"The Doctrine of Necessity Examined"

CSP letter to Carus, Jan 12, 1891 (2).pdf

Letter by Charles S. Peirce to Paul Carus, January 12, 1891

CSP letter to Carus, Nov 5, 1891.pdf

Letter by Charles S. Peirce to Paul Carus, November 5, 1891 (Carus note to Sacksteder on verso of first page)

Paul Carus letterpress to Charles S. Peirce, November 7, 1891

Letterpress of original letter by Paul Carus to Charles S. Peirce, November 7, 1891

Monist 2.3

First edition of The Monist containing "The Doctrine of Necessity Examined"

About two months after submitting his first manuscript to The Monist, Peirce informs Carus that he is planning to make a second contribution, and alludes to its topic,

“chance, without any degree of conformity to law.”

The new article is “The Doctrine of Necessity Examined,” published in The Monist in April 1892. In his letter of 5 November 1891 accompanying the enclosed manuscript, Peirce proudly remarks that the new essay includes "the strongest piece of argumentation I have ever done.” He received $160 for its publication.

Peirce’s thesis is that real spontaneity is an inherent feature of nature, and thus determinism or “necessitarianism”—the theory that every fact is absolutely governed by law—is false. Peirce’s indeterminism he names “tychism,” after the Greek word meaning “chance.” Using a multiplicity or “cable” of arguments refuting necessitarianism, Peirce bolsters his position. One argument claims that the necessitarian view is not confirmed by our observations, since our scientific measurements of natural phenomena detect only regularities and not exact conformities to theoretical predictions. On the contrary, tychism sufficiently provides an explanation of these inexact measurements. Moreover, the existence of chance spontaneity explains the organicity of nature, the life of the mind, the growth of novelty, and the ubiquitous fact of the variety of the universe. The mechanistic world of necessitarianism cannot sufficiently account for such realities.

In his letter of 12 January 1891, Peirce makes clear that his new philosophical theories are consistent with his older philosophical positions: “My 1878 article is in no conflict with my present views, which were then embrion.” The remark is important for understanding Peirce as an architectonic thinker, because it indicates that he understood his metaphysics to be compatible with his more explicitly positivistic and scientific views of his earlier writings. It also suggests the natural evolutionary growth of his own ideas over time—a phenomenon governed by “the law of mind,” which is the topic of his next Monist article by that name.