|Peirce page||gnoxic studies|
This text is derived from CP 6.452-521 (see the main Peirce page for an explanation of abbreviations used in citing the works of Peirce). However it is rearranged into chronological order, which in this case may be easier for the general reader to follow. Peirce's ‘Answers to Questions Concerning My Belief in God’ are written in a relatively informal style, while ‘The Neglected Argument for the Reality of God’ was carefully composed and revised for publication in the Hibbert Journal (October 1908). However, many readers will find the latter essay easier to follow after reading Peirce's less formal explanation of what ‘God’ means to him.
Peirce sent a copy of his ‘Neglected Argument’ article to Lady Victoria Welby, and she wrote back asking several questions about terms he used in it; his reply appears in SS, 66-72 (1908 Dec. 14).
The contents of this page are as follows:
Some other concepts discussed in the above text:
Some other terms defined or used in this text:
[CP 6.492-3, ‘From an unpaginated fragment, c. 1896’:]
[We] can know nothing except what we directly experience. So all that we can anyway know relates to experience. All the creations of our mind are but patchworks from experience. So that all our ideas are but ideas of real or transposed experiences. A word can mean nothing except the idea it calls up. So that we cannot even talk about anything but a knowable object. The unknowable about which Hamilton and the agnostics talk can be nothing but an Unknowable Knowable. The absolutely unknowable is a non-existent existence. The Unknowable is a nominalistic heresy. The nominalists in giving their adherence to that doctrine which is really held by all philosophers of all stripes, namely, that experience is all we know, understand experience in their nominalistic sense as the mere first impressions of sense. These “first impressions of sense” are hypothetical creations of nominalistic metaphysics: I for one deny their existence. But anyway even if they exist, it is not in them that experience consists. By experience must be understood the entire mental product. Some psychologists whom I hold in respect will stop me here to say that, while they admit that experience is more than mere sensation, they cannot extend it to the whole mental product, since that would include hallucinations, delusions, superstitious imaginations and fallacies of all kinds; and that they would limit experience to sense-perceptions. But I reply that my statement is the logical one. Hallucinations, delusions, superstitious imaginations, and fallacies of all kinds are experiences, but experiences misunderstood; while to say that all our knowledge relates merely to sense perception is to say that we can know nothing—not even mistakenly—about higher matters, as honor, aspirations, and love.
Where would such an idea, say as that of God, come from, if not from direct experience? Would you make it a result of some kind of reasoning, good or bad? Why, reasoning can supply the mind with nothing in the world except an estimate of the value of a statistical ratio, that is, how often certain kinds of things are found in certain combinations in the ordinary course of experience. And scepticism, in the sense of doubt of the validity of elementary ideas—which is really a proposal to turn an idea out of court and permit no inquiry into its applicability—is doubly condemned by the fundamental principle of scientific method—condemned first as obstructing inquiry, and condemned second because it is treating some other than a statistical ratio as a thing to be argued about. No: as to God, open your eyes—and your heart, which is also a perceptive organ—and you see him. But you may ask, Don't you admit there are any delusions? Yes: I may think a thing is black, and on close examination it may turn out to be bottle-green. But I cannot think a thing is black if there is no such thing to be seen as black. Neither can I think that a certain action is self-sacrificing, if no such thing as self-sacrifice exists, although it may be very rare. It is the nominalists, and the nominalists alone, who indulge in such scepticism, which the scientific method utterly condemns.
Answers to Questions Concerning My Belief in God
The questions can be answered without very long explanations. “Do you believe in the existence of a Supreme Being?” Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, justly points out that the phrase “Supreme Being” is not an equivalent of “God,” since it neither implies infinity nor any of the other attributes of God, excepting only Being and Supremacy. This is important; and another distinction between the two designations is still more so. Namely, “God” is a vernacular word and, like all such words, but more than almost any, is vague. No words are so well understood as vernacular words, in one way; yet they are invariably vague; and of many of them it is true that, let the logician do his best to substitute precise equivalents in their places, still the vernacular words alone, for all their vagueness, answer the principal purposes. This is emphatically the case with the very vague word “God,” which is not made less vague by saying that it imports “infinity,” etc., since those attributes are at least as vague. I shall, therefore, if you please, substitute “God,” for “Supreme Being” in the question. I will also take the liberty of substituting “reality” for “existence.” This is perhaps overscrupulosity; but I myself always use exist in its strict philosophical sense of “react with the other like things in the environment.” Of course, in that sense, it would be fetichism to say that God “exists.” The word “reality,” on the contrary, is used in ordinary parlance in its correct philosophical sense. It is curious that its legal meaning, in which we speak of “real estate,” is the earliest, occurring early in the twelfth century. Albertus Magnus, who, as a high ecclesiastic, must have had to do with such matters, imported it into philosophy. But it did not become at all common until Duns Scotus, in the latter part of the thirteenth century began to use it freely. I define the real as that which holds its characters on such a tenure that it makes not the slightest difference what any man or men may have thought them to be, or ever will have thought them to be, here using thought to include, imagining, opining, and willing (as long as forcible means are not used); but the real thing's characters will remain absolutely untouched.
Of any kind of figment, this is not true. So, then, the question being whether I believe in the reality of God, I answer, Yes. I further opine that pretty nearly everybody more or less believes this, including many of the scientific men of my generation who are accustomed to think the belief is entirely unfounded. The reason they fall into this extraordinary error about their own belief is that they precide (or render precise) the conception, and, in doing so, inevitably change it; and such precise conception is easily shown not to be warranted, even if it cannot be quite refuted. Every concept that is vague is liable to be self-contradictory in those respects in which it is vague. No concept, not even those of mathematics, is absolutely precise; and some of the most important for everyday use are extremely vague. Nevertheless, our instinctive beliefs involving such concepts are far more trustworthy than the best established results of science, if these be precisely understood. For instance, we all think that there is an element of order in the universe. Could any laboratory experiments render that proposition more certain than instinct or common sense leaves it? It is ridiculous to broach such a question. But when anybody undertakes to say precisely what that order consists in, he will quickly find he outruns all logical warrant. Men who are given to defining too much inevitably run themselves into confusion in dealing with the vague concepts of common sense.
They generally make the matter worse by erroneous, not to say absurd, notions of the function of reasoning. Every race of animals is provided with instincts well adapted to its needs, and especially to strengthening the stock. It is wonderful how unerring these instincts are. Man is no exception in this respect; but man is so continually getting himself into novel situations that he needs, and is supplied with, a subsidiary faculty of reasoning for bringing instinct to bear upon situations to which it does not directly apply. This faculty is a very imperfect one in respect to fallibility; but then it is only needed to bridge short gaps. Every step has to be reviewed and criticized; and indeed this is so essential that it is best to call an uncriticized step of inference by another name. If one does not at all know how one's belief comes about, it cannot be called even by the name of inference. If, with St. Augustine, we draw the inference “I think; therefore, I am,” but, when asked how we justify this inference, can only say that we are compelled to think that, since we think, we are, this uncriticized inference ought not to be called reasoning, which at the very least conceives its inference to be one of a general class of possible inferences on the same model, and all equally valid. But one must go back and criticize the premisses and the principles that guide the drawing of the conclusions. If it could be made out that all the ultimate (or first) premisses were percepts; and that all the ultimate logical principles were as clear as the principle of contradiction, then one might say that one's conclusion was perfectly rational. Strictly speaking, it would not be quite so, because it is quite possible for perception itself to deceive us, and it is much more possible for us to be mistaken about the indubitableness of logical principles. But as a matter of fact, as far as logicians have hitherto been able to push their analyses, we have in no single case, concerning a matter of fact, as distinguished from a matter of mathematical conditional possibility, been able to reach this point. We are in every case either forced by the inexorable critic, sooner or later, to declare, “such and such a proposition or mode of inference I cannot doubt; it seems perfectly clear that it is so, but I can't say why,” or else the critic himself tires before the criticism has been pushed to its very end.
If you absolutely cannot doubt a proposition—cannot bring yourself, upon deliberation, to entertain the least suspicion of the truth of it, it is plain that there is no room to desire anything more. Many and many a philosopher seems to think that taking a piece of paper and writing down “I doubt that” is doubting it, or that it is a thing he can do in a minute as soon as he decides what he wants to doubt. Descartes convinced himself that the safest way was to “begin” by doubting everything, and accordingly he tells us he straightway did so, except only his je pense, which he borrowed from St. Augustine. Well I guess not; for genuine doubt does not talk of beginning with doubting. The pragmatist knows that doubt is an art which has to be acquired with difficulty; and his genuine doubts will go much further than those of any Cartesian. What he does not doubt, about ordinary matters of everybody's life, he is apt to find that no well matured man doubts. They are part of our instincts. Instincts are now known not to be nearly so unchangeable as used to be supposed; and the present “mutation”-theory, which I have always insisted must be the way in which species have arisen, is, I am confident, the first beginning of the correct theory, and shows that it is no disproof of the instinctive character of a belief that it relates to concepts which the primitive man cannot be supposed to have had. Now, this is no confirmation of what one does not doubt. For what one does not doubt cannot be rendered more satisfactory than it already is. Yet while I may entertain, as far as I can search my mind, no perceptible doubt whatever of any one of a hundred propositions, I may suspect that, among so many, some one that is not true may have slipped in; and, if so, the marvellous inerrancy of instinct may perhaps add a little to my general confidence in the whole lot. However, I am far from insisting upon the point. I think the consideration is better adapted to helping us to detect the counterfeit paper doubts, of which so many are in circulation.
All the instinctive beliefs, I notice, are vague. The moment they are precided, the pragmatist will begin to doubt them.
