Edgar Pierce

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In existographies, Edgar Pierce (85-26 BE) (1870-1929 ACM) (IQ:#|#) (LH:1) was an American psychologist, philosopher, businessman, and philanthropist, noted for []


Purposive psychology

In 1924, Pierce, in his The Philosophy of Character, building on Ferdinand Schiller, specifically his Humanism (1903) and Studies in Humanism (1907), and some works of Henri Bergson, while concordantly rejecting the earlier theories of William James, as being left in an unsatisfactory state, Hugo Munsterberg, as unintelligible, and William McDougall, as being unacceptable, attempted to outline a theory of purpose and character defined within physical theory, in the form of what he calls "purposive psychology".[1]

William James Lecture Series

In 1929, Pierce destated (died), and in his will, left a bequest of $900K dollars ($13M in 66AE terms) to be used firstly, for addition instruction in the department of Philosophy and Psychology. Secondly, the funds established an annual William James Lecture series, designed to bring eminent scholars to Harvard, stipulating that the lectures be open to the public and published by Harvard University Press. The first lecturer being John Dewey, on "Art as Experience", the second was Arthur Lovejoy on "The Great Chain of Being".[2]

Edgar Pierce Professorship

Pierce, in his will, left money to support an endowed chair, namely the Edgar Pierce Professorship. The professorship has been filled by those including: Burrhus Skinner[3], Matthew Nock, Willard Quine, Susanna Siegel, Burton Dreben, and Ken Nakayama. Presently, Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness (2006), is the Edgar Pierce Professor.[4]


In 1895, Pierce completed his PhD in psychology at Harvard, having trained under Hugo Munsterberg (1863-1916)[5], and sometime therein was an instructor in psychology at Harvard. Pierce then moved to the University of Michigan, where succeeded John Bigham (1864-1940), as head of psychology department, where he continued the experimental laboratory, albeit only for one year.

Parker House

An historic photo of the Parker House Hotel, in Boston, America's longest continuously operated hotel, which Pierce obtained ownership of in 1912, money from which he used to fund the Edgar Pierce Professorship and the William James Lecture Series at Harvard.[6]

In Jun 1896, Pierce married the daughter of the Joseph Whipple (1842-1912) owner of the Valley View Farm and head of the Parker House hotel, founded by Harvey D. Parker in 1855, the longest continuously operating hotel in the US[7], and therein left the academia to work in the family business as manager of the Parker House, although he disliked it. In 1912, when Whipple deceased, Pierce became the president of the company, and continued in the hotel business.[8]

Pierce, during these years, remained attached to psychology, as a member of the American Psychology Association. He was on the visiting committee for the Department of Philosophy and Psychology.[9]

Pierce, after becoming successful in the hotel business, sold out at a large profit, allowed him to retire at an early age, in his late 40s or so.


The following are the Google Books keys that found Pierce: Goethe, Elective Affinities, chemistry, thermodynamics.


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Pierce:

“The relations of purpose, freedom, and creativity are also brought out in the book by Edgar Pierce called The Philosophy of Character (1924).”
— Edgar Brightman (1925), Religious Values (pg. 208)[10]
“There is an epilogue to Pierce’s continuing interest in psychology. Munsterberg, with Germanic sense of academic dignity, would apparently become irritated at the sight of his former student working at his desk whenever the professor happened into the Parker House. So intense was his irritation that on numerous occasions he attempted to have Pierce dropped from the membership of the American Psychological Association. He would insist that no member of the Association should have any other business aside from psychology. Apparently he thought it undignified for a professional psychologist to have a part in the hotel business even if it was on a grand scale. The Association always refused to accede to Munsterberg’s demands.”
— Alfred Raphelson (1968), “Psychology at the University of Michigan” (pg. 15)[3]

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Pierce:

“If philosophy and psychology are more than mere pernicious pastimes, they must aid in the building of this new society, they must furnish the fundamentals very sound theory of character, for on development of character all else depends.”
— Edgar Pierce (1924), The Philosophy of Character (pg. 3); cited by James Salazar (2010) in Bodies of Reform (pg. 264)[11]
“It may perhaps be objected that we have given no clear account of the activities of electrons, no description of their individual properties. This is true, but the lack is due to scientific ignorance. We have seen that no theory of cosmic evolution is generally accepted as proved; presumably, the sole known law covering all evolutionary processes is the second law of thermodynamics. This law, it seems to me, merely states that reality tends to reach an equilibrium. But this can be stated in ‘mental’ as well as in ‘physical’ terms, namely: the equilibrium is the harmonious adjustment of minds that have reached perfection. In either case it is an ideal limit of the process of evolution. If science knew just what properties the original elements must have possessed to give rise to the world, then it could state the process of cosmic evolution. Until it does this, I cannot name these properties and so cannot state them in mental terms. But gravitation might be stated as a desire to approach other objects. If minds act in this fixed way, then such a description fulfills the requirements of physics. Chemical affinity was long ago translated by Goethe into mental terms, into Elective Affinities. This translation could be made, I believe, for any properties that science ultimately says the elements must possess.”
— Edgar Pierce (1924), The Philosophy of Character (pgs. 400-01)


  1. Pierce, Edgar. (1924). The Philosophy of Character (Elective Affinities, pgs. 400-01). Harvard.
  2. What Does Edgar Pierce Professor mean? (2016) – Quora.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Raphelson, Alfred C. (1968). “Psychology at the University of Michigan: 1852-1950, Volume One, the History of the Department of Psychology” (pdf) (pgs. 14-15). Michigan.
  4. Daniel Gilbert (psychologist) – Wikipedia.
  5. Hugo Munsterberg – Wikipedia.
  6. Parker House (history) – OmniHotels.com.
  7. Omni Parker House – Wikipedia.
  8. Wilson, Susan. (2014). Heaven, by Hotel Standards: the History of the Omni Parker House (Isu). Publisher.
  9. Anon. (1930). “Notes and News”, The Monist, 40(3), Jul 1.
  10. Brightman, Edgar. (1925). Religious Values (pg. 208). Publisher.
  11. Salazar, James. (2010). Bodies of Reform: The Rhetoric of Character in Gilded Age America (pg. 264). Publisher.
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