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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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Products of the Environment: Spencer’s Challenge

Products of the Environment: Spencer’s Challenge

(p.58) Two Products of the Environment: Spencer’s Challenge
Pragmatism's Evolution

Trevor Pearce

University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that Herbert Spencer’s evolutionary philosophy was of central importance for the philosophers of the Metaphysical Club, describing how John Fiske, Chauncey Wright, Charles Sanders Peirce, and Francis Ellingwood Abbot engaged directly with Spencer’s ideas. Fiske was enthusiastic but the others were skeptical. It then shows that William James’s early work was a response to Spencer’s evolutionism from the standpoint of a broader naturalism: according to James, Spencer not only ignored important mental phenomena but also misconstrued the role of the environment in evolution. The chapter concludes by arguing James’s attack on Spencer’s approach to social evolution was ultimately unsuccessful.

Keywords:   Herbert Spencer, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, Chauncey Wright, Francis Ellingwood Abbot, John Fiske, Metaphysical Club, environment, psychology, sociology

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