- Ward’s Teleological Suspension of Philosophy in Peirce and Religion
i find roger ward’s interpretation of Charles Sanders Peirce’s logic, semiotics, and pragmaticism in Peirce and Religion to be not only plausible, but also compelling. What makes Ward’s interpretation of Peirce’s thought compelling, at least to me, is the story he tells about how Peirce’s Trinitarian faith commitments shaped Peirce’s thought from the early 1860s to his death in 1914. Ward’s story accounts for how Peirce’s Trinitarian faith commitments led Peirce to consider his study of logic and semiotics as his vocation. It also accounts for how Peirce’s Trinitarian faith commitments motivated Peirce to transition from being a proponent of a nominalistic pragmatism in the 1870s to being a pragmaticist by the first decade of the twentieth century.1 In fact, I find Ward’s interpretation of Peirce’s thought to be more compelling than naturalistic and secularized interpretations of Peirce’s thought, as represented by Peirce scholars like Cheryl Misak.
At this point, I should admit that I am not a Peirce scholar. I will leave it to Benjamin Chicka and Michael L. Raposa to evaluate the plausibility of Ward’s interpretation of Peirce’s thought. I am more interested in identifying what motivates Ward to explore how Peirce’s Trinitarian faith commitments influence and enrich Peirce’s philosophy, especially Peirce’s understanding of the ultimate aim of human inquiry and his musings on the reality of God in his 1908 essay, “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God” (Ward 129–30, 132–33, 136–38). I also want to make sense of why Ward interprets Peirce’s pragmaticism as Peirce’s means of reconciling scientific thought with religion, and more specifically with “the living character of a Real God” (Ward 132). To make sense of Ward’s interpretation of Peirce’s thought, I will interpret Peirce and Religion as being the result of Ward performing a teleological suspension of philosophy. [End Page 114]
By teleological suspension of philosophy, I mean “the willingness to transcend the disciplinary boundaries of philosophy proper, with its argumentation and conceptual distinctions, in pursuit of something extraphilosophical, such as theistic religious experience. A teleological suspension of philosophy can be said to occur whenever ‘thinkers … are guided by a sense of there being concerns greater than philosophical ones’” (Tunstall 51). A philosopher teleologically suspends philosophy “whenever she recognizes that philosophical inquiry is not a self-justifying endeavor and that there must be some extraphilosophical interest or commitment motivating her to philosophize. Teleologically suspending philosophy also forces her to acknowledge that philosophizing is not a value-neutral activity, but is dependent on the valuations made by the philosopher philosophizing” (Tunstall 11). Teleologically suspending philosophy is a means of disclosing the extraphilosophical commitments, goals, biases, prejudices (in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s sense of this term), interests, and so on, that motivate someone to engage in philosophical inquiry in the first place (Tunstall 55). This is true of logicians and metaphysicians, as well as scholars of classical American pragmatism. This is true of Peirce, as well as of Ward.
Once we consider Ward’s Peirce and Religion to be the result of him teleologically suspending philosophy, we can identify the central extra-philosophical commitment motivating his project in that book—namely, that he is “attracted to the American philosophers for their devotion to philosophy as a life-changing pursuit of truth” and how this devotion is similar to “an equally transformative-focused Christianity” (Ward xiv). Ward appears to be particularly attracted to Peirce because Peirce engaged in a decades-long dance with Christianity, specifically with the transformative dimension of Trinitarian Christianity, as they move closer to the truth together (Ward xiv). Ward also seems attracted to Peirce because studying Peirce’s thought has helped him better explore the roles that religion and philosophy play in the human pursuit of truth and in our inquiries into ourselves and our larger environing world (Ward xiv, xvi).
By viewing Peirce and Religion to be the result of Ward teleologically suspending philosophy, we can also notice that his motivation for writing about Peirce is due to a more fundamental...