The Pleasures of Goodness

In 1903 and consistent with his classification of the sciences (see 2006), Peirce claimed that both ethics and logic, as normative sciences, rest on aesthetics, which he characterizes as the normative science of the summum bonum.  However, Peirce’s comments on aesthetics are exceedingly brief and enigmatic.  At times, they even seem to be inconsistent.

To address these problems, this essay develops an account of Peircean aesthetics by casting it in the light of Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment, especially Kant’s account of teleological reflecting judgments.  I argue that aesthetic value, on the Peircean account, consists in attaining quietus of mind, which is a state rather than a feeling.  Such quietus requires (a) inventing or having concepts adequate to describe the phenomena, (b) making judgments that conform (or correspond) to the phenomena, and (c) having concepts and making judgments that are not liable to be found false in future inquiry (i.e. that are admirable).  In contrast, struggle ensues when we are astonished by the failure of our concepts to describe the phenomena or by the falsity of our judgments.  In such cases, we strive to develop new concepts and theories that will minimize our astonishment.  Normativity, then, is grounded in the minimization of astonishment and the maximization of admirability. (For more on struggle and quietus, 2013b)

Also in this essay are: (a) a brief comment connecting Peirce’s account of struggle and quietus to Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre; (b) a summary of key ideas from Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment; (c) a rejection of grounding Peirce’s aesthetics in his metaphysics or semiotics; (d) a discussion of pleasure understood as a state rather than a feeling and why Peirce thinks this entails his theory is not a sort of hedonism; and (e) comments on forcefulness and yieldingness (see 2012b).