> On Sep 18, 2016, at 4:57 PM, Jon Alan Schmidt <jonalanschm...@gmail.com>
> I appreciate the suggestion, and Chiasson's article is interesting. However,
> I find it rather implausible that a work entitled "A Neglected Argument for
> the Reality of God" was somehow intended to be more about "the attitude and
> method from which all decisions of importance to the conduct of a life should
> begin," such that the content of the hypothesis itself is secondary or even
I think how most people (myself included) use the argument is as a way of
illustrating how one could apply the pragmatic maxim to metaphysics in general.
That is it’s a great example of understanding how abduction works to avoid the
problems that say the Vienna Circle crowd had with their verification
principle. While Chiasson isn’t limiting it in quite that fashion (although she
early on acknowledges that use) she is focusing on using it as a type to
understand broader application of the maxim. That’s helpful. I don’t think she
neglects the NA as primarily about God. She addresses that early on but then
goes off on the question of why Peirce was concerned with the NA for God. It’s
not just about belief in God. I think she’s right in that.
As I mentioned, while I think Peirce’s thrust is really about God, the argument
as fashioned along those lines ends up being problematic simply because I bet
most who read that essay are either atheists or at least dubious of Peirce’s
theology. In turn that leads one to think through the problem of abduction
relative to metaphysics in general. I’m not sure Peirce meant it as a proof for
God in the normal sense of deduction since it’s clearly abductive in nature.
And Peirce better than anyone knew the implications of that.
Now I don’t think it not being a proof nor most accepting it is a problem since
of course entities with weak evidence will be viewed differently over time.
That’s why Peirce emphasizes the community in the long term. That said of
course Peirce might say his conduction of the experiment is correct and others
wrong. This isn’t just a problem for Peircean abduction (especially relative to
metaphysical entities/structures) but is a common problem with armchair
philosophizing in general. Thus it pops up in the more analytic tradition with
intuitions of meaning such as in determining definitions. It also is a problem
in phenomenology in the continental tradition.
I am still intrigued after doing a Google search on the weekend how few papers
engage with the difference of God the first and God the second in Peirce’s
thought. It’s only God the first who is real but not actual. Chiasson’s paper
is interesting in that she says,
Certainly Peirce's self-proclamed core perspective of absolute idealism could
have pointed him towards a belief in God. It's generally accepted that, even if
Peirce didn't believe in a God, he--at the very least--wanted to. While most
scholars who accept Peirce's pragmatism in other ways may believe that he
failed in this attempt at proving God's Reality, it's generally agreed that
Peirce did succeed remarkably in this essay at laying out what is perhaps his
best description of the abductive reasoning process.
This distinction between belief and hope for belief is interesting. It seems
closer to what we typically associate with James rather than Peirce. Again
though I think it’s the question of Jesus that I’d love to know what Peirce
believed and why. As Chiasson notes the NA tends to adopt a near Hegelian
conception of God that was becoming quite popular among religious intellectuals
in the late 19th century. (As I recall it was primarily religious believers who
kept Hegel significant in American thought)
Against Chiasson I’d probably suggest the NA still provides as somewhat strong
an argument for the ens necessarium, It's even done in a fashion many atheists
would accept. It just doesn’t offer compelling reasons for why we should call
this God. As many have noted the line between atheist and deist is blurry at
best and often seems a nominalist distinction. i.e. more a distinction in name
rather than content. Chiasson is right that really what Peirce is after is
grounding ethics in some fashion. While there certainly are many atheists who
are skeptical ethics can be grounded there are also many who are fine grounding
them in some sort of realist conception.
To my eyes the real question of God is more the question of theism and not what
Peirce outlines in the NA. That is an interventionist God especially if that
deity is embodied in life as the traditional conception of the incarnation
requires. Peirce at least held somewhat to that view at times in his life.
PEIRCE-L subscribers: Click on "Reply List" or "Reply All" to REPLY ON PEIRCE-L
to this message. PEIRCE-L posts should go to peirce-L@list.iupui.edu . To
UNSUBSCRIBE, send a message not to PEIRCE-L but to l...@list.iupui.edu with the
line "UNSubscribe PEIRCE-L" in the BODY of the message. More at