Peirce, Plato and miracles: On the mature Peirce's re-discovery of Plato and the overcoming of nominalistic prejudice in history

Twenty-three years ago Robert Ayers noticed several brief and intriguing comments on miracles in the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (CP). Working with just those scraps of information from the CP, he stitched together a rough but helpful starting point for understanding this aspect of Peirce's religious and scientific thought. In the last few years several more articles on this subject have been written, each filling in a gap left by the others: Ayers' is a theological view, based solely on the CP; later articles fill out Peirce's mathematics and his logic. This paper attempts to fill in a genealogical gap by showing how his thought on miracles is directly related to his dialogues with Plato, Hume, and Lutoslawski. My resources are largely unpublished manuscripts, many of which are fragmentary. I show the relationship between these manuscripts and two key published essays, "Philosophy and the Conduct of Life" (1898), and "On the Logic of Drawing History from Ancient Documents, Especially from Testimonies" (1901), and then show how Peirce, in dialogue with Plato, exposes and overcomes the nominalistic and anti-miracle prejudices of historiography in his day. The resulting view of history is fallibilistic, realistic and evolutionary, in which miracles are not violations of laws of nature but are to be expected as evolutionary variations that form part of the ongoing self-revelation of the cosmos. Miracles, like all events in history, must not be viewed prejudicially by adherents or detractors, but must be taken into careful account in the grand induction of history and science.
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