The fourth part of the first book of Hume's Treatise of Human Nature affords a strong argument for the correctness of my view that reason is a mere succedaneum to be used where instinct is wanting, by exhibiting the intensely ridiculous way in which a man winds himself up in silly paper doubts if he undertakes to throw common sense, i.e. instinct, overboard and be perfectly rational. Bradley's Appearance and Reality is another example of the same thing, although Bradley is at the opposite pole from Hume in what he does admit. But Bradley is in no way as good a case as Hume. Hume endeavours to modify his conclusion by not stating it in the extreme length to which it ought to carry him. But a careful reader will see that if he proves anything at all by all his reasoning, it is that reasoning, as such, is ipso facto and essentially illogical, “illegitimate,” and unreasonable. And the reason it is so is that either it is bad reasoning, or rests on doubtful premisses, or else that those premisses have not been thoroughly criticized. Of course not. The moment you come to a proposition which is perfectly satisfactory, so that you can entertain not the smallest suspicion of it, this fact debars you from making any genuine criticism of it. So that what Hume's argument would lead him to is that reasoning is “illegitimate” because its premisses are perfectly satisfactory. He candidly confesses that they are satisfactory to himself. But he seems to be dissatisfied with himself for being satisfied. It is easy to see, however, that he pats himself on the back, and is very well satisfied with himself for being so dissatisfied with being satisfied. Bradley's position is equally ridiculous. Another circumstance which goes toward confirming my view that instinct is the great internal source of all wisdom and of all knowledge is that all the “triumphs of science,” of which that poor old nineteenth century used to be so vain, have been confined to two directions. They either consist in physical—that is, ultimately, dynamical—explanations of phenomena, or else in explaining things on the basis of our common sense knowledge of human nature. Now dynamics is nothing but an elaboration of common sense; its experiments are mere imaginary experiments. So it all comes down to common sense in these two branches, of which the one is founded on those instincts about physical forces that are required for the feeding impulsion and the other upon those instincts about our fellows that are required for the satisfaction of the reproductive impulse. Thus, then all science is nothing but an outgrowth from these two instincts.
You will see that all I have been saying is not preparatory to any argument for the reality of God. It is intended as an apology for resting the belief upon instinct as the very bedrock on which all reasoning must be built.
I have often occasion to walk at night, for about a mile, over an entirely untravelled road, much of it between open fields without a house in sight. The circumstances are not favorable to severe study, but are so to calm meditation. If the sky is clear, I look at the stars in the silence, thinking how each successive increase in the aperture of a telescope makes many more of them visible than all that had been visible before. The fact that the heavens do not show a sheet of light proves that there are vastly more dark bodies, say planets, than there are suns. They must be inhabited, and most likely millions of them with beings much more intelligent than we are. For on the whole, the solar system seems one of the simplest; and presumably under more complicated phenomena greater intellectual power will be developed. What must be the social phenomena of such a world! How extraordinary are the minds even of the lower animals. We cannot appreciate our own powers any more than a writer can appreciate his own style, or a thinker the peculiar quality of his own thought. I don't mean that a Dante did not know that he expressed himself with fewer words than other men do, but he could not admire himself as we admire him; nor can we wonder at human intelligence as we do at that of wasps. Let a man drink in such thoughts as come to him in contemplating the physico-psychical universe without any special purpose of his own; especially the universe of mind which coincides with the universe of matter. The idea of there being a God over it all of course will be often suggested; and the more he considers it, the more he will be enwrapt with Love of this idea. He will ask himself whether or not there really is a God. If he allows instinct to speak, and searches his own heart, he will at length find that he cannot help believing it. I cannot tell how every man will think. I know the majority of men, especially educated men, are so full of pedantries—especially the male sex—that they cannot think straight about these things. But I can tell how a man must think if he is a pragmatist. Now the shower of communications that I have been getting during the last two months causes me to share the expectation that I find so many good judges are entertaining, that pragmatism is going to be the dominant philosophical opinion of the twentieth century.…
If a pragmaticist is asked what he means by the word “God,” he can only say that just as long acquaintance with a man of great character may deeply influence one's whole manner of conduct, so that a glance at his portrait may make a difference, just as almost living with Dr. Johnson enabled poor Boswell to write an immortal book and a really sublime book, just as long study of the works of Aristotle may make him an acquaintance, so if contemplation and study of the physico-psychical universe can imbue a man with principles of conduct analogous to the influence of a great man's works or conversation, then that analogue of a mind—for it is impossible to say that any human attribute is literally applicable—is what he means by “God.” Of course, various great theologians explain that one cannot attribute reason to God, nor perception (which always involves an element of surprise and of learning what one did not know), and, in short, that his “mind” is necessarily so unlike ours, that some—though wrongly—high in the church say that it is only negatively, as being entirely different from everything else, that we can attach any meaning to the Name. This is not so; because the discoveries of science, their enabling us to predict what will be the course of nature, is proof conclusive that, though we cannot think any thought of God's, we can catch a fragment of His Thought, as it were.
Now such being the pragmaticist's answer to the question what he means by the word “God,” the question whether there really is such a being is the question whether all physical science is merely the figment—the arbitrary figment—of the students of nature, and further whether the one lesson the Gautama Boodha, Confucius, Socrates, and all who from any point of view have had their ways of conduct determined by meditation upon the physico-psychical universe, be only their arbitrary notion or be the Truth behind the appearances which the frivolous man does not think of; and whether the superhuman courage which such contemplation has conferred upon priests who go to pass their lives with lepers and refuse all offers of rescue is mere silly fanaticism, the passion of a baby, or whether it is strength derived from the power of the truth. Now the only guide to the answer to this question lies in the power of the passion of love which more or less overmasters every agnostic scientist and everybody who seriously and deeply considers the universe. But whatever there may be of argument in all this is as nothing, the merest nothing, in comparison to its force as an appeal to one's own instinct, which is to argument what substance is to shadow, what bed-rock is to the built foundations of a cathedral.
Caldecott's Philosophy of Religion explains thirteen different types of reasons for believing in God, with different varieties of several of them. I have examined them all with care, and think each one proves something. But I do not think their conclusions always have much to do with religion.
“Do you believe this Supreme Being to have been the creator of the universe?” Not so much to have been as to be now creating the universe, concerning which see my articles in the first three volumes of The Monist; and much the same opinion has been entertained by others, especially by Renouvier, the French protagonist of [the monadistic] philosophy. But I object to Renouvier's philosophy as nominalistic and otherwise not thorough. Still, his Essais de Critique and particularly his Nouvelle Monadologie are very strong books in many respects, which no thoughtful reader can forget. I think that, vain as it is to attempt to bring to light any definite meaning from the idea, it is nevertheless true that all reality is due to the creative power of God.
I am inclined to think (though I admit that there is no necessity of taking that view) that the process of creation has been going on for an infinite time in the past, and further, during all past time, and, further, that past time had no definite beginning, yet came about by a process which in a generalized sense, of which we cannot easily get much idea, was a development. I believe Time to be a reality, and not the figment which Kant's nominalism proposes to explain it as being. As reality, it is due to creative power. People who have had no practice in higher logical analysis are apt to be sceptical as to anybody's being able to attach any idea to such propositions. They are even dumbfounded to hear one say that a part is not necessarily less than its whole; while after one has learned how to think of such things, the marvel is that anybody should ever have deliberately said that the part is necessarily less than the whole or ever should have said “so fast eternity comes on,” meaning by “eternity” the infinitely distant future, as if the part of the future that will remain future tomorrow were not just as long as today's or yesterday's future.
I think we must regard Creative Activity as an inseparable attribute of God.
“What do you imagine the present functions of this Supreme Being toward the universe to be?” Creation, as just said; and much may also be learned from the book Substance and Shadow (1863) by Henry James, the father. The book was presented to me, by the way, by Miss Maria Fay, a very interesting and spiritual lady. In particular, the obvious solution of the problem of evil is there pointed out. [ed. note: see Appendix.] Columbus's egg was not simpler. In general, God is perpetually creating us, that is developing our real manhood, our spiritual reality. Like a good teacher, He is engaged in detaching us from a False dependence upon Him.
“Do you believe Him to be omniscient?” Yes, in a vague sense. Of course, God's knowledge is something so utterly unlike our own that it is more like willing than knowing. I do not see why we may not assume that He refrains from knowing much. For this thought is creative. But perhaps the wisest way is to say that we do not know how God's thought is performed and that [it] is simply vain to attempt it. We cannot so much as frame any notion of what the phrase “the performance of God's mind” means. Not the faintest! The question is gabble.
“Do you believe Him to be Omnipotent?” Undoubtedly He is so, vaguely speaking; but there are many questions that might be put of no profit except to the student of logic. Some of the scholastic commentaries consider them. Leibnitz thought that this was the best of “all possible” worlds. That seems to imply some limitation upon Omnipotence. Unless the others were created too, it would seem that, all things considered, this universe was the only possible one. Perhaps others do exist. But we only wildly gabble about such things.
“Do you believe Him to be infallible?” If omniscient, how not? But perhaps this is a slip of the typewriter for impeccable. Theologians insist upon sundry questions which are in the highest degree displeasing to me, not to say offensive. I do not presume to know anything about it, but it seems to me that the very meaning of the word “God” implies, not surely morality, for He seems to me to be above all self-restraint or law, but to imply aesthetic spiritual perfection.
“Do you believe that He ever modifies or changes the laws of nature or interferes with the course of events in individual cases?” I call your attention to the circumstance that some of the most respected theologians, such as St. Augustine, and others before him, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Joseph Butler, are decidedly of the opinion that God never interfered with what they call the cursus naturæ, which is what we call the operations of the laws of nature, “laws of nature” meaning with them the items of the jus naturae, or something which my unlegal ignorance is unable to distinguish from that. Miracles are for them simply what no man can do without special aid from on high, or which at least are signs of some special authority, without being in reality deviations from the regular uniformities of the world. However, my own doctrine of Tychism, like Renouvier's somewhat similar theory, and those of Fouillée, Delboeuf, and others, must, in so far as it is accepted, somewhat weaken that view.
