trio of Chauncey Wright, John Fiske, and Francis Ellingwood Abbot who ultimately convinced the other club members to embrace evolution. All three were defenders and popularizers of Darwin’s theory, with Wright already responding to criticisms by the Harvard philosopher Francis Bowen in 1860. Both Wright and Fiske, playing the role of philosophers rather than scientists, defended Darwin against the attacks of the zoologist St. George Mivart, attacks which coincided with the first meetings of the Metaphysical Club.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, Louis Agassiz, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, Chauncey Wright, John Fiske, Francis Ellingwood Abbot, St. George Mivart, Francis Bowen, Metaphysical Club

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