Date of Award

1-1-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Anderson, Douglas

Abstract

This dissertation carries out a study of the American pragmaticist C.S. Peirce and constructively applies his thought to a religious understanding of nature called "ecstatic naturalism," a philosophy developed by Robert S. Corrington that conjoins American pragmatism and Continental phenomenology. In this project I explore how the modality of possibility functions in the disclosure of a "divine life," that is, the life of a developing cosmos taken to be sacred in its continual processes of evolutionary growth and transformation. Possibility, found in Peirce's category of experience known as "Firstness," provides organisms with the ontological conditions required for any immediately felt qualitative experience--experience that is the site for potential religious experience. "Religious" experience here means the ecstatic contraposition of finite being before "infinite" being. I consider infinite being first as an honorific sheer availability of being (potential or possible being: becoming) and then in terms of how inquiry may reveal nature to be an encompassing infinite that locates and situates finite organisms. It is my thesis that, as it is found in Peirce's category of Firstness, possibility serves as a ground for the disclosure of this infinite, "the divine life," by enabling its presence to come forward as a feeling of the sacred-- a feeling found when inquirers muse over nature and establish beliefs about the universe in which they are situated. To the end of making these claims more concrete, I draw on figures such as the German existential phenomenologist Martin Heidegger, and the German idealist F.W.J. Schelling so as to identify how possibility may serve as a ground (Abgrund) for divine disclosure, and to identify understandings of existence that take nature to be a sacred life of φύσις (phusis), dynamically revealing and concealing before finite and situated organisms.

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