I also call your attention to the fact that Hume's argument against miracles has nothing at all to do with whether they are or are not violations of the laws of nature. The argument is based upon a misunderstanding of the doctrine of probabilities, of which some of the early treatises had appeared in his day. It might be corrected, but it would still rest on a complete misunderstanding of the true logic of the criticism of ancient history.
But the German critics (I speak only of those who treat of the history of philosophy, for I have never looked into the Biblical criticisms) are as illogical as Hume and in much the same way. Hence, whenever their conclusions have been tested by the spade of the archeologist it has been to their complete discomfiture. Hume's argument is in no particularly intimate relation to the rest of his book, and was evidently inserted as a bid for popularity. For while he was a young fellow of fifteen to seventeen, miracles had been vehemently attacked by a clergyman of the name of Woolston, who took the ground of Origen and other early fathers of the church that the stories in the gospel were simply allegorical. His books had the most stupendous sale in England, completely demonstrating the general disbelief in miracles at that day. In point of fact, there never was a period of history in which the general tone of thought was so absolutely contrary to the supernatural. The state of opinion about the [time of the] French Revolution, and that about 1875, when “agnosticism” was at its [crudest], were pious in comparison with 1730. Therefore, Hume who sacrificed the best parts of his system to make his Inquiry popular, undoubtedly stuck in his argument against miracles for that purpose.
For my part, I do not see how we can ascertain a priori whether miracles (be they violations of the laws of nature or not) and special providences take place or not. In so far Hume is entirely in the right. It is simply a question of evidence. His argument has a certain weight. If there are no miracles nowadays, there is a strong presumption against those which took place amidst a rabble of Galileans. But are there no miracles nowadays? I do not feel so sure of it. There is Mrs. Piper and Perry. I do not think it rational not [to] think, for us who know Perry, that that case is of tremendous, almost conclusive, weight. There is the blood of St. Januarius which Sir Humphrey Davy—of his own motion, and not forced into it at all—undertook to investigate and was given every facility he could think of, and who declared he could not find the least symptom of fraud about the thing. Take such men as Sir William Crookes and Lord Rayleigh—well even Hodgson—one must confess the case is very strong; so strong that but for one circumstance I should unhesitatingly accept it. That circumstance is that every surprising discovery of science—as for example when Becquerel found those photographic plates which he had put away in a drawer to be affected by the uranium salt that was wrapped up in black paper and accidentally laid upon them—every such event, is soon followed by others closely connected with it, so that all possible doubt is swept away together with all surprise at the occurrence. Miracles, on the contrary, are always sui generis. The only ones that were not so, the falling of stones out of the heavens, lost all their prestige when it was found how common the occurrence was. The isolatedness of the miracle is really no argument against its reality. It is nearly the same with works of great genius. You have Rafael and Michelangelo together, and then for a long time nothing surprising. Dante stands all alone. Byron was unparalleled before or since; for A. de Musset is surely not to be compared with him. Indeed every branch of art and science can furnish such examples. The isolation, then, is no argument against miracles, but it effectively prevents our ever having sufficient evidence of them. I must confess that the gospel miracles appear at this date very far from impressive. It is curious that Origen, no further from Jesus in history than we from the expulsion of James II from England, should have found them so difficult to believe.
“Do you believe in the efficacy of prayer?” The only thing connected with that, that I am quite satisfied about, is that the clergy do not believe in it. I mean the influential clergy. The conclusive proof of that is that when Tyndall proposed to put the matter to the test of experiment, although they had the record of the somewhat similar proposal of the King of Samaria and Elijah's perfectly frank response, they backed down and pretended that it would be blasphemous. So it is blasphemy to inquire into the truth of religion, is it? No living man thinks it disrespectful to inquire into the authenticity of his signature; and the higher clergy are far more sensitive to their own dignity than God's, and very justly so, since it is quite possible to be disrespectful to an ecclesiastic, while it is absolutely impossible really to think of God without awe mingled with love.
But what business is it of mine whether my prayers are to be efficacious or not? We, one and all of us, have an instinct to pray; and this fact constitutes an invitation from God to pray. And in fact there is found to be not only soulagement in prayer, but great spiritual good and moral strength. I do not see why prayer may not be efficacious, or if not the prayer exactly, the state of mind of which the prayer is nothing more than the expression, namely the soul's consciousness of its relation to God, which is nothing more than precisely the pragmatistic meaning of the name of God; so that, in that sense, prayer is simply calling upon the name of the Lord. To pray for specific things, not merely for the επιουσιον bread, but that it may be better baked than yesterday's, is childish, of course; yet innocent.
“Why does not this Omniscient Being see the need and interpose the Omnipotent and Supreme Authority to meet the needs prayed for? Is it because of a vanity which is one of the attributes of fallible man?” I remember two passages in my writings in which I made as much fun as politeness would allow of writers who undertook to tell us what was “conducive to our welfare.” Once it was Simon Newcomb who was talking like that in his book on Political Economy; and I remarked that an economist, far from having any qualifications for exploring this most occult of all matters, was particularly unfit for the task owing to his habit of taking it for granted that wealth was desirable. The other time it was Karl Pearson, who wanted to found the rules of logic upon that, and I remarked that, for my part, if ever I undertook the supremely difficult inquiry of what was conducive to our welfare I should feel that I needed to arm myself beforehand with whatever resources logic could afford, to speak of no others. What are our “needs”? We know what we have an impulse to seek, and if we have considered the matter deliberately we are convinced that those things are far from being the same as our true needs. Yet if we are going to pray for anything specific, which is once in a long time, on some supreme occasion, a permissible frailty, surely we shall add something like, “Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Thy servants, as may be most expedient for them.” Not to do so, would, as you seem to suggest, be vanity indeed.
“Do you believe that the prayers of several persons for one end are more potent than those of one?” I know of no experiments to ascertain how this may be; but I certainly think that common prayers have some peculiar virtues of their own. As I say, the inquiry into efficacity is distasteful to me because that is not the motive of my prayers. Still, I should like to have an inquiry instituted into the matter.
“Do you believe in a future life?” Some kind of a future life there can be no doubt of. A man of character leaves an influence living after him. It is living: it is personal. In my opinion, it is quite proper to call that a future life. Jesus so spoke of it when he said he would always be with us. It is in some respects more fit to be made the subject of a promise than any other kind of future life. For it is something we all desire; while other kinds present nothing alluring that is not excessively vague or else unwholesome and antipractical. In the next place its vivacity and endurance are proportional to the spirituality of the man. How many instances have we seen of that! Beyond that, I simply am content to be in God's hands. If I am in another life it is sure to be most interesting; but I cannot imagine how it is going to be me. At the same time, I really don't know anything about it.
“Is not every act of memory in the human being the result of the action of that being's material brain.… ? If this is true, on the death of the material body … does not the memory cease?”
This is commonly assumed to be the case; and owing to my slight interest in the matter it may well be that there are some facts bearing upon the question that I am not aware of. But my impression is that there is no positive reason for believing it except the general facts of the dependence of mental action on the brain. For instance, when Broca's convolution is much diseased we always find the use of language is greatly affected. But I am sure this is not a strong positive reason for an affirmative answer to the first of the two questions. It undoubtedly warrants the assumption in science, until facts to the contrary appear. But your questions are not scientific, but practical questions. From that standpoint I think I must say that the matter is open to some doubt. When a part of the brain is extirpated we find the result is that certain faculties are lost. But after a time they are recovered. How can this be? The answer given is that other parts of the brain learn to perform these functions. But after all, we do not know more than that if anything happens to the hemispheres, memory is deranged. It is a most wonderful thing if all we remember is really preserved in the cells of the cerebrum. However, there can be no doubt, I think, that upon death we soon lose consciousness, at least for the time being.
You will observe that the essential immortality of the soul is not exactly the Christian doctrine, which is that the body is reproduced, and with it presumably the memory. There is nothing at all to prove it except that it was a belief clung to by St. Paul and founded by him upon the resurrection of Jesus.
“If the power to remember dies with the material body, has the question of any single person's future life after death any particular interest for him?” As you put the question, it is not whether the matter ought rationally to have an interest, but whether as a fact it has; and perhaps this is the proper question, trusting as it seems to do, rather to instinct, than to reason. Now if we had a drug which would abolish memory for a while, and you were going to be cut for the stone, suppose the surgeon were to say, “You will suffer damnably, but I will administer this drug so that you will during that suffering lose all memory of your previous life. Now you have of course no particular interest in your sufferings as long as you will not remember your present and past life, you know, have you?”
[end of manuscript]
A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God
MS 841 and P1166 (1908); CP 6.452-91; EP2:434-450. Here i have followed the EP text, which corrects a few errors in the CP text (see the Peirce Edition Project site for textual notes).
The word “God,” so “capitalized” (as we Americans say), is the definable proper name, signifying Ens necessarium; in my belief Really creator of all three Universes of Experience.
Some words shall herein be capitalized when used, not as vernacular, but as terms defined. Thus an “idea” is the substance of an actual unitary thought or fancy; but “Idea,” nearer Plato's idea of ἰδεα, denotes anything whose Being consists in its mere capacity for getting fully represented, regardless of any person's faculty or impotence to represent it.
“Real” is a word invented in the thirteenth century to signify having Properties, i.e. characters sufficing to identify their subject, and possessing these whether they be anywise attributed to it by any single man or group of men, or not. Thus, the substance of a dream is not Real, since it was such as it was, merely in that a dreamer so dreamed it; but the fact of the dream is Real, if it was dreamed; since if so, its date, the name of the dreamer, etc. make up a set of circumstances sufficient to distinguish it from all other events; and these belong to it, i.e. would be true if predicated of it, whether A, B, or C Actually ascertains them or not. The “Actual” is that which is met with in the past, present, or future.
