Charles Pierce Term Paper

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Charles Peirce maintained that unconditional love gives rise to courage that helps in the generation of new ideas. This love known as agapism generates in a person a desire to break free of old habits and take risks which reflects the unfolding of God's mighty plan of evolution.

Charles Peirce developed an interesting theory of love and evolution that combined biology with philosophy to give us a scientific version of his philosophical musings. In these theories he combined Darwin's theory of evolution with ethical teachings and his own philosophies to explain how mind worked and the significance of love in our lives. He believed that concepts of evolution and philosophy were intricately connected and were part of the same process. This idea was expressed in his "The Law of the Mind" and is largely based on such concepts as Synechism, Tychism, and Agapism. These terms literally mean continuity, chance, and love and Peirce's idea of combining them stemmed from the belief that these concepts together formed the larger process called reality. Peirce's Law of the mind hence states:

...there is but one law of mind, namely, that ideas tend to spread continuously and to affect certain others which stand to them in a peculiar relation of affectability. In this spreading they lose intensity, and especially the power of affecting others, but gain generality and become welded with other ideas (CP 6.104).

In this regard, his theory of agapism plays a crucial role. According to Peirce, it is agapism that gives man courage to move ahead in the unknown or take risks with his life. This is an interesting concept which is deeply grounded in ethical and religious teachings as Peirce often referred to God when explaining this theory. Peirce believed that growth comes from unconditional love. This meant that if a person is certain of receiving unconditional love no matter what he does, he is more likely to take risks and do something with his life. Peirce like Dewey subscribed to Darwin's theory of evolution but also maintained the growth spiritual as well as physical was subject to agapism and those who grow the most are the ones who believe in unconditional love. Agape is derived from Greek verb agapan which referred to caring for children and servants, people who are under one's care and responsibility. In the New and Old Testament, agape has been used in the context of God's unconditional love for mankind. Agape however must not be confused with sexual love as it tends to move in a downward direction and is basically spiritual in nature.

The distancing of agape from sexual matters is important because it accentuates an important aspect of agapism. In agapism, the one who loves is not interested in physical or ethical attributes of the object. This means agapism is unconditional. It doesn't seek anything from its object and thus only believes in giving. This is the kind of love that would surround even the object which is apparently hostile to the giver. Nygren expresses it in these words:

God's attitude to men is not characterized by a justice distributive, but by agape, not by retributive righteousness but by freely giving and forgiving love . . . . [The love of the Old Testament God] signifies at most that God is faithful to His Covenant despite man's unfaithfulness, provided that man returns to the Covenant. [Nygren, p. 71]

Peirce expressed the same view in his 'Evolutionary Love' when he said that creative love is such that its "tenderness ex-vi termini must be reserved only for what intrinsically is most bitterly hostile and negative to itself" (CP, 6.287). It is not an elusive or difficult concept since anyone who has raised children knows what unconditional love is.

Agape is an important concept because its unconditional nature helps us develop courage and take risks that we might not be able to take in the absence of agape. Success or failure is of no particular consequence to agapism since it exists at all times and under all circumstances. In "The Law of Mind," Peirce observes that growth comes from breaking up of old habits and routines as a man decides to take risks that might change his life and positive influence his future. He asserts that the "breaking up of habit and renewed fortuitous spontaneity…

Sources Used in Document:


Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Charles Sanders Peirce (author) Philip P. Wiener (editor). Values in a Universe of Chance: Selected Writings of Charles S. Peirce. Doubleday. Garden City, NY. 1958

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