Peirce's Acceptance: Plans for an Architectonic Philosophy

CSP letter to Russell, July 3, 1890.pdf

Letter by Charles S. Peirce to Francis C. Russell, July 3, 1890

CSP letter to Carus, July 19, 1890.pdf

Letter by Charles S. Peirce to Paul Carus, July 19, 1890

Peirce wasted no time in responding to Russell's supportive letter of invitation. "I shall be very glad to write for the Open Court," he states without hesitancy. As it so happened, Peirce was already aware of the publication company and its editor. The “little notice” written by Peirce was a review of Carus's new book Fundamental Problems: The Method of Philosophy as a Systematic Arrangement of Knowledge (Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1889). The following month the review would appear in The Nation.

Peirce more than accepted the offer to contribute a journal article: “One can profitably put but very little into a single article. I should therefore prefer to write a number.” What has come to be known today as Peirce's Monist Metaphysical Project is a series of five articles published in the journal from January 1891 to January 1893. Peirce explains, moreover, that he plans not to haphazardly compose a set of articles on various topics, but to make a systematic presentation of his greater philosophy:

“A philosophy is not a thing to be compiled item by item, promiscuously. It should be constructed architectonically.”

During the past few years, Peirce had been at work on constructing that architectonic. In his draft of a book entitled “A Guess at the Riddle” (1887-1888), he opens with the following goal: “To erect a philosophical edifice that shall outlast the vicissitudes of time, my care must be, not so much to set each brick with nicest accuracy, as to lay the foundations deep and massive.” Those foundations included his three universal categories of firstness, secondness, and thirdness, which would be behind many of his metaphysical discussions in the Monist articles. Yet, it also involved—as Peirce would explain and attempt in his first article—the process of making “a complete survey of human knowledge.” This entailed adjudicating the strengths and weaknesses of major historical ideas, and of appropriating those that were valuable for making a new philosophical contribution.

In responding to Russell, Peirce indicates these greater plans; yet, in responding to Carus, he does not. His letter to the editor is terse and formal, only simply consenting to the business of writing the single article “The Architecture of Theories.”

Peirce's Acceptance: Plans for an Architectonic Philosophy