An “Experience” is a brutally produced conscious effect that contributes to a habit, self-controlled, yet so satisfying, on deliberation, as to be destructible by no positive exercise of internal vigour. I use the word “self-controlled” for “controlled by the thinker's self,” and not for “uncontrolled” except in its own spontaneous, i.e. automatic, self-development, as Professor J. M. Baldwin uses the word. Take for illustration the sensation undergone by a child that puts its forefinger into a flame with the acquisition of a habit of keeping all its members out of all flames. A compulsion is “Brute,” whose immediate efficacy nowise consists in conformity to rule or reason.
Of the three Universes of Experience familiar to us all, the first comprises all mere Ideas, those airy nothings to which the mind of poet, pure mathematician, or another might give local habitation and a name within that mind. Their very airy-nothingness, the fact that their Being consists in mere capability of getting thought, not in anybody's Actually thinking them, saves their Reality. The second Universe is that of the Brute Actuality of things and facts. I am confident that their Being consists in reactions against Brute forces, notwithstanding objections redoubtable until they are closely and fairly examined. The third Universe comprises everything whose Being consists in active power to establish connections between different objects, especially between objects in different Universes. Such is everything which is essentially a Sign,—not the mere body of the Sign, which is not essentially such, but, so to speak, the Sign's Soul, which has its Being in its power of serving as intermediary between its Object and a Mind. Such, too, is a living consciousness, and such the life, the power of growth, of a plant. Such is a living institution,—a daily newspaper, a great fortune, a social “movement.”
An “Argument” is any process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief. An “Argumentation” is an Argument proceeding upon definitely formulated premisses.
If God Really be, and be benign, then, in view of the generally conceded truth that religion, were it but proved, would be a good outweighing all others, we should naturally expect that there would be some Argument for His Reality that should be obvious to all minds, high and low alike, that should earnestly strive to find the truth of the matter; and further, that this Argument should present its conclusion, not as a proposition of metaphysical theology, but in a form directly applicable to the conduct of life, and full of nutrition for man's highest growth. What I shall refer to as the N.A.,—the Neglected Argument,—seems to me best to fulfill this condition, and I should not wonder if the majority of those whose own reflections have harvested belief in God must bless the radiance of the N.A. for that wealth. Its persuasiveness is no less than extraordinary; while it is not unknown to anybody. Nevertheless, of all those theologians (within my little range of reading) who, with commendable assiduity, scrape together all the sound reasons they can find or concoct to prove the first proposition of theology, few mention this one, and they most briefly. They probably share those current notions of logic which recognize no other Arguments than Argumentations.
There is a certain agreeable occupation of mind which, from its having no distinctive name, I infer is not as commonly practiced as it deserves to be; for indulged in moderately,—say through some five to six per cent of one's waking time, perhaps during a stroll,—it is refreshing enough more than to repay the expenditure. Because it involves no purpose save that of casting aside all serious purpose, I have sometimes been half-inclined to call it reverie with some qualification; but for a frame of mind so antipodal to vacancy and dreaminess such a designation would be too excruciating a misfit. In fact, it is Pure Play. Now, Play, we all know, is a lively exercise of one's powers. Pure Play has no rules, except this very law of liberty. It bloweth where it listeth. It has no purpose, unless recreation. The particular occupation I mean,—a petite bouchée with the Universes,—may take either the form of aesthetic contemplation, or that of distant castle-building (whether in Spain or within one's own moral training), or that of considering some wonder in one of the Universes, or some connection between two of the three, with speculation concerning its cause. It is this last kind,—I will call it “Musement” on the whole,—that I particularly recommend, because it will in time flower into the N.A. One who sits down with the purpose of becoming convinced of the truth of religion is plainly not inquiring in scientific singleness of heart, and must aways suspect himself of reasoning unfairly. So he can never attain the entirety even of a physicist's belief in electrons, although this is avowedly but provisional. But let religious meditation be allowed to grow up spontaneously out of Pure Play without any breach of continuity, and the Muser will retain the perfect candour proper to Musement.
If one who had determined to make trial of Musement as a favorite recreation were to ask me for advice, I should reply as follows: The dawn and the gloaming most invite one to Musement; but I have found no watch of the nychthemeron that has not its own advantages for the pursuit. It begins passively enough with drinking in the impression of some nook in one of the three Universes. But impression soon passes into attentive observation, observation into musing, musing into a lively give and take of communion between self and self. If one's observations and reflections are allowed to specialize themselves too much, the Play will be converted into scientific study; and that cannot be pursued in odd half hours.
I should add: Adhere to the one ordinance of Play, the law of liberty. I can testify that the last half century, at least, has never lacked tribes of Sir Oracles, colporting brocards to bar off one or another roadway of inquiry; and a Rabelais would be needed to bring out all the fun that has been packed in their airs of infallibility. Auguste Comte, notwithstanding his having apparently produced some unquestionably genuine thinking, was long the chief of such a band. The vogue of each particular maxim of theirs was necessarily brief. For what distinction can be gained by repeating saws heard from all mouths? No bygone fashion seems more grotesque than a panache of obsolete wisdom. I remember the days when a pronouncement all the rage was that no science must borrow the methods of another; the geologist must not use a microscope, nor the astronomer a spectroscope. Optics must not meddle with electricity, nor logic with algebra. But twenty years later, if you aspired to pass for a commanding intellect, you would have to pull a long face and declare that “It is not the business of science to search for origins.” This maxim was a masterpiece, since no timid soul, in dread of being thought naive, would dare inquire what “origins” were, albeit the secret confessor within his breast compelled the awful self-acknowledgment of his having no idea into what else than “origins” of phenomena (in some sense of that indefinite word) man can inquire. That human reason can comprehend some causes is past denial, and once we are forced to recognize a given element in experience, it is reasonable to await positive evidence before we complicate our acknowledgment with qualifications. Otherwise, why venture beyond direct observation? Illustrations of this principle abound in physical science. Since, then, it is certain that man is able to understand the laws and the causes of some phenomena, it is reasonable to assume, in regard to any given problem, that it would get rightly solved by man, if a sufficiency of time and attention were devoted to it. Moreover, those problems that at first blush appear utterly insoluble receive, in that very circumstance,—as Edgar Poe remarked in his “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,”—their smoothly-fitting keys. This particularly adapts them to the Play of Musement.
Forty or fifty minutes of vigorous and unslackened analytic thought bestowed upon one of them usually suffices to educe from it all there is to educe, its general solution. There is no kind of reasoning that I should wish to discourage in Musement; and I should lament to find anybody confining it to a method of such moderate fertility as logical analysis. Only, the Player should bear in mind that the higher weapons in the arsenal of thought are not playthings but edge-tools. In any mere Play they can be used by way of exercise alone; while logical analysis can be put to its full efficiency in Musement. So, continuing the counsels that had been asked of me, I should say, “Enter your skiff of Musement, push off into the lake of thought, and leave the breath of heaven to swell your sail. With your eyes open, awake to what is about or within you, and open conversation with yourself; for such is all meditation.” It is, however, not a conversation in words alone, but is illustrated, like a lecture, with diagrams and with experiments.
Different people have such wonderfully different ways of thinking that it would be far beyond my competence to say what courses Musements might not take; but a brain endowed with automatic control,—as man's indirectly is,—is so naturally and rightly interested in its own faculties that some psychological and semi-psychological questions would doubtless get touched; such, in the latter class, as this: Darwinians, with truly surprising ingenuity, have concocted, and with still more astonishing confidence have accepted as proved, one explanation for the diverse and delicate beauties of flowers, another for those of butterflies, and so on; but why is all nature,—the forms of trees, the compositions of sunsets,—suffused with such beauties throughout,—and not nature only, but the other two Universes as well? Among more purely psychological questions, the nature of pleasure and pain will be likely to attract attention. Are they mere qualities of feeling, or are they rather motor instincts attracting us to some feelings and repelling others? Have pleasure and pain the same sort of constitution, or are they contrasted in this respect, pleasure arising upon the forming or strengthening of an association by resemblance, and pain upon the weakening or disruption of such a habit or conception?
Psychological speculations will naturally lead on to musings upon metaphysical problems proper,—good exercise for a mind with a turn for exact thought. It is here that one finds those questions that at first seem to offer no handle for reason's clutch, but which readily yield to logical analysis. But problems of metaphysics will inevitably present themselves that logical analysis will not suffice to solve. Some of the best will be motived by a desire to comprehend universe-wide aggregates of unformulated but partly experienced phenomena. I would suggest that the Muser be not too impatient to analyze these, lest some significant ingredient be lost in the process; but that he begin by pondering them from every point of view, until he seems to read some truth beneath the phenomena.
At this point a trained mind will demand that an examination be made of the truth of the interpretation; and the first step in such examination must be a logical analysis of the theory. But strict examination would be a task a little too serious for the Musement of hour fractions, and if it is postponed there will be ample remuneration even in the suggestions that there is not time to examine; especially since a few of them will appeal to reason as all but certain.
Let the Muser, for example, after well appreciating, in its breadth and depth, the unspeakable variety of each Universe, turn to those phenomena that are of the nature of homogeneities of connectedness in each; and what a spectacle will unroll itself! As a mere hint of them I may point out that every small part of space, however remote, is bounded by just such neighbouring parts as every other, without a single exception throughout immensity. The matter of Nature is in every star of the same elementary kinds, and (except for variations of circumstance), what is more wonderful still, throughout the whole visible universe, about the same proportions of the different chemical elements prevail. Though the mere catalogue of known carbon-compounds alone would fill an unwieldy volume, and perhaps, if the truth were known, the number of amino-acids alone is greater, yet it is unlikely that there are in all more than about 600 elements, of which 500 dart through space too swiftly to be held down by the earth's gravitation, coronium being the slowest-moving of these. This small number bespeaks comparative simplicity of structure. Yet no mathematician but will confess the present hopelessness of attempting to comprehend the constitution of the hydrogen-atom, the simplest of the elements that can be held to earth.
