Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226719917 Published September 2020
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226719887 Published November 2020
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Pragmatism’s Evolution

Organism and Environment in American Philosophy

Trevor Pearce

Pragmatism’s Evolution

Trevor Pearce

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

384 pages | 12 halftones, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2020
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226719917 Published September 2020
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226719887 Published November 2020
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226720081 Published October 2020
In Pragmatism’s Evolution, Trevor Pearce demonstrates that the philosophical tradition of pragmatism owes an enormous debt to specific biological debates in the late 1800s, especially those concerning the role of the environment in development and evolution. Many are familiar with John Dewey’s 1909 assertion that evolutionary ideas overturned two thousand years of philosophy—but what exactly happened in the fifty years prior to Dewey’s claim? What form did evolutionary ideas take? When and how were they received by American philosophers?

Although the various thinkers associated with pragmatism—from Charles Sanders Peirce to Jane Addams and beyond—were towering figures in American intellectual life, few realize the full extent of their engagement with the life sciences. In his analysis, Pearce focuses on a series of debates in biology from 1860 to 1910—from the instincts of honeybees to the inheritance of acquired characteristics—in which the pragmatists were active participants. If we want to understand the pragmatists and their influence, Pearce argues, we need to understand the relationship between pragmatism and biology.
List of Tables and Figures
Abbreviations of Manuscript Sources
Abbreviations of Scholarly Editions
Note to the Reader


Chapter 1: The Metaphysical Club and the Origin of Species

Chapter 2: Products of the Environment: Spencer’s Challenge
Spencerian Evolution
Spencerian Psychology
Spencerian Sociology

Chapter 3: Evolution at School: Educating a New Generation
Evolution in College
Evolution in Graduate School
Teaching Evolution

Chapter 4: “Hegelianism Needs to Be Darwinized”: Evolution and Idealism
Hegel and Evolution
The Organism-Environment Dialectic
Evolutionary Strivings

Chapter 5: Weismannism Comes to America: The Factors of Evolution
The Reception of Weismann
Peirce and Neo-Lamarckism
Dewey and the Spencer-Weismann Debate

Chapter 6: Pragmatist Ethics: Evolution, Experiment, and Social Progress
Fieldwork in Ethics
Organism and Environment in Social Reform
Social Science and Social Evolution
Eugenics and Civilization

Chapter 7: Pragmatist Logic: Evolution, Experiment, and Inquiry
The “Natural History” Approach
Evolutionary Experimentalism

Review Quotes
Richard J. Bernstein, The New School for Social Research
"This book is an important contribution to the history of philosophical discussion of biology. I do not know of any other book that covers the material so thoroughly. It will be invaluable to anyone interested in the history of pragmatism and the influence of biology and evolution on pragmatic thinkers."
Peter Godfrey-Smith, author of Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science
“Pearce’s book adds a welcome new dimension to discussion of the history of pragmatism. His treatment of the movement’s early years includes an expanded range of characters, some of them fascinating but neglected, others who are recognized as leading figures but not usually linked to pragmatist philosophy. Pearce also shows the influence on pragmatism of an unruly, speculative, and rich collection of ideas about biological evolution and historical change. The book is meticulously researched, very well written, and full of surprises."
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