Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tillich and Peirce: Love's Grand Perspective

The other day I realized that my depiction of Tillich's thought adopts ideas that I first read in the thoughts of Charles Sanders Peirce. Both think that a closed mind is stultifying at best and degrading at worst. Here's a quote from Peirce to illustrate. " blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness..." (Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler, p. 4) In fact, Peirce held this dictum so close that he called his philosophy "fallibilism" before he coined "pragmatism" as his thought's moniker. (There is a delightful story--for those of you who share in my bemusement with eccentricity--about Peirce abandoning his coinage after it became famous, saying that his new term, "pragmaticism" would be too ugly for anyone else to adopt it.)

What I find most interesting about Peirce's thought in conjunction with Tillich's is that it can be used to frame Tillich's views more adeptly than--I think--Tillich ever did. I refer to Peirce's "agapasm." "In genuine agapasm...advance takes place by virtue of a positive sympathy...springing from continuity of mind [with a conception of reality as good]." (Ibid., p. 369.) Here's the key to Peirce's self-described intellectual development: "...out of a contrite fallibilism, combined with a high faith in the reality of knowledge, and an intense desire to find things out, all my philosophy has always seemed to grow..." (Ibid., p. 4.)

I'll rephrase that to draw a parallel with his agapasm: "...out of a contrite fallibilism, combined with a high faith in the goodness of reality, and an intense desire to realize that goodness, the healthiest form of spirituality grows..." That view was, in his estimation, fully in line with Christianity, when understood correctly.

Accordingly, Peirce, like Tillich, combined an intellectual curiosity with a view of agape love to produce a Christian philosophical perspective that can be fully merged with science. (The quote above is from his essay, "Evolutionary Love." Clearly Peirce shares with Tillich (and C.S. Lewis) the view that Christian faith represents an evolutionary jump offered to humanity.) In the heading to the blog you see one of his most famous quotes: "Do not block the way of inquiry." Perhaps his agapasm could be seen as an extension of that dictum: "Do not block the way of good will."

For Tillich the root problem in human nature is to put a finite, closed, object or perspective where only an open-ended commitment to love and to learn should be. In that he shares Peirce's perspective exactly: the same "blight" that "arrests all intellectual growth" arrests all spiritual growth. It is a truly grand perspective. And for both men, it was the perspective to which Christianity lends itself, when properly understood.


Vinitha said...

I too love to read famous quotes..I have found a site with huge collection of quotes. check it out
Famous quotes

Tracy Witham said...

Hi Vinitha,

Great Einstein quotes--some I didn't know were his. Thanks.