Monday, November 01, 2004 +

Charles Sanders Peirce

Quoted in Edward T. Oakes, "Discovering the American Aristotle", First Things (38, December 1993):

A man looks upon nature, sees its sublimity and beauty, and his spirit gradually rises to the idea of God. He does not see the Divinity, nor does nature prove to him the existence of that Being, but it does excite his mind and imagination until the idea becomes rooted in his heart.

As a matter of opinion, I believe that Glory shines out in everything, and that any esthetic odiousness is merely our Unfeelingness resulting from obscurations due to our own moral and intellectual aberrations.

[To William James in July 1905] It would indeed be most ridiculous for me to think I could say anything to make you better, but living in the beautiful country, I cannot but be overwhelmed with the lovableness of the universe, as everybody is. Every mortal who stops to consider it is penetrated with love. It is irresistible.

Lately, when I was suffering at every mouth through which a man can drink suffering, I tried to beguile it by reading three books that I hadn't read for a long time, three religious books: Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy, and Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. The last one did one most good owing to the utter blindness of the man. Man can naturally get but a vague idea of the all of things; and a vague idea is always open to being driven into contradictions. But man will never find a doctrine of the all nearer than theism.

"I am altogether myself, and not at all you." If you embrace [my philosophy], you must abjure this metaphysics of wickedness. In the first place, your neighbors are, in a measure, yourself, and in far greater measure than, without deep studies in psychology, you would believe. Really, the selfhood you like to attribute to yourself is, for the most part, the vulgarest delusion of vanity. In the second place, all men who resemble you and are in analogous circumstances are, in a measure, yourself, though not quite in the same way in which your neighbors are you.

"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.

The question arises how it is possible that the existence of [God] should ever have been doubted by anybody. The only answer that I can at present make is that facts that stand before our face and eyes and stare us in the face are far from being, in all cases, the ones most easily discerned. That has been remarked from time immemorial.

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 repose 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...environment.... [In time he] will come to be stirred to the depths of his nature by the beauty of the idea and 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.