My responses to your four questions and the rest of your post are inserted into 
it below.


Gary f.


From: Jon Alan Schmidt [] 
Sent: 8-Sep-16 21:40

Returning to the four questions in my post that started this thread …

1.      To what specifically was Peirce referring here as "a theory of the 
nature of thinking"--the three stages of a "complete inquiry" and their 
"logical validity," as laid out in sections III and IV of the paper, or 
something else?

[gf]: It could be those, but it’s also possible that the reference is not that 
specific; Peirce might even be referring to Pragmatism, or to his theory of 
“logic as semeiotic” in the broad sense. Anyway I wouldn’t argue against your 

2.      How exactly is "this theory of thinking" logically connected with "the 
hypothesis of God's reality"?

[gf]: I doubt that the connection here would fit under the rubric of “Exact 
Logic” as Peirce defined it, but I think there is a logical connection between 
the hypothesis of God’s reality (as laid out in the NA) and the doctrine of 
“the light of nature,” or “il lume naturale” — that ‘every scientific 
explanation of a natural phenomenon is a hypothesis that there is something in 
nature to which the human reason is analogous’ (EP2:193). Given that “something 
in nature” is as vague a term as “God” is, I think it’s fair to say that these 
two hypotheses are vaguely equivalent, although (as Peirce says) the 
“experiential consequences” of God’s reality are much more difficult to trace 
out than those of the other hypothesis.

3.      What would be some "experiential consequences of this theory of 
thinking" that we could, with comparatively little difficulty, deductively 
trace and inductively test?

[gf]: If you accept that the “light of nature” hypothesis is an essential part 
of “this theory of thinking,” an obvious consequence would be that our guesses 
about how nature works turn out to be confirmed, or at least useful, much more 
often than would be the case if there were no connection at all between the 
processes of nature and of reasoning. Peirce consistently says that the 
testimony of experience obviously bears this out, and I agree with him on that 

4.      What exactly would it mean to "prove" Peirce's "theory of the nature of 
thinking," such that "the hypothesis of God's reality" would thereby also be 

[gf:] I can’t say exactly what it would mean (or indeed what a “proof of 
pragmatism” would mean, despite the efforts Peirce devoted to that). But 
roughly, I think it would mean that adopting either of them as a belief and 
living accordingly would have experiential consequences that would never arouse 
a “living doubt” of either one in the mind of an honest inquirer.   

… here are a few places in the secondary literature where I found potential 
hints of answers.

[gf:] I haven’t read any of these in full, so I can only comment on the 
excerpts you provide.

First, Dennis Rohatyn's 1982 Transactions article, "Resurrecting Peirce's 
'Neglected Argument' for God" (, takes the 
interesting approach of reformulating CP 6.490--which, again, is quite 
fascinating in its own right, and probably worth discussing in a separate 
thread on Peirce's cosmology--as an Argumentation with nine distinct steps.  He 
then raises five specific objections, and replies to each one of them on behalf 
of Peirce.  He responds to the first objection, that Peirce begs the question 
by assuming the Reality of an atemporal being from the outset, as follows.

DR:  The assumption of an atemporal being is just part of the hypothesis being 
examined.  No retroduction is devoid of assumptions; the test of an 
assumption's adequacy is how well it squares with, or enables us to predict, 
the facts.  The assumption, consequently, does not beg the question; it is 
instead confirmed (or refuted) by experience … the argument in general seeks to 
establish at least the compatibility of the hypothesis with known (and 
sometimes, previously unaccounted-for) facts.  That it ought to do more, is one 
thing; but it does not do less, and it is no more circular than the scientific 
explanation of any phenomena whatsoever.

Similarly, Rohatyn responds to the second objection, that Peirce illegitimately 
relies on an analogy between the known and the unknown, by stating that "if 
[this objection] is sound it invalidates every type of scientific reasoning and 
inference.  Analogies are of course not the only form of reasoning, but if they 
may be used elsewhere in science, why not here?"  Finally, after addressing the 
other three objections, he concludes that Peirce's argument is not "an 
elucidation of the concept of God so much as an attempt to extract from that 
concept consequences that are at least congruent with the known facts of 
temporal existence and change."

