Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Anderson, Douglas


The main thesis of this project is that Peirce’s theory of the categories can be applied in order to better explain and inform a robust theory of creative freedom. I defend the claim that those three categories are: Peirce’s idea of God, understood as his idea of an evolving cosmos open to growth, as firstness; self-control and our capacity to deliberate in order to make choices as secondness; and the idea of community as thirdness. However, the concept of God, what I consider the first category of freedom, is not the main focus of this project, since I have dealt with it at some length in my master thesis. In this dissertation, I provide a general overview of the context and the scholarly tradition of Peirce’s studies on ethics in order to show and justify my position in it. Moreover I explore the second category of freedom, i.e. self-control. First, I show the development of this idea under the context of the philosophical tradition that influenced Peirce; second, I deal with a reconstruction of the concept of self-control under Peirce’s theory of semeiotics; third, I attempt to explain self-control according to the three categories based on Edward Petry’s formulations; and fourth I explore the conception of the summum bonum, not only from the perspective of its development in Peirce’s theory but also in its function as the aesthetic value that directs and guides the manner in which self-control and its categories work out under the frame of a theory of creative freedom. Finally, I analyze the role of community in enabling and making freedom possible from the perspective of education, more specifically, its role of promoting truth, goodness, and beauty according to the normative sciences. The application of Peirce’s theory of the categories to a theory of creative freedom provides some advantages over other kind of approaches. If the three Peircean categories can be applied to the way in which we experience freedom, then the possible theories of ethics can be reduced to seven in the same way that Peirce’s model of classification catalogues all possible systems of metaphysics. Furthermore, it means that all other systems of ethics that neglect one of these conditions would be for Peirce degenerate in some respect. Although I do not explore this account in greater detail here, as I see it, this proposal provides a very useful framework. Thus, I hope to provide a robust perspective on freedom as creativity, where positive freedom (not just the negative freedom emphasized by North American cultures) plays an important role in acknowledging that a community acquires a responsibility for the well being and flourishing of its people, and therefore, the role of education, and community become also crucial.




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