From speculations on the homogeneities of each Universe, the Muser will naturally pass to the consideration of homogeneities and connections between two different Universes, or all three. Especially in them all we find one type of occurrence, that of growth, itself consisting in the homogeneities of small parts. This is evident in the growth of motion into displacement, and the growth of force into motion. In growth, too, we find that the three Universes conspire; and a universal feature of it is provision for later stages in earlier ones. This is a specimen of certain lines of reflection which will inevitably suggest the hypothesis of God's Reality. It is not that such phenomena might not be capable of being accounted for, in one sense, by the action of chance with the smallest conceivable dose of a higher element; for if by God be meant the Ens necessarium, that very hypothesis requires that such should be the case. But the point is that that sort of explanation leaves a mental explanation just as needful as before. Tell me, upon sufficient authority, that all cerebration depends upon movements of neurites that strictly obey certain physical laws, and that thus all expressions of thought, both external and internal, receive a physical explanation, and I shall be ready to believe you. But if you go on to say that this explodes the theory that my neighbour and myself are governed by reason, and are thinking beings, I must frankly say that it will not give me a high opinion of your intelligence. But however that may be, in the Pure Play of Musement the idea of God's Reality will be sure sooner or later to be found an attractive fancy, which the Muser will develop in various ways. The more he ponders it, the more it will find response in every part of his mind, for its beauty, for its supplying an ideal of life, and for its thoroughly satisfactory explanation of his whole threefold environment.
The hypothesis of God is a peculiar one, in that it supposes an infinitely incomprehensible object, although every hypothesis, as such, supposes its object to be truly conceived in the hypothesis. This leaves the hypothesis but one way of understanding itself; namely, as vague yet as true so far as it is definite, and as continually tending to define itself more and more, and without limit. The hypothesis, being thus itself inevitably subject to the law of growth, appears in its vagueness to represent God as so, albeit this is directly contradicted in the hypothesis from its very first phase. But this apparent attribution of growth to God, since it is ineradicable from the hypothesis, cannot, according to the hypothesis, be flatly false. Its implications concerning the Universes will be maintained in the hypothesis, while its implications concerning God will be partly disavowed, and yet held to be less false than their denial would be. Thus the hypothesis will lead to our thinking of features of each Universe as purposed; and this will stand or fall with the hypothesis. Yet a purpose essentially involves growth, and so cannot be attributed to God. Still it will, according to the hypothesis, be less false to speak so than to represent God as purposeless. [See also Appendix 2.]
Assured as I am from my own personal experience that every man capable of so controlling his attention as to perform a little exact thinking will, if he examines Zeno's argument about Achilles and the tortoise, come to think, as I do, that it is nothing but a contemptible catch, I do not think that I either am or ought to be less assured, from what I know of the effects of Musement on myself and others, that any normal man who considers the three Universes in the light of the hypothesis of God's Reality, and pursues that line of reflection in scientific singleness of heart, will come to be stirred to the depths of his nature by the beauty of the idea and by its august practicality, even to the point of earnestly loving and adoring his strictly hypothetical God, and to that of desiring above all things to shape the whole conduct of life and all the springs of action into conformity with that hypothesis. Now to be deliberately and thoroughly prepared to shape one's conduct into conformity with a proposition is neither more nor less than the state of mind called Believing that proposition, however long the conscious classification of it under that head be postponed.
There is my poor sketch of the N.A., greatly cut down to bring it within the limits assigned to this article. Next should come the discussion of its logicality; but nothing readable at a sitting could possibly bring home to readers my full proof of the principal points of such an examination. I can only hope to make the residue of this paper a sort of table of contents, from which some may possibly guess what I have to say, or to lay down a series of plausible points through which the reader will have to construct the continuous line of reasoning for himself. In my own mind the proof is elaborated, and I am exerting my energies to getting it submitted to public censure. My present abstract will divide itself into three unequal parts. The first shall give the headings of the different steps of every well-conducted and complete inquiry, without noticing possible divergencies from the norm. I shall have to mention some steps which have nothing to do with the N.A. in order to show that they add no jot nor tittle to the truth which is invariably brought just as the N.A. brings it. The second part shall very briefly state, without argument (for which there is no room), just wherein lies the logical validity of the reasoning characteristic of each of the main stages of inquiry. The third part shall indicate the place of the N.A. in a complete inquiry into the Reality of God, and shall show how well it would fill that place, and what its logical value is, supposing the inquiry to be limited to this; and I shall add a few words to show how it might be supplemented.
Every inquiry whatsoever takes its rise in the observation, in one or another of the three Universes, of some surprising phenomenon, some experience which either disappoints an expectation, or breaks in upon some habit of expectation of the inquisiturus; and each apparent exception to this rule only confirms it. There are obvious distinctions between the objects of surprise in different cases; but throughout this slight sketch of inquiry such details will be unnoticed, especially since it is such upon which the logic-books descant. The inquiry begins with pondering these phenomena in all their aspects, in the search of some point of view whence the wonder shall be resolved. At length a conjecture arises that furnishes a possible Explanation, by which I mean a syllogism exhibiting the surprising fact as necessarily consequent upon the circumstances of its occurrence together with the truth of the credible conjecture, as premisses. On account of this Explanation, the inquirer is led to regard his conjecture, or hypothesis, with favor. As I phrase it, he provisionally holds it to be “Plausible”; this acceptance ranges in different cases,—and reasonably so,—from a mere expression of it in the interrogative mood, as a question meriting attention and reply, up through all appraisals of Plausibility, to uncontrollable inclination to believe. The whole series of mental performances between the notice of the wonderful phenomenon and the acceptance of the hypothesis, during which the usually docile understanding seems to hold the bit between its teeth and to have us at its mercy,—the search for pertinent circumstances and the laying hold of them, sometimes without our cognizance, the scrutiny of them, the dark laboring, the bursting out of the startling conjecture, the remarking of its smooth fitting to the anomaly, as it is turned back and forth like a key in a lock, and the final estimation of its Plausibility,—I reckon as composing the First Stage of Inquiry. Its characteristic formula of reasoning I term Retroduction, i.e. reasoning from consequent to antecedent. In one respect the designation seems inappropriate; for in most instances where conjecture mounts the high peaks of Plausibility,—and is really most worthy of confidence,—the inquirer is unable definitely to formulate just what the explained wonder is; or can only do so in the light of the hypothesis. In short, it is a form of Argument rather than of Argumentation.
Retroduction does not afford security. The hypothesis must be tested. This testing, to be logically valid, must honestly start, not as Retroduction starts, with scrutiny of the phenomena, but with examination of the hypothesis, and a muster of all sorts of conditional experiential consequences which would follow from its truth. This constitutes the Second Stage of Inquiry. For its characteristic form of reasoning our language has, for two centuries, been happily provided with the name Deduction.
Deduction has two parts. For its first step must be, by logical analysis, to Explicate the hypothesis, i.e. to render it as perfectly distinct as possible. This process, like Retroduction, is Argument that is not Argumentation. But unlike Retroduction, it cannot go wrong from lack of experience, but so long as it proceeds rightly must reach a true conclusion. Explication is followed by Demonstration, or Deductive Argumentation. Its procedure is best learned from Book I of Euclid's Elements,—a masterpiece which in real insight is far superior to Aristotle's Analytics,—and its numerous fallacies render it all the more instructive to a close student. It invariably requires something of the nature of a diagram; that is, an “Icon,” or Sign which represents its Object in resembling it. It usually, too, needs “Indices,” or Signs which represent their Objects by being actually connected with them. But it is mainly composed of “Symbols,” or Signs which represent their Objects essentially because they will be so interpreted. Demonstration should be Corollarial when it can. An accurate definition of Corollarial Demonstration would require a long explanation; but it will suffice to say that it limits itself to considerations already introduced or else involved in the Explication of its conclusion; while Theorematic Demonstration resorts to more complicated processes of thought.
[note: For further development of these concepts see Peirce's New Elements.]
The purpose of Deduction, that of collecting consequents of the hypothesis, having been sufficiently carried out, the inquiry enters upon its Third Stage, that of ascertaining how far those consequents accord with Experience, and of judging accordingly whether the hypothesis is sensibly correct, or requires some inessential modification, or must be entirely rejected. Its characteristic way of reasoning is Induction. This stage has three parts. For it must begin with Classification, which is an Inductive Non-argumentational kind of Argument, by which general Ideas are attached to objects of Experience; or rather by which the latter are subordinated to the former. Following this will come the testing-argumentations, the Probations; and the whole inquiry will be wound up with the Sentential part of the Third Stage, which, by Inductive reasonings, appraises the different Probations singly, then their combinations, then makes self-appraisal of these very appraisals themselves, and passes final judgment on the whole result.
The Probations, or direct Inductive Argumentations, are of two kinds. The first is that which Bacon ill described as “inductio illa quæ procedit per enumerationem simplicem.” (So, at least, he has been understood.) For an enumeration of instances is not essential to the argument that, for example, there are no such beings as fairies, or no such events as miracles. The point is that there is no well-established instance of such a thing. I call this Crude Induction. It is the only Induction which concludes a logically Universal Proposition. It is the weakest of arguments, being liable to be demolished in a moment, as happened toward the end of the eighteenth century to the opinion of the scientific world that no stones fall from the sky. The other kind is Gradual Induction, which makes a new estimate of the proportion of truth in the hypothesis with every new instance; and given any degree of error there will sometime be an estimate (or would be, if the probation were persisted in,) which will be absolutely the last to be infected with so much falsity. Gradual Induction is either Qualitative or Quantitative, and the latter either depends on measurements, or on statistics, or countings.
