The Metaphysical Club of the Johns Hopkins University held its first meeting on October 28, 1879. At that meeting, the philosopher Charles S. Peirce, the club's principal founder and driving force, was elected president. He held that position intermittently until he left the university in 1884.
The club consisted of both faculty and students, and several well known Hopkins personalities were members, or at least occasional participants in its activities; these included John Dewey, Josiah Royce, Daniel Coit Gilman, Ira Remsen, Basil Gildersleeve, Christine Ladd, and George S. Morris. Morris and the psychologist Granville Stanley Hall were the only members besides Peirce to serve as president. Among the club's most active and faithful members were Peirce, Morris, Hall, Ladd, Dewey, Allan Marquand, Joseph Jastrow, Benjamin Gilman, and Waldo S. Pratt.
The object of the club was "the preparation and discussion of papers." The club met once a month during the academic year, and at each meeting at least two papers, usually written by the members themselves, were read and discussed: a "principal paper" and one or more "minor communications." The papers normally treated topics in logic, ethics, psychology, or "the first principles of things" (common topics were induction, causation, teleology, knowledge, sensation, and the like). But occasionally the papers dealt with topics in mathematics, the physical sciences, or language and literature. For instance, a paper on the development of sight in lower organisms was read at one meeting; and at another Professor Gildersleeve read a paper on rhythm in the classical languages. At least one paper read at the meetings has become a minor classic, namely, Peirce's "Questions Concerning Some Faculties Claimed for Man."
Peirce left Hopkins after the academic year 1883 1884. In the fall of 1884 the club's president, G. Stanley Hall, whose interests lay more in natural psychology than in speculative philosophy, suggested that ". . . the objects of those interested in philosophical matters would best be furthered by disorganizing the Metaphysical Club. . . ." (Minutes, November 18, 1884). A few more meetings were held that fall and winter, but by April 1885, the club had dissolved.