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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 34, Issue 1/2, 2018

John N. Deely Memorial issue

Søren Brier
Pages 131-161
DOI: 10.5840/ajs20186637

Pragmaticism, Science, and Theology or How to Answer the Riddle of the Sphinx?

This text is written in the honor of my scholarly friend John Deely, discussing the claims regarding the relation of modern science and religion put forth in Ashley and Deely, How Science Enriches Theology. I view it as the confrontation of a Peircean and a Thomist philosophical view of modern science and its relation to religion. I argue that the book demonstrates the problems inherent in the dialogue between a Thomist theist and a Peircean panentheist process view. Furthermore, that they are central to the contemporary philosophy of science discussion of the relation between the types of knowledge produced in the sciences and in theology. The important choice seems to be whether the link between science and religion should be based on a panentheist process concept of the divine as arising from a pure zero or on a theology with a personal god as the absolute and eternal source. I argue that Peirce’s triadic semiotic process philosophy is a unique form of panentheism in the way it draws on a combination of Schelling, Unitarianism, plus Emerson, and the transcendentalist’s spiritual ecumenical reading of Buddhist emptiness ontology and non-dualist Advaita Vedanta. This and Peirce’s synechism produce a non-confessional theological process philosophy. The surprising conclusion is that, because of its extended process philosophical grounding in emptiness, this panentheism does not assume any supernatural quality about the divine force of reasoning that drives Cosmogony. Rather Peirce’s pragmaticist formulation stands out as a true non-reductionist alternative to logical positivism’s reductionist unity science, especially in its form of mechanicism based on a concept of transcendental absolute law. The panentheism process view is also an alternative to the many forms of radical constructivism and postmodernism on the other hand. This is one of the reasons why Deely insightfully named Peirce the first true postmodernist.