Wherefore Aught?

Re: Why Is There Something?

Here is another one of those eternally recurring ideas echoed inimitably by C.S. Peirce in his sketch of a Cosmogonic Philosophy.

It would suppose that in the beginning,—infinitely remote,—there was a chaos of unpersonalized feeling, which being without connection or regularity would properly be without existence.  This feeling, sporting here and there in pure arbitrariness, would have started the germ of a generalizing tendency.  Its other sportings would be evanescent, but this would have a growing virtue.  Thus, the tendency to habit would be started;  and from this with the other principles of evolution all the regularities of the universe would be evolved.  At any time, however, an element of pure chance survives and will remain until the world becomes an absolutely perfect, rational, and symmetrical system, in which mind is at last crystallized in the infinitely distant future.  (Peirce, 1890/2010, p. 110).

The above quotation is taken from one of several discussions where Peirce introduces his idea that natural laws themselves evolve.  That idea has enjoyed yet another revival in recent days, notably by Lee Smolin in Time Reborn.


Charles S. Peirce (30 August 1890), “The Architecture of Theories”, pp. 98–110 in Peirce Edition Project (2010), Writings of Charles S. Peirce : A Chronological Edition, Volume 8, 1890–1892, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN. Published version, The Monist, vol. 1, no. 2 (January 1891), pp. 161–176.

This entry was posted in Cosmogony, Evolution, Existence, Natural Law, Peirce, Philosophy, References, Sources and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wherefore Aught?

  1. Poor Richard says:

    I’m still agnostic about the genesis of the universe, but the quotation reminds me somehow of the developing embryonic brain. For “generalizing tendency” can I read pattern detection and pattern recognition (i.e.association)?

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