Essential Architectonic Building Blocks: "Man's Glassy Essence"
About two months after sending “The Law of Mind,” Peirce mailed “Man’s Glassy Essence.” Having hoped it to be one of his most valuable works, he expressed slight disappointment that it “is not so good as it ought to have been, owing to preoccupations and anxieties; but still, think it has some value.” It was published in The Monist in October 1892.
“Man’s Glassy Essence” adds another layer to Peirce’s argument for the continuity of the substances of mind and matter, as well as emphasizes spontaneity and life as a whole over the brute mechanism of necessitarianism. In particular, the article is a biological study that examines the foundations of complex living organisms at the microscopic level of protoplasm. Its aim is to identify in the operations of protoplasm the physical equivalents or molecular embodiments of psychical reality, thus providing observational evidence of the connaturality of matter and mind. Some of the evidence Peirce provides is that protoplasm behaves spontaneously, grows, reproduces, takes on habits, and even feels, thus exercising “all the functions of mind.” For these reasons, “Man’s Glassy Essence” is a defense of Peirce’s objective idealism, the Schellingian doctrine that matter is “effete-mind.”