- Response to Tunstall, Chicka, and Raposaw
i am deeply grateful to aaron and the three scholars who have taken upon themselves the task of reading and responding to my book Peirce and Religion. Their assessments, in a general way, are a variety of the same criticism concerning my argument about Peirce’s Christianity. My intention here is to address this general point, consider some particular comments from each of the respondents, and offer a re-direction at the end.
I take it as success to have evoked the response from each of these scholars. Tunstall brings forward the question of whether I have left philosophy altogether when presenting an apology of sorts for Trinitarian Christianity in the guise of assessing Peirce’s religion. The worry is that an analysis such as this switches loyalty from pursuing the truth, either the truth of an account of Peirce’s thought, or the truth of philosophy, for the partisan service of a particular tribe or brand of religion. After all, Peirce was rather ambiguous about his own commitments to Christianity, and there is a whiff of special pleading in the presentation and analysis collected in this book. Chicka also finds the reliance on a traditionally described Trinitarian Christianity problematic. From his perspective, the orientation of the book eschews the speculative possibilities based on a religious exploration of Peirce and returns attention to parochial forms of religious thought that cut off the obvious goods of the projects of Robert Neville and Robert Corrington. Why would I propose to return to a basic or base version of Christianity and challenge the speculative ground of these developments? Raposa also finds the emphasis on Peirce’s orthodoxy as a Christian too far afield. Here, the concern is not that I have missed the historical features of Peirce’s own religious development, but that I have followed it with a set of background assumptions concerning its form and placed Peirce in too tight agreement with the community and tradition in which he practiced or understood his faith. [End Page 127]
Each critique has obvious merit, and I anticipated, well more than that, I baited each of these concerns about what I was doing with Peirce. And, finally, there are some people here I can explain myself to! Thanks and thanks!! Let me start with the “too Christian and not enough philosophy” account. Yes, absolutely this is correct. Even when I first began reading Peirce and his biblical allusions and theological references began to stand together in clumps, I was aware that the philosophers in the library and in the class at Baylor were reluctant to hold him to anything as mundane as a Christian standard. And these were Christian philosophers. Good Baptists even, if there is such a thing. I sensed that their hope in Peirce was a way of escaping the wooden form of Christian doctrine. An Obama-esque way out of the specific beliefs or claims and into the less problematic and hence freer domains of religious speculation and growth. This was my hope, too, and I embraced it wholeheartedly shunning the worries of Christology, soteriology, and the authority of divine self-revelation. That worked until I read Peirce holistically and longitudinally. As much as I followed a naturalized religious path into Peirce, he kept bringing me back to church, and communion, and prayer as a heartfelt appeal for the approbation from the Master. There is religious argument in Peirce separate from Christianity, but there is no separation from Christianity in Peirce. When he rejects religion, it is Christianity he rejects. When he has a religious experience in 1892, it is in an Episcopal church with the Eucharist at the command of the Master. Peirce brought me to church in order to understand his philosophy, and I determined that without getting that part right, of his life in relation to Christ and the church, I wasn’t really going to get his philosophy either. At least not as completely as I could. So I set myself a new hermeneutic standard to take Peirce as seriously as a Christian as he took himself, as far as I could with the limited texts and facts available...