Concerning the question of the nature of the logical validity possessed by Deduction, Induction, and Retroduction, which is still an arena of controversy, I shall confine myself to stating the opinions which I am prepared to defend by positive proofs. The validity of Deduction was correctly, if not very clearly, analyzed by Kant. This kind of reasoning deals exclusively with Pure Ideas attaching primarily to Symbols and derivatively to other Signs of our own creation; and the fact that man has a power of Explicating his own meaning renders Deduction valid. Induction is a kind of reasoning that may lead us into error; but that it follows a method that, sufficiently persisted in, will be Inductively Certain (the sort of certainty we have that a perfect coin, pitched up often enough, will sometime turn up heads) to diminish the error below any predesignate degree, is assured by man's power of perceiving Inductive Certainty. In all this I am inviting the reader to peep through the big end of the telescope; there is a wealth of pertinent detail that must here be passed over.
Finally comes the bottom question of logical Critic, what sort of validity can be attributed to the First Stage of inquiry? Observe that neither Deduction nor Induction contributes the smallest positive item to the final conclusion of the inquiry. They render the indefinite definite: Deduction Explicates; Induction evaluates: that is all. Over the chasm that yawns between the ultimate goal of science and such ideas of Man's environment as, coming over him during his primeval wanderings in the forest, while yet his very notion of error was of the vaguest, he managed to communicate to some fellow, we are building a cantilever bridge of induction, held together by scientific struts and ties. Yet every plank of its advance is first laid by Retroduction alone, that is to say, by the spontaneous conjectures of instinctive reason; and neither Deduction nor Induction contributes a single new concept to the structure. Nor is this less true or less important for those inquiries that self-interest prompts.
The first answer we naturally give to this question is that we cannot help accepting the conjecture at such a valuation as that at which we do accept it; whether as a simple interrogation, or as more or less Plausible, or, occasionally, as an irresistible belief. But far from constituting, by itself, a logical justification such as it becomes a rational being to put forth, this pleading, that we cannot help yielding to the suggestion, amounts to nothing more than a confession of having failed to train ourselves to control our thoughts. It is more to the purpose, however, to urge that the strength of the impulse is a symptom of its being instinctive. Animals of all races rise far above the general level of their intelligence in those performances that are their proper function, such as flying and nest-building for ordinary birds; and what is man's proper function if it be not to embody general ideas in art-creations, in utilities, and above all in theoretical cognition? To give the lie to his own consciousness of divining the reasons of phenomena would be as silly in a man as it would be in a fledgling bird to refuse to trust to its wings and leave the nest, because the poor little thing had read Babinet, and judged aerostation to be impossible on hydrodynamical grounds. Yes; it must be confessed that if we knew that the impulse to prefer one hypothesis to another really were analogous to the instincts of birds and wasps, it would be foolish not to give it play, within the bounds of reason; especially, since we must entertain some hypothesis, or else forego all further knowledge than that which we have already gained by that very means. But is it a fact that man possesses this magical faculty? Not, I reply, to the extent of guessing right the first time, nor perhaps the second; but that the well-prepared mind has wonderfully soon guessed each secret of nature, is historical truth. All the theories of science have been so obtained. But may they not have come fortuitously, or by some such modification of chance as the Darwinian supposes? I answer that three or four independent methods of computation show that it would be ridiculous to suppose our science to have so come to pass. Nevertheless, suppose that it can be so “explained,” just as that any purposed act of mine is supposed by materialistic necessitarians to have come about. Still, what of it? Does that materialistic explanation, supposing it granted, show that reason has nothing to do with my actions? Even the parallelists will admit that the one explanation leaves the same need of the other that there was before it was given; and this is certainly sound logic. There is a reason, an interpretation, a logic, in the course of scientific advance; and this indisputably proves to him who has perceptions of rational, or significant, relations, that man's mind must have been attuned to the truth of things in order to discover what he has discovered. It is the very bedrock of logical truth.
Modern science has been builded after the model of Galileo, who founded it on il lume naturale. That truly inspired prophet had said that, of two hypotheses, the simpler is to be preferred; but I was formerly one of those who, in our dull self-conceit fancying ourselves more sly than he, twisted the maxim to mean the logically simpler, the one that adds the least to what has been observed, in spite of three obvious objections: first, that so there was no support for any hypothesis; secondly, that by the same token we ought to content ourselves with simply formulating the special observations actually made; and thirdly, that every advance of science that further opens the truth to our view discloses a world of unexpected complications. It was not until long experience forced me to realize that subsequent discoveries were every time showing I had been wrong,—while those who understood the maxim as Galileo had done, early unlocked the secret,—that the scales fell from my eyes and my mind awoke to the broad and flaming daylight that it is the simpler hypothesis in the sense of the more facile and natural, the one that instinct suggests, that must be preferred; for the reason that unless man have a natural bent in accordance with nature's, he has no chance of understanding nature, at all. Many tests of this principal and positive fact relating as well to my own studies as to the researches of others have confirmed me in this opinion; and when I shall come to set them forth in a book, their array will convince everybody. Oh no! I am forgetting that armour, impenetrable by accurate thought, in which the rank and file of minds are clad! They may, for example, get the notion that my proposition involves a denial of the rigidity of the laws of association: it would be quite on a par with much that is current. I do not mean that logical simplicity is a consideration of no value at all, but only that its value is badly secondary to that of simplicity in the other sense.
If, however, the maxim is correct in Galileo's sense, whence it follows that man has, in some degree, a divinatory power, primary or derived, like that of a wasp or a bird, then instances swarm to show that a certain altogether peculiar confidence in a hypothesis, not to be confounded with rash cocksureness, has a very appreciable value as a sign of the truth of the hypothesis. I regret I cannot give an account of certain interesting, and almost convincing cases. The N.A. excites this peculiar confidence in the very highest degree.
We have now to apply these principles to the evaluation of the N.A. Had I space I would put this into the shape of imagining how it is likely to be esteemed by three types of men: the first of small instruction with corresponding natural breadth, intimately acquainted with the N.A. but to whom logic is all Greek; the second, inflated with current notions of logic, but prodigiously informed about the N.A.; the third, a trained man of science who, in the modern spirit, has added to his specialty an exact theoretical and practical study of reasoning and the elements of thought, so that psychologists account him a sort of psychologist, and mathematicians a sort of mathematician.
I should, then, show how the first would have learned that nothing has any kind of value in itself,—whether æsthetic, moral, or scientific,—but only in its place in the whole production to which it appertains; and that an individual soul with its petty agitations and calamities is a zero except as filling its infinitesimal place and accepting its little utility as its entire treasure. He will see that though his God would not “really” (in a certain sense) adapt means to ends, it is nevertheless quite true that there are relations among phenomena which finite intelligence must interpret, and truly interpret, as such adaptations; and he will macarize himself for his own bitterest griefs, and bless God for the law of growth, with all the fighting it imposes upon him,—Evil, i.e. what it is man's duty to fight, being one of the major perfections of the Universe. In that fight he will endeavour to perform just the duty laid upon him, and no more. Though his desperate struggles should issue in the horrors of his rout, and he should see the innocents who are dearest to his heart exposed to torments, frenzy and despair, destined to be smirched with filth, and stunted in their intelligence, still he may hope that it be best for them, and will tell himself that in any case the secret design of God will be perfected through their agency; and even while still hot from the battle, will submit with adoration to His Holy will. He will not worry because the Universes were not constructed to suit the scheme of some silly scold.
The context of this I must leave the reader to imagine. I will only add that the third man, considering the complex process of self-control, will see that the hypothesis, irresistible though it be to first intention, yet needs Probation; and that though an infinite being is not tied down to any consistency, yet man, like any other animal, is gifted with power of understanding sufficient for the conduct of life. This brings him, for testing the hypothesis, to taking his stand upon Pragmaticism, which implies faith in common-sense and in instinct, though only as they issue from the cupel-furnace of measured criticism. In short, he will say that the N.A. is the First Stage of a scientific inquiry, resulting in a hypothesis of the very highest Plausibility, whose ultimate test must lie in its value in the self-controlled growth of man's conduct of life.
[note: According to EP2, this was the end of Peirce's original submission to the Hibbert Journal. At the editor's request to clarify and summarize his point in the article, he wrote two additional pieces which he called ‘Additament,’ expecting the editor to select from the second. The editor published the second in its entirety, separating it from the rest of the essay only by a single blank line.
Below we present CP 6.486-491, called ‘Additament’ there, but said in the editor's note to derive from two later manuscripts. EP2 prints part of this as the first ‘Additament’, omitting most of 6.490 and all of 491 because the gist of it is repeated in the second ‘Additament’ – which is also given here in full as printed in EP2. See the note in EP2:551.]
A nest of three arguments for the Reality of God has now been sketched, though none of them could, in the limits of a single article, be fairly presented. The first is that entirely honest, sincere and unaffected, because unprepense, meditation upon the Idea of God, into which the Play of Musement will inevitably sooner or later lead, and which by developing a deep sense of the adorability of that Idea, will produce a Truly religious Belief in His Reality and His nearness. It is a reasonable argument, because it naturally results in the most intense and living determination (Bestimmung) of the soul toward shaping the Muser's whole conduct into conformity with the Hypothesis that God is Real and very near; and such a determination of the soul in regard to any proposition is the very essence of a living Belief in such proposition. This is that “humble argument,” open to every honest man, which I surmise to have made more worshippers of God than any other.
