The American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce was deeply impressed by chance as a way to bring diversity and "progress" (in the form of increasingly complex organisms) into the world, including the mind. Peirce was unequivocal that chance was a real property of the world. He named it Tyche (τύχη). He writes in his third Monist article, "The Law of Mind,"
102. In an article published in The Monist for January, 1891, I endeavored to show what ideas ought to form the warp of a system of philosophy, and particularly emphasized that of absolute chance. In the number of April, 1892, I argued further in favor of that way of thinking, which it will be convenient to christen tychism (from τύχη, chance). A serious student of philosophy will be in no haste to accept or reject this doctrine; but he will see in it one of the chief attitudes which speculative thought may take, feeling that it is not for an individual, nor for an age, to pronounce upon a fundamental question of philosophy. That is a task for a whole era to work out. I have begun by showing that tychism must give birth to an evolutionary cosmology, in which all the regularities of nature and of mind are regarded as products of growth, and to a Schelling-fashioned idealism which holds matter to be mere specialized and partially deadened mind.Peirce's idea of Tychism was inspired by the writings of Charles Renouvier and Alfred Fouillée, who were proponents of irreducible chance and indeterminism decades before quantum mechanics. It was also inspired by the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Chance in Darwin's time, however, was regarded as the product of human ignorance, that is to say chance is merely epistemic, not real like the ontological randomness of today's quantum indeterminacy. Real chance was regarded as atheistic by most physical scientists since Newton, by philosophers like David Hume, and especially by the great mathematicians who developed the theories of probability and statistics that made chance a quantitative concept. Abraham de Moivre, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and Adolphe Quételet all believed that chance was not real. They saw chance as an artifact of man's limited mind. Only an unlimited or infinite mind (cf. a god or a Laplacian superior intelligence) could know everything about the world and see the pre-determined future as clearly as the past or present. Darwin's use of the word "chance" in The Origin of Species is overwhelmingly to describe the chances of acquiring new characters and the chances of survival, and only rarely to the role of chance in the genetic variations that drive natural selection. He is reluctant to describe the details of genetic variation, perhaps because ascribing it simply to chance is scientifically unsatisfying. When he does come to connect chance to variation, he takes chance to be the result of human ignorance, leaving the door open to a better explanation in the future?
I HAVE hitherto sometimes spoken as if the variations so common and multiform in organic beings under domestication, and in a lesser degree in those in a state of nature had been due to chance. This, of course, is a wholly incorrect expression, but it serves to acknowledge plainly our ignorance of the cause of each particular variation. Some authors believe it to be as much the function of the reproductive system to produce individual differences, or very slight deviations of structure, as to make the child like its parents. But the much greater variability, as well as the greater frequency of monstrosities, under domestication or cultivation, than under nature, leads me to believe that deviations of structure are in some way due to the nature of the conditions of life, to which the parents and their more remote ancestors have been exposed during several generations.