[gf:] Rohatyn’s reasoning seems sound to me, but I’m not sure about that last 
sentence. I think it may be true in reference to the concept of God as defined 
by Peirce (ens necessarium), but the NA also, by its very nature as an argument 
which is not an argumentation, turns at least partially upon a “vernacular” 
concept of God. For instance, near the beginning Peirce says that “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” (EP2:435). That God is benign is part of the 
vernacular concept of Him (and that use of the personal pronoun also carries, 
by implication, the vernacular notion of God as a Person.) Now, Peirce in the 
NA offers no evidence or argument that Ens necessarium, or the Real creator of 
all three Universes of Experience, is in fact benign; and elsewhere (CP 1.143 
for instance) he implies that we have no reason to think Him benign. This to me 
suggests that at least some of the force of the NA is “extracted” not from the 
concept of God as defined by Peirce but from the vernacular concept. Peirce 
does distinguish between the two concepts, right at the beginning, but as far 
as I can see he does not make it very clear which one of them is supposed to be 
instinctive and therefore at the root of the NA.

Second, Jaime Nubiola's 2004 Semiotiche article, "Il Lume Naturale:  Abduction 
and God" (, aims "to highlight that 
for Peirce the reality of God makes sense of the whole scientific enterprise."  
He states, "The central question … is precisely why we abduce correctly and 
easily in a relative few number of attempts?  Why this instinct of guessing 
right is so efficient?"  He characterizes this as a "surprising fact," and 
presents his answer to these questions in the format of CP 5.189 accordingly.

JN:  The efficiency of the scientist (guessing right between innumerable 
hypotheses) is a really surprising fact.

If God were the creator of human cognitive abilities and of nature this 
efficiency would be a matter of course.

Hence, there is reason to suspect that God is the creator of human minds and 

Nubiola concludes that "the surprising efficiency of our scientific enterprise 
… would be totally improbable by mere chance:  it requires God's creation as 
the common source of knower and known."

[gf:] I take this as a version of the “light of nature” doctrine I mentioned 
above; but again, it leaves open the question of whether we are referring to 
God as ens necessarium or to the vernacular concept. If the former, this use of 
the term “God” would make Peirce a pantheist or panentheist, but would not 
commit him to the belief that the creator is benign. It would also not commit 
him to the habit of regarding the creator as “vaguely like a man” (CP 5.536), 
which does seem to be involved in Peirce’s NA, and which he takes to be an 
instinctive belief. On that point I disagree with Peirce; and I think this 
deflates the argument as summarized by Nubiola, as it renders the term “God” 
quite dispensable from it. The conclusion would be better stated as: there is 
reason to suspect that human minds and nature come from the same source. Or 
that human mind is part of nature. 

Finally, Kathleen Hull's 2005 Transactions article, "The Inner Chambers of His 
Mind:  Peirce's 'Neglected Argument' for God as Related to Mathematical 
Experience" (, is even more speculative, 
by her own admission.  She poses essentially the same question that I did, 
"What theory about the nature of thinking is Peirce attempting to prove here?"  
Her proposed answer is that "the method for arriving at the God-hypothesis is 
fundamentally tied to a general theory about the use of diagrams in our 

KH:  Beginning with a diagram of the three universes, if we playfully allow our 
ideas to connect themselves into a continuing series of classes or sets, and 
alter our diagrams in response to those connections, what naturally will come 
to mind is the idea of God.  What we perceive are the diagrams.  The diagram of 
the relationship among the categories (such as the nesting of one class within 
another) is an iconic sign of the relationship … What we directly perceive, 
then, is not God as a person, but instead, God as a hypothesized form of 
relation as diagram.  On this model, God is not a being qua being that we 
directly perceive; but God is the result of an abductive inference emerging 
from the mind's exploration of the interrelations of the three categories or 

Hull concludes, "Peirce's reconceptualized model of mathematical reasoning, in 
which the thinker is an active agent, an active participant in the unfolding of 
necessary reasoning by way of diagrams in the inner world, may be one means of 
leading the mind to reach an understanding of God."

Although Hull's interpretation is certainly attractive to me, given the central 
role of diagrammatic reasoning in my "logic of ingenuity" thesis, Rohatyn and 
especially Nubiola strike me as being more on the right track.  What do you 

[gf:] I think all three are on the right track (it’s a pretty wide track!), but 
with the reservations expressed above regarding Rohatyn and Nubiola; and I 
think Hull may be more on the right track in her emphasis on diagrammatic 
thinking. But I wouldn’t commit myself to that without at least reading the 
whole article first.



Jon Alan Schmidt - Olathe, Kansas, USA

Professional Engineer, Amateur Philosopher, Lutheran Layman <>  
- <> 

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