The second of the nest is the argument which seems to me to have been “neglected” by writers upon natural theology, consisting in showing that the humble argument is the natural fruit of free meditation, since every heart will be ravished by the beauty and adorability of the Idea, when it is so pursued. Were the theologians able to perceive the force of this argument, they would make it such a presentation of universal human nature as to show that a latent tendency toward belief in God is a fundamental ingredient of the soul, and that, far from being a vicious or superstitious ingredient, it is simply the natural precipitate of meditation upon the origin of the Three Universes. Of course, it could not, any more than any other theological argumentation, have the value or the religious vitality of the “Humble Argument”; for it would only be an apology,—a vindicatory description,—of the mental operations which the Humble Argument actually and actively lives out. Though this is properly the neglected argument, yet I have sometimes used the abbreviation “the N.A.” for the whole nest of three.
The third argument of the nest consists in a study of logical methodeutic, illuminated by the light of a first-hand acquaintance with genuine scientific thought,—the sort of thought whose tools literally comprise not merely Ideas of mathematical exactitude, but also the apparatus of the skilled manipulator, actually in use. The student, applying to his own trained habits of research the art of logical analysis,—an art as elaborate and methodical as that of the chemical analyst,—compares the process of thought of the Muser upon the Three Universes with certain parts of the work of scientific discovery, and finds that the “Humble Argument” is nothing but an instance of the first stage of all such work, the stage of observing the facts, of variously rearranging them, and of pondering them until, by their reactions with the results of previous scientific experience, there is “evolved” (as the chemists word it), an explanatory hypothesis. He will note, however, that this instance of Retroduction, undeniable as this character is, departs widely from the ordinary run of instances, especially in three respects. In the first place, the Plausibility of the hypothesis reaches an almost unparalleled height among deliberately formed hypotheses. So hard is it to doubt God's Reality, when the Idea has sprung from Musements, that there is great danger that the investigation will stop at this first stage, owing to the indifference of the Muser to any further proof of it. At the same time, this very Plausibility is undoubtedly an argument of no small weight in favor of the truth of the hypothesis.
In the second place, although it is a chief function of an explanatory hypothesis (and some philosophers say the only one), to excite a clear image in the mind by means of which experiential consequences of ascertainable conditions may be predicted, yet in this instance the hypothesis can only be apprehended so very obscurely that in exceptional cases alone can any definite and direct deduction from its ordinary abstract interpretation be made. How, for example, can we ever expect to be able to predict what the conduct would be, even of any omniscient being governing no more than one poor solar system for only a million years or so? How much less if, being also omnipotent, he be thereby freed from all experience, all desire, all intention! Since God, in His essential character of Ens necessarium, is a disembodied spirit, and since there is strong reason to hold that what we call consciousness is either merely the general sensation of the brain or some part of it, or at all events some visceral or bodily sensation, God probably has no consciousness. Most of us are in the habit of thinking that consciousness and psychic life are the same thing and otherwise greatly to overrate the functions of consciousness.
[note by CSP: See James's paper “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” in Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Method I (1 September 1904):477-91. But the negative reply is, in itself, no novelty.]
The effects of the second peculiarity of the hypothesis are counteracted by a third, which consists in its commanding influence over the whole conduct of life of its believers. According to that logical doctrine which the present writer first formulated in 1873 and named Pragmatism, the true meaning of any product of the intellect lies in whatever unitary determination it would impart to practical conduct under any and every conceivable circumstance, supposing such conduct to be guided by reflexion carried to an ultimate limit. It appears to have been virtually the philosophy of Socrates. But although it is “an old way of thinking,” in the sense that it was practiced by Spinoza, Berkeley, and Kant, I am not aware of its having been definitely formulated, whether as a maxim of logical analysis or otherwise, by anybody before my publication of it in 1878. Naturally, nobody ever heard of pragmatism. People don't care for methods! they want results. Give them all the diamonds you make, and you may have the method of making them for your own. So it was not until in 1898,—Professor James took hold of the old thing, dignified it by calling it by its name in print (which I had never done even when I was in charge of the philosophical part of the Century Dictionary), furbished it up, and turned it into a philosophical doctrine,—that it had any vogue at all. It did not, however, shine with its present effulgence until Professor Papini made the discovery that it cannot be defined,—a circumstance which, I believe, distinguishes it from all other doctrines, of whatsoever natures they may be, that were ever promulgated. Thereupon I thought it high time to give my method a less distinguished designation; and I rechristened it pragmaticism. Pragmaticism, then, is a theory of logical analysis, or true definition; and its merits are greatest in its application to the highest metaphysical conceptions. At the same time, these merits can only be appreciated as the result of long training. A full exposition of the pragmaticistic definition of Ens necessarium would require many pages; but some hints toward it may be given. A disembodied spirit, or pure mind, has its being out of time, since all that it is destined to think is fully in its being at any and every previous time. But in endless time it is destined to think all that it is capable of thinking. Order is simply thought embodied in arrangement; and thought embodied in any other way appears objectively as a character that is a generalization of order, and that, in the lack of any word for it, we may call for the nonce, “Super-order.” It is something like uniformity. The idea may be caught if it is described as that of which order and uniformity are particular varieties. Pure mind, as creative of thought, must, so far as it is manifested in time, appear as having a character related to the habit-taking capacity, just as super-order is related to uniformity. Now imagine, in such vague way as such a thing can be imagined, a perfect cosmology of the three universes. It would prove all in relation to that subject that reason could desiderate; and of course all that it would prove must, in actual fact, now be true. But reason would desiderate that that should be proved from which would follow all that is in fact true of the three universes; and the postulate from which all this would follow must not state any matter of fact, since such fact would thereby be left unexplained. That perfect cosmology must therefore show that the whole history of the three universes, as it has been and is to be, would follow from a premiss which would not suppose them to exist at all. Moreover, such premiss must in actual fact be true. But that premiss must represent a state of things in which the three universes were completely nil. Consequently, whether in time or not, the three universes must actually be absolutely necessary results of a state of utter nothingness. We cannot ourselves conceive of such a state of nility; but we can easily conceive that there should be a mind that could conceive it, since, after all, no contradiction can be involved in mere non-existence. A state in which there should be absolutely no super-order whatsoever would be such a state of nility. For all Being involves some kind of super-order. For example, to suppose a thing to have any particular character is to suppose a conditional proposition to be true of it, which proposition would express some kind of super-order, as any formulation of a general fact does. To suppose it to have elasticity of volume is to suppose that if it were subjected to pressure its volume would diminish until at a certain point the full pressure was attained within and without its periphery. This is a super-order, a law expressible by a differential equation. Any such super-order would be a super-habit. Any general state of things whatsoever would be a super-order and a super-habit. In that state of absolute nility, in or out of time, that is, before or after the evolution of time, there must then have been a tohu bohu of which nothing whatever affirmative or negative was true universally. There must have been, therefore, a little of everything conceivable. There must have been here and there a little undifferentiated tendency to take super-habits. But such a state must tend to increase itself. For a tendency to act in any way, combined with a tendency to take habits, must increase the tendency to act in that way. Now substitute in this general statement for “tendency to act in any way” a tendency to take habits, and we see that that tendency would grow. It would also become differentiated in various ways. But there are some habits that carried beyond a certain point eliminate their subjects from the universe. There are many ways in which this may happen. Thus a tendency to lose mass will end in a total loss of mass. A tendency to lose energy will end in removing its subject from perceptible existence. A tendency to gain energy will end in the body's shooting through the universe too rapidly to produce any effect, etc.
Among the many pertinent considerations which have been crowded out of this article, I may just mention that it could have been shown that the hypothesis of God's Reality is logically not so isolated a conclusion as it may seem. On the contrary, it is connected so with a theory of the nature of thinking that if this be proved so is that. Now there is no such difficulty in tracing experiential consequences of this theory of thinking as there are in attempting directly to trace out other consequences of God's reality. In so short an article, it could not be expected that I should take notice of objections. Yet objections, such as they are, are obvious enough, and a few of them wear at first sight a redoubtable aspect. For example, it may be said that since I compare man's power of guessing at the truth with the instincts of animals, I ought to have noticed that these are entirely explained by the action of natural selection in endowing animals with such powers as contribute to the preservation of their different stocks; and that there is evidence that man's power of penetrating the secrets of nature depends upon this, in the fact that all the successful sciences have been either mechanical in respect to their theories or psychological. Now, some notions of mechanics are needed by all animals to enable them to get food, and are needed most by man; while correct ideas of what passes in his neighbours' minds are needed for the existence of society, and therefore for the propagation of his kind. Metaphysics, however, cannot adapt the human race to maintaining itself, and therefore the presumption [is] that man has no such genius for discoveries about God, Freedom, and Immortality, as he has for physical and psychical science.
[Here begins the second ‘Additament’, which was printed in full as the concluding part of the original publication (CP 6.481-485; EP2:447-50).]
Since I have employed the word Pragmaticism, and shall have occasion to use it once more, it may perhaps be well to explain it. About forty years ago, my studies of Berkeley, Kant, and others led me, after convincing myself that all thinking is performed in Signs, and that meditation takes the form of a dialogue, so that it is proper to speak of the “meaning” of a concept, to conclude that to acquire full mastery of that meaning it is requisite, in the first place, to learn to recognize the concept under every disguise, through extensive familiarity with instances of it. But this, after all, does not imply any true understanding of it; so that it is further requisite that we should make an abstract logical analysis of it into its ultimate elements, or as complete an analysis as we can compass. But, even so, we may still be without any living comprehension of it; and the only way to complete our knowledge of its nature is to discover and recognize just what general habits of conduct a belief in the truth of the concept (of any conceivable subject, and under any conceivable circumstances) would reasonably develop; that is to say, what habits would ultimately result from a sufficient consideration of such truth. It is necessary to understand the word “conduct,” here, in the broadest sense. If, for example, the predication of a given concept were to lead to our admitting that a given form of reasoning concerning the subject of which it was affirmed was valid, when it would not otherwise be valid, the recognition of that effect in our reasoning would decidedly be a habit of conduct.
