A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God

Twenty-ninth Selection, pp. 434­450.

MS 841 and P1166: The Hibbert Journal, A Quarterly Review of Religion, Theology, and Philosophy 7 (October 1908): 90-112. [Published in CP 6.452­485, followed by the "Additament" in 6.486­490, and an excerpt from two draft pages in MS 844 in CP 6.491.]

Origin of the Text

Cassius J. Keyser, a professor of mathematics at Columbia University and a member of the American editorial board of the Hibbert Journal, invited Peirce on April 8, 1908, to write an article for the journal on one of three topics. Peirce replied gratefully two days later, rejecting Keyser's topics but suggesting ten other ones, the third of which was a "theological discussion": "I should willingly treat a little known Œproof' of the Being of God. Properly speaking it is not itself a proof, but is a statement of what I believe to be a fact, which fact, if true, shows that a reasonable man by duly weighing certain great truths will inevitably be led to believe in God. . . ." Whether Keyser selected the third topic of Peirce's list is not known, but Peirce probably had his mind already set since he started, the day after sending his ten suggestions, to jot down, in his "Prescott notebook" (MS 277: 65­66, 11 April 1908), an outline of an article titled "A Little Known ŒArgument' for the Being of God," whose purpose was "to describe a way of gaining a rational and unshakable belief in God." One month later Peirce finished, or rather stopped, composing the first version of his article, a 134-page document that began with a "dedication to a dream-friend" (MS 842). He wrote to Keyser, on May 14, that he would be unable to finish his paper in time, having lost a week's work, and that the paper required to be greatly condensed. In the course of the next six weeks Peirce then rewrote the article entirely, drafting and redrafting most of its pages several times (MS 843 contains about 200 draft pages), and finally submitted his article toward the end of June (MS 841). At the end of July Keyser let Peirce know that L. P. Jacks, the Hibbert editor, had accepted the article, finding it to be a contribution of "permanent value." Jacks, however, because of the paper's complexity, wanted Peirce "to summarize the article in a concluding page or two, to be added to the article, in order to forestall careless cavillers who might say, Œwhat, then, precisely, is your neglected argument?'" Peirce accepted to write an addendum, which he called "Additament," the first version of which is found in MS 844 (CP 6.486­90). The Hibbert published, untitled, the second version (the original manuscript has not been recovered) after a blank line at the end of the article, to Peirce's surprise: as he later explained to William James, he thought the additament was distasteful and he had asked the editor to pick out "a small passage that was neither egotistical nor offensive to anybody," thinking that such an injunction would ensure "the rejection of the whole." Jacks, however, printed it entirely. It is apparent that Peirce got to proofread the main article but not the addendum. The text in EP2 reproduces MS 841 with emendations from the published article, followed directly by the "Additament." The text of this "Additament" combines the first five paragraphs of Peirce's first version of the text (found in MS 844) with the full text of the second version. The reason for this amalgamation is that only in the first version did Peirce clearly identify "a nest of three arguments" that is then referred to in the second version.