Clark- thanks for your very nice outline of the NA - I certainly agree with 
your view, that as Chiasson says, it's not just about a 'belief in God', 
because it's not deductive but is, as noted, abductive. Abduction inserts 
freedom and spontaneity - attributes outside of the range of a God. And agreed 
- the NA doesn't offer 'compelling reasons for why we should call this ens 
necessarium as god. I, as an atheist, prefer his outline of Mind as the ens 

As Mind is an action of Reasoning [within all three modes], then, I think that 
ethics is grounded within it. You don't, in my reading, require a God, for 


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Clark Goble 
  To: Peirce-L 
  Sent: Monday, September 19, 2016 10:50 AM
  Subject: Re: [PEIRCE-L] Peirce's Theory of Thinking

    On Sep 18, 2016, at 4:57 PM, Jon Alan Schmidt <> 

    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 irrelevant.

  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.


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