Carus, Paul (1852–1919)

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Paul Carus, a philosopher and monist, was born at Ilsenburg, Germany, and died in La Salle, Illinois. After receiving his Ph.D. at Tübingen, in 1876, and completing his military service, he taught in Dresden. Censure of religious views he had expressed in pamphlets led him to leave Germany for England. He then went to New York, where in 1885 he published Monism and Meliorism. This book aroused the interest of a German chemist in La Salle, Illinois, Edward Carl Hegeler, who had started a periodical, the Open Court. He invited Carus to take over the editorship. In 1888 another and more technical journal, the Monist, was founded, and Carus became its editor. Carus also published a series of philosophical classics, edited by leading professors of philosophy, which are still widely used in classrooms. The Carus family operated the Open Court Publishing Company until 1996. Open Court publishes the volumes of the Carus Lectures, which are given at meetings of the American Philosophical Association. The Monist was revived in 1962 under the editorship of Eugene Freeman.

For the Monist, Carus chose articles on the history and philosophy of religion, archaeology, biblical criticism, and especially the philosophy of science, both philosophy for the scientifically minded and philosophy about the sciences. He invited contributions from France and Germany and arranged for their translation. Important articles by Bertrand Russell, Ernst Mach, David Hilbert, Jules Henri Poincaré, John Dewey, and Charles Sanders Peirce appeared in the Monist. Carus frequently published articles of his own in criticism of his contributors, but the debates seem not so much to have modified his own monistic philosophy as to have led him to explain in detail how it differed from other monisms, such as Ernst Haeckel's.

Monism, for Carus, was the doctrine that all the things that arehowever varied, diverse, and independent of each other they may appear to beare somehow one. What makes them one are certain eternal laws that reside in things and are discovered, not created, by the investigator. These laws of nature are asserted to be dependent on a single law, which Carus identified with God.

Carus viewed his metaphysics as a speculative generalization from the view of mathematics that he had learned from Hermann Grassmann, his teacher at the Stettin Gymnasium. Alfred North Whitehead, too, acknowledged the influence of Grassmann, in his Universal Algebra. Some of the similarities between the metaphysics of Carus and Whitehead may have resulted from this common influence.

Carus can be called a realist inasmuch as he rejected the notion that the laws of nature depend on the mind of the investigator. In this he found himself in opposition to the Kantians. Nor did he hold to a materialism. Rather, he insisted that every part of the world is both material (acting in accord with the laws of matter) and spiritual (acting in accord with the laws of mind). The characteristic of mind, or spirit, is the ability to mirror the world. Thus Carus was also a realist in his account of knowing. In ethics he held that the worth of any part of the world depends on the degree to which it knowsthat is, mirrorsthe whole. This is achieved through greater and greater knowledge of the laws of nature. Hence, devotion to knowledge is the way to greater goodness. Prayer is recommended as a means of changing the will of the man who prays so that he can mirror the one law in his actions.

See also Dewey, John; Hilbert, David; Mach, Ernst; Monism and Pluralism; Peirce, Charles Sanders; Poincaré, Jules Henri; Russell, Bertrand Arthur William; Whitehead, Alfred North.


Hay, William H. "Paul Carus: A Case-Study of Philosophy on the Frontier." Journal of the History of Ideas 17 (1956): 498510.

Meyer, Donald Harvey. "Paul Carus and the Religion of Science." American Quarterly 14 (1962): 597607.

Sheridan, James Francis. Paul Carus: A Study of the Thought and Work of the Editor of the Open Court Publishing Company. Ann Arbor, MI, 1957.

William H. Hay (1967)

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Carus, Paul (1852–1919)

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