In 1871, in a Metaphysical Club in Cambridge, Mass., I used to preach this principle as a sort of logical gospel, representing the unformulated method followed by Berkeley, and in conversation about it I called it “Pragmatism.” In November 1877 and January 1878, I set forth the doctrine in the Popular Science Monthly; and the two parts of my essay were printed in French in the Revue Philosophique, volumes 6 and 7. Of course, the doctrine attracted no particular attention, for, as I had remarked in my opening sentence, very few people care for logic. But in 1897, Professor James remodelled the matter, and transmogrified it into a doctrine of philosophy, some parts of which I highly approved, while other and more prominent parts I regarded, and still regard, as opposed to sound logic. About the time Professor Papini discovered, to the delight of the Pragmatist school, that this doctrine was incapable of definition, which would certainly seem to distinguish it from every other doctrine in whatever branch of science, I was coming to the conclusion that my poor little maxim should be called by another name; and accordingly, in April 1905, I renamed it Pragmaticism. I had never before dignified it by any name in print, except that, at Professor Baldwin's request, I wrote a definition of it for his Dictionary of Psychology and Philosophy. I did not insert the word in the Century Dictionary, though I had charge of the philosophical definitions of that work; for I have a perhaps exaggerated dislike of réclame.
It is that course of meditation upon the three Universes which gives birth to the hypothesis and ultimately to the belief that they, or at any rate two of the three, have a Creator independent of them, that I have throughout this article called the N.A., because I think the theologians ought to have recognized it as a line of thought reasonably productive of belief. This is the “humble” argument, the innermost of the nest. In the mind of a metaphysician it will have a metaphysical tinge; but that seems to me rather to detract from its force than to add anything to it. It is just as good an argument, if not better, in the form it takes in the mind of the clodhopper.
The theologians could not have presented the N.A.; because that is a living course of thought of very various forms. But they might and ought to have described it, and should have defended it, too, as far as they could, without going into original logical researches, which could not be justly expected of them. They are accustomed to make use of the principle that that which convinces a normal man must be presumed to be sound reasoning; and therefore they ought to say whatever can truly be advanced to show that the N.A., if sufficiently developed, will convince any normal man. Unfortunately, it happens that there is very little established fact to show that this is the case. I have not pretended to have any other ground for my belief that it is so than my assumption, which each one of us makes, that my own intellectual disposition is normal. I am forced to confess that no pessimist will agree with me. I do not admit that pessimists are, at the same time, thoroughly sane, and in addition are endowed in normal measure with intellectual vigour; and my reasons for thinking so are two. The first is, that the difference between a pessimistic and an optimistic mind is of such controlling importance in regard to every intellectual function, and especially for the conduct of life, that it is out of the question to admit that both are normal, and the great majority of mankind are naturally optimistic. Now, the majority of every race depart but little from the norm of that race. In order to present my other reason, I am obliged to recognize three types of pessimists. The first type is often found in exquisite and noble natures of great force of original intellect whose own lives are dreadful histories of torment due to some physical malady. Leopardi is a famous example. We cannot but believe, against their earnest protests, that if such men had had ordinary health, life would have worn for them the same color as for the rest of us. Meantime, one meets too few pessimists of this type to affect the present question. The second is the misanthropical type, the type that makes itself heard. It suffices to call to mind the conduct of the famous pessimists of this kind, Diogenes the Cynic, Schopenhauer, Carlyle, and their kin with Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, to recognize them as diseased minds. The third is the philanthropical type, people whose lively sympathies, easily excited, become roused to anger at what they consider the stupid injustices of life. Being easily interested in everything, without being overloaded with exact thought of any kind, they are excellent raw material for littérateurs: witness Voltaire. No individual remotely approaching the calibre of a Leibniz is to be found among them.
The third argument, enclosing and defending the other two, consists in the development of those principles of logic according to which the humble argument is the first stage of a scientific inquiry into the origin of the three Universes, but of an inquiry which produces, not merely scientific belief, which is always provisional, but also a living, practical belief, logically justified in crossing the Rubicon with all the freightage of eternity. The presentation of this argument would require the establishment of several principles of logic that the logicians have hardly dreamed of, and particularly a strict proof of the correctness of the maxim of Pragmaticism. My original essay, having been written for a popular monthly, assumes, for no better reason than that real inquiry cannot begin until a state of real doubt arises and ends as soon as Belief is attained, that “a settlement of Belief,” or, in other words, a state of satisfaction, is all that Truth, or the aim of inquiry, consists in. The reason I gave for this was so flimsy, while the inference was so nearly the gist of Pragmaticism, that I must confess the argument of that essay might with some justice be said to beg the question. The first part of the essay, however, is occupied with showing that, if Truth consists in satisfaction, it cannot be any actual satisfaction, but must be the satisfaction which would ultimately be found if the inquiry were pushed to its ultimate and indefeasible issue. This, I beg to point out, is a very different position from that of Mr. Schiller and the pragmatists of today. I trust I shall be believed when I say that it is only a desire to avoid being misunderstood in consequence of my relations with pragmatism, and by no means as arrogating any superior immunity from error which I have too good reason to know that I do not enjoy, that leads me to express my personal sentiments about their tenets. Their avowedly undefinable position, if it be not capable of logical characterization, seems to me to be characterized by an angry hatred of strict logic, and even some disposition to rate any exact thought which interferes with their doctrines as all humbug. At the same time, it seems to me clear that their approximate acceptance of the Pragmaticist principle, and even that very casting aside of difficult distinctions (although I cannot approve of it), has helped them to a mightily clear discernment of some fundamental truths that other philosophers have seen but through a mist, and most of them not at all. Among such truths,—all of them old, of course, yet acknowledged by few,—I reckon their denial of necessitarianism; their rejection of any “consciousness” different from a visceral or other external sensation; their acknowledgment that there are, in a Pragmatistical sense, Real habits (which Really would produce effects, under circumstances that may not happen to get actualized, and are thus Real generals); and their insistence upon interpreting all hypostatic abstractions in terms of what they would or might (not actually will) come to in the concrete. It seems to me a pity they should allow a philosophy so instinct with life to become infected with seeds of death in such notions as that of the unreality of all ideas of infinity and that of the mutability of truth, and in such confusions of thought as that of active willing (willing to control thought, to doubt, and to weigh reasons) with willing not to exert the will (willing to believe).
that as darkness is merely the defect of light, so hatred and evil are mere imperfect stages of ἀγαπη and ἀγαθον, love and loveliness. This concords with that utterance reported in John's Gospel: ‘God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should through him be saved. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already.… And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and that men loved darkness rather than the light’ [John 3:17-19]. That is to say, God visits no punishment on them; they punish themselves, by their natural affinity for the defective. Thus, the love that God is, is not a love of which hatred is the contrary; otherwise Satan would be a coordinate power; but it is a love which embraces hatred as an imperfect stage of it, an Anteros – yea, even needs hatred and hatefulness as its object. For self-love is no love; so if God's self is love, that which he loves must be defect of love; just as a luminary can light up only that which otherwise would be dark. Henry James, the Swedenborgian, says: ‘It is no doubt very tolerable finite or creaturely love to love one's own in another, to love another for his conformity to one's self: but nothing can be in more flagrant contrast with the creative Love, all whose tenderness ex vi termini must be reserved only for what intrinsically is most bitterly hostile and negative to itself.’ This is from Substance and Shadow: An Essay on the Physics of Creation. It is a pity he had not filled his pages with things like this, as he was able easily to do, instead of scolding at his reader and at people generally, until the physics of creation was well-nigh forgot. I must deduct, however, from what I just wrote: obviously no genius could make his every sentence as sublime as one which discloses for the problem of evil its everlasting solution.
The movement of love is circular, at one and the same impulse projecting creations into independency and drawing them into harmony. This seems complicated when stated so; but it is fully summed up in the simple formula we call the Golden Rule. This does not, of course, say, Do everything possible to gratify the egoistic impulses of others, but it says, Sacrifice your own perfection to the perfectionment of your neighbor. Nor must it for a moment be confounded with the Benthamite, or Helvetian, or Beccarian motto, Act for the greatest good of the greatest number. Love is not directed to abstractions but to persons; not to persons we do not know, nor to numbers of people, but to our own dear ones, our family and neighbors. ‘Our neighbor,’ we remember, is one whom we live near, not locally perhaps but in life and feeling.
Everybody can see that the statement of St. John is the formula of an evolutionary philosophy, which teaches that growth comes only from love, from—I will not say self-sacrifice, but from the ardent impulse to fulfill another's highest impulse. Suppose, for example, that I have an idea that interests me. It is my creation. It is my creature; for as shown in last July's Monist, it is a little person. I love it; and I will sink myself in perfecting it. It is not by dealing out cold justice to the circle of my ideas that I can make them grow, but by cherishing and tending them as I would the flowers in my garden. The philosophy we draw from John's Gospel is that this is the way mind develops; and as for the cosmos, only so far as it yet is mind, and so has life, is it capable of further evolution. Love, recognizing germs of loveliness in the hateful, gradually warms it into life, and makes it lovely. That is the sort of evolution which every careful student of my essay ‘The Law of Mind’ must see that synechism calls for.
From SS 111 (1909), to Lady Welby, explaining why he would not define ‘meaning’ as ‘the intention of the utterer’:
My Interpretant with its three kinds is supposed by me to be something essentially attaching to anything that acts as a Sign. Now natural Signs and symptoms have no utterer; and consequently no Meaning, if Meaning be defined as the intention of the utterer. I do not allow myself to speak of the ‘purposes of the Almighty,’ since whatever He might desire is done. Intention seems to me, though I may be mistaken, an interval of time between the desire and the laying of the train by which the desire is to be brought about. But it seems to me that desire can only belong to a finite creature.
|Peirce page||gnoxic studies|