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Peirce's "Neglected Argument" for the reality of God

Peirce's "A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God" (link) is one of the most eccentric pieces ever written in the philosophy of religion. The points it makes are unusual, and they might take many readers by surprise.

According to our usual expectations, an argument for the reality of God must formulate grounds sufficient to justify the conclusion that God exists. Carrying such expectations, we will likely decide that Peirce’s paper affords at most a description of the “God-hypothesis”, rather than a reason for believing that the hypothesis is true. Peirce describes the effects that the hypothesis exerts on reasoners, mixes these descriptive claims with cajoling remarks about the optimism we assume whenever we engage in inquiry, and presents this mix as his “argument for the reality of God”.

The key to his presentation is that there is no categorical difference between what we should believe, and what we do believe. Peirce identifies the conditions one should set up, and the steps one should take, if one seeks the kind of experiences that prompt conviction of God’s reality. Those experiences, he implies, are the only things that could effectively perform the work of justifying the conclusion.

What we normally call an "argument", Peirce considers mere "argumentation" - a course of thinking is what constitutes a real argument, not the verbally formulated steps. Has Peirce accurately described the course of thinking that actually leads people to believe in a supreme being? And if so, is this (as he appears to think) sufficient to count as an argument in favor of that belief?

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  • A former member
    A former member

    There's an online (via email) Peirce seminar starting. For those that might be interested, I'll add a couple of snippets from the email.

    January 20, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Chapter Emcee(s) Approximate
      start date
      1. Life and work CORNELIS DE WAAL 1/27
      2. Mathematics and philosophy JOHN COLLIER & TOM GOLLIER 2/10
      3. Phenomenology and the categories GARY FUHRMAN 2/24
      4. The normative science of logic MATT FAUNCE & CATHY LEGG 3/10
      5. Semeiotics, or the doctrine of signs VINICIUS ROMANINI 3/24
      6. Philosophy of science JEFF KASSER & EDWINA TABORSKY 4/7
      7. Pragmatism ANTON LEIST & GARY RICHMOND 4/21
      8. Truth and reality BEN UDELL & MARA WOODS 5/5
      9. Mind, God, and cosmos SÖREN BRIER 5/19

      January 20, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      (A few, at least, of the above are pretty big hitters in the world of Peirce studies.)

      January 20, 2014

  • Chad B.

    Peirce's neglected argument at 1:29: http://youtu.be/dJXtCUBwBCI?t=1m29s

    September 13, 2013

    • Rick O.

      From our last Kant meetup, we realize that the problem with our concept of God stems from a misapplication of the terms 'ens entium,' ens realissimum,' and 'ens originarium.' The "missing term" is explained at 6.25. Once this is incorporated into our regulative idea of God, the subreption error of dialectical illusion from the aforementioned terms goes away.

      September 13, 2013

    • Chad B.

      Peirce's argument isn't transcendental, it is revelatory. What is 6.25? 625 (B?)?

      September 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    "Peirce offered the alternative and self-consciously fallible starting point of accepting the world as we experience it and going on from there step-by-testing-step. This is not to say that other philosophers and scientists had not thought and written about the method of science, because they had, beginning with the Greeks. But Peirce put that method in its modern form with such an elegant fit that the "Illustrations [of the Logic of Science]," though revolutionary, appear to us now merely the common-sense of it. To read Popper or Carl Hempel on the logic of science after reading the "Illustrations" shows how little has been added to the model first proposed by Peirce over a century ago, and may also show that some elements, particularly the essentiality of hypothetical inference, have been removed with damaging effect to our understanding of science." - Joseph Brent

    September 9, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    September 3, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just started reading Joseph Brent's biography of Peirce. In his foreword, Thomas Sebeok talks about finding reference to Brent's dissertation, the original form of this biography, in an obscure footnote. Sebeok went searching for Brent, thirty years after the dissertation was written, and it took a year to find him (and then successfully for him to expand it into the present book). Sebeok implies that Brent's work was "suppressed", leading him to take up a non-academic life.

    September 3, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Sebeok includes the following story: "Did Brent really receive a long-distance call past one midnight from a famous lady in New York City claiming that Peirce (who died in 1914) had appeared to her in a dream to instruct her to phone Brent at one and inform him that he does not wish, transcendentally, to ever have this biography published?"

      September 3, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Peirce's personality was affected by a superficial reticence often
      associated with the scientific temperament. He readily gave the
      impression of being unsocial, possibly cold, more truly retiring. At
      bottom the trait was in the nature of a refined shyness, an
      embarrassment in the presence of small talk and introductory
      salutations intruded by convention to start one's mind. His nature was
      generously hospitable; he was an intellectual host. In that respect he
      was eminently fitted to become the leader of a select band of
      disciples. Under more fortunate circumstances, his academic usefulness
      might have been vastly extended. For he had the pedagogic gift to an
      unusual degree, had it by dower of nature, as some men handle a pencil
      and others the bow of a violin.

      September 3, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    From the end of section IV (in my printing) of Peirce's Neglected Argument essay: "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". 1) How are Peirce's "peculiar confidences in hypotheses" like or unlike Descartes' "clear and distinct ideas"?

    2) The Necessary Argument depends upon the idea of God as stumbled across in the Play of Musement to be one such. At the meeting we briefly discussed whether empirically people did indeed generally have this feeling about this hypothesis.

    Let me know ask--either way, do we trust such "peculiar confidences" to issue in truth? (Or at the least, for then-fruitful avenues for Deduction and Induction to work upon?)

    September 2, 2013

  • Chad B.

    To fully appreciate the philosophical importance of going out of town, we should have a meetup about going out of town in which we all go out of town. That this is a shareable experience demonstrates that out-of-town phenomena are distinct in their being from the a priori Being of out-of-town-ness.

    1 · August 31, 2013

    • Rick O.

      Oops - Just finished the intro to B&T and realized I had this totally backwards. We need to FIRST uncover the 'ontical existentiell' of our own being-out-of-town. Only with this clarification can we then arrive at a proper 'ontological existential' of out-of-town-ness. Sorry for any confusion. (Going the other route would have put us hopelessly in error)

      September 2, 2013

    • Peter R.

      Confusion is the name of the game. Without it, you'd realize how utterly childish and dumb the enterprise is.

      September 2, 2013

  • Jack

    God, it really sounds like you've neglected argument, or at least Peirce. If all attendees headed out of town, would they make a sound?

    August 31, 2013

  • Peter R.

    This sounds like a major contribution to the Heidiggerian corpus.

    2 · August 31, 2013

  • Jack

    Sorry, but I'll be leaving town that day and will therefore have to neglect the neglected argument, at least confirming the propriety of its name. Happy Labor Day and muse on.

    August 30, 2013

  • Peter R.

    Sorry, he wrote - "In fact, the ease with which, when all the apparent props have been demolished beneath it, the Temple remains suspended in mid-air, while the priests run up alternative supports, of more modern material, suggests that the props, so far frrom being essential elements of the building, are mere external decor, added by the directors to appease the high-brows; like the architecture of suburban cinemas."

    1 · August 25, 2013

    • Rick O.

      Interesting - as in: the structure of the Cinema is not important, it's the movie playing inside that counts?

      August 29, 2013

  • Jenny T.

    I'm going out of town too, otherwise would go.

    August 26, 2013

  • Peter R.

    Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote what seems to me the definitive evaluation of modern phiilosphical thinking about religion in the middle of the last century:

    August 25, 2013

  • Jack

    if I'm in town

    August 17, 2013

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