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Reviewed by:
  • Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Natureby Leon Niemoczynski, and: God and the World of Signs: Trinity, Evolution, and the Metaphysical Semiotics of C. S. Peirce by Andrew Robinson
  • Greg Moses
Leon Niemoczynski. Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011, xi + 169, includes index.
Andrew Robinson. God and the World of Signs: Trinity, Evolution, and the Metaphysical Semiotics of C. S. Peirce. Leiden: Brill, 2010 [Brill Philosophical Studies in Science and Religion], xiii + 381, includes indexes.

In the beginning came Firstness along with icons that could represent it to an awakening dreamer. In his 2011 monograph on Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature, Leon J. Niemoczynski develops a critical appreciation of Peircean Firstness that arises from “the depths of experience” as “the living ground of will, power, and potential” (15). Explicitly attuned to Robert Corrington’s “ecstatic naturalism,” Niemoczynski works his way through Peirce to Schelling in order to de-theologize the reader’s understanding of what might be meant when Peirce uses the word God. Working against a “pantheistic” interpretation that would yet reserve some remnant of God “beyond” the world, Niemoczynski argues that “Peirce was also venturing to articulate a nature that contains a pre-rational depth dimension, where the cosmos, interpreted to be an ‘infinitizing continuum,’ exhibits a series of ordered continua containing real differences wherein the divine’s power (potential) is present and revealed” (36). Real representations of this power would be accessible through a process which Peirce termed abduction. For Niemoczynski, Peircean abduction “begins in the disruption of Firstness-feeling, paying attention to how feeling can move past these disruptions but is also modified by them as inquiry moves toward” what Peirce called “Absolute Mind” (70). With these preparations underway, Niemoczynski is then in a position to invite the reader into a re-reading of Peirce’s “last published article,” the 1908 “Neglected Argument” (87). As a result of these developments, Niemoczynski is able to show how “numinous feeling” becomes possible as “a sacred feeling of the divine’s presence and power, of nature naturing, as [End Page 120] manifest in created nature—nature natured” (91). “In this respect,” argues Niemoczynski, “abduction serves as the key to transcendence, a grasping for what is beyond the merely human and finite; that is, what is infinite, ultimate, or transcendental, yet that which is still perceivable by the finite within the various orders of nature” (94). Niemoczynski develops his transcendental abduction by recentering Peirce within a phenomenological tradition that stretches back to Schelling and forward to Heidegger, Deleuze, Corrington, and Badiou.

In God and the World of Signs: Trinity, Evolution, and the Metaphysical Semiotics of C.S. Peirce, Andrew Robinson argues that historical precedent for treating of God as Firstness could stretch back to Plotinus who posited the reality of “the One” corresponding to Plato’s “form of the good” as a special kind of category upon which any further categories would depend (74). However, as neo-Platonism passed over into Trinitarian form, the relation of Father to Son was refined so as to block the position taken by Arius who questioned the co-eternity of the second person (79). For Robinson, orthodox development of Trinitarian categories prefigures the logical relation between Peircean categories where “the logical priority of Firstness is nevertheless consistent with its ontological dependence upon the other two categories” (79). Such a Peircean approach to Trinitarian structure helps to clarify how “Trinitarian persons” may be distinct and three in number “without undermining the unity of God” (328). Furthermore, argues Robinson, the Peircean method allows “social Trinitarians” to develop a philosophical case for why “human selfhood may properly be regarded, in the semiotic model, as grounded in the reality of God’s being” (328). God’s being cannot, in turn, be coherently portrayed “in terms of an isolated individual consciousness” (328). On Robinson’s view, a Trinitarian doctrine of incarnation “may be understood as a recognition that Jesus’ life as a whole was an ‘iconic qualisign’ of the being and presence of God” (114). But in order to prepare ground for such a semiotic approach to the central mysteries of salvation...