Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
The argument of this dissertation is that the full and continued importance of evolution to the foundations and practice of American philosophy has not been fully recognized. The years surrounding the first appearance of the theory of evolution on American shores were full of scientific uncertainty and philosophical excitement. William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John Dewey responded to this uncertainty and excitement with a unique interpretation of evolution that recognized the deeply constructive and interactive nature of all living beings. This living idea of evolution fed back into many aspects of their mature philosophies. The early historians and commentators of this period, such as Herbert W. Schneider, and Phillip P. Wiener, whatever their view of evolution, did not fully understand the change that had just taken place in philosophy and biological science. They missed the radical change in the causal structure of science and philosophy implied by evolutionary philosophy. Later commentators on this period, with a few notable exceptions, have continued this trend. This has contributed to a disconnect of James, Peirce, and Dewey from the larger narrative of evolutionary philosophy. In this dissertation I reconnect James, Peirce, and Dewey to this larger historical narrative. I show how the narrative they began is still vitally important to our understanding of American philosophy and the philosophy of evolution.
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