- Spinoza, Emerson, and Peirce: Re-Thinking the Genealogy of Pragmatism: 2019 Presidential Address
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 55, Number 2, Spring 2019
- pp. 103-118
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Pragmatism is not a doctrine; it’s a method for making our ideas clear. Yet, the object of any idea is not properly an ‘object’ in the traditional sense; it is rather a capacity, a preparedness to act and produce effects. My thesis is that this view marks a profound revolution in our tradition of thought, a revolution that in modern times has been prepared by Spinoza who interpreted in his Ethics the essence of any being not as pure form, but as power and potentia agendi. Peirce showed, especially from 1890 onward, that he knew Spinoza’s thought very well. We have a remarkable review for The nation (1904) in which he related Spinoza to pragmatism. Through Emerson’s mediation (a Spinozian-Schellinghian thinker who was incredibly influential in the Cambridge environment), through his re-definition of the notion of ‘power’ and ‘endeavor,’ this Spinozian-Emersonian tradition acted like a virus: hidden in the folds of Peirce’s reflections, it permanently affected their marrow.