Eros and Agape in Creative Evolution: A Peircean Insight

by Carl R. Hausman

Carl R. Hausman is Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy at the Pennsylvania State University, 246 Sparks Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 11-25, Vol. 4, Number 1, Spring, 1974. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Hausman believes that Peirce’s insight is restricted in the role of eros and agape in creative evolution, but he also suggests the fruitfulness of his insight. The notion of agape introduced here is preferable to the use of the notion of eros in accounting for creativity.

Much of what Peirce has to say throughout his published papers is pertinent to a philosophical perspective on the problems of creativity. However, the introduction of the notion of agape in his speculations about evolution is of particular importance to anyone who has thought seriously about those problems. His thoughts on the special role of agape in evolution may serve as a point of departure for developing a conceptual scheme that makes room for the origin of what is radically new in a world of regularity and order. The following remarks are intended to explain this point of departure.

I should emphasize at the outset that although I begin with Peirce and shall refer to what I understand to be his view, the discussion will not be restricted to a straightforward exposition. For the most part, what I shall say is interpretive. Furthermore, I shall extrapolate rather freely from Peirce’s statements -- and to such an extent that I should acknowledge that the result may not resemble Peirce as he is ordinarily interpreted.

My plan is to approach the topic in terms of a very brief account of Peirce’s three categories as they bear on his view of evolution. I shall then turn to a consideration of what I believe is the key problem of creativity. In the light of this problem, the way in which Peirce’s notion of agape is suggestive can be seen. I shall consider reasons why Peirce introduced the notion of agape into his cosmology and why it was required as an addition to his three fundamental categories when he turned his attention to the origin and aim of evolutionary process. I shall then indicate how Peirce restricted his insight into the role of eros and agape in creative evolution, but I shall also suggest why his insight is fruitful.

I. Peirce’s Categories and His Cosmology

Peirce’s cosmology is given structural framework in terms of the universal categories, Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. The categories serve as principles explanatory of the interplay of chance, action, and continuity or law in evolution. Chance is the condition that predominates in tychastic evolution. It is the condition of blind change, which Peirce associated with Darwinian theory. Action and law dominate in what Peirce calls anancastic evolution. Action and law function as mechanical necessity in the ordered development of stages required by either past or future causes. Each theory of evolution, tychasm and anancasm, is partially correct. Peirce’s own view, "agapasticism," however, embraces them both in a synthesis in which they are transformed and supplemented. Agapasticism affirms the interweaving of chance, action, and law in a process which includes spontaneity and which is directed toward an intelligible end (6.287-317, especially 6.302-05).

The feature of evolution which points toward the need for agape is creative growth, that is, the presence of spontaneity and the introduction of unpredictable, intelligible novelty into the process of evolution. This kind of creative growth includes what I refer to as "radical creativity."

Peirce shows us that he acknowledges radical creativity both implicitly and explicitly. There are a number of places in his writing to which we might turn. Since my purpose is not to offer a study of Peirce’s thesis, but rather to indicate the significance of his insight, I shall illustrate his recognition of radical creativity with only a few references.

Peirce’s argument against determinism in "The Doctrine of Necessity Examined," published a year earlier than his paper on evolutionary love, clearly lays the basis for the affirmation of radical creativity and the need for the principle of agape (6.36-65). He argues that there is a "really sui generis and new" in the universe. Observation reveals continually increasing variety and complexity of phenomena. At the same time, the world is growing into increasingly complex established habits or laws. Laws and necessities cannot be complete from the beginning of time. Thus chance or spontaneity must be a real increment in the universe. Unless spontaneity were real, we could not account for what is both ordered and diverse or new.

Again, in "The Law of Mind," Peirce argues that personality, which is one of the manifestations of the law of mind, is a structure that evolves (6.102-63). He says that personality is the coordination of ideas and that this coordination implies a teleological harmony. But the teleology is "more than a mere purposive pursuit of a predeterminate end; it is a developmental teleology" (6.155-57). By "developmental teleology," he means a growth of purposes, not a growth of ideas in accord with purposes. Such a view clearly not only leaves room for, but requires that there be, sui generis, new order in the evolution of mind. And this is to affirm radical creativity.

In order to see why Peirce considered agape to be a principle necessary to understanding evolution as he understood it, it will be helpful to focus on certain puzzling features of the view that evolutionary change includes instances of radical creativity. Peirce was aware of some but not all of these features.

First of all, we should observe that Peirce believed his thesis that there is spontaneity to be explanatory of "the general fact of irregularity, though not, of course, what each lawless event is to be." As an explanation, the thesis does not make predictions possible, but it does refer to a condition for the unpredictable intrusion of law in the world. Peirce believed that since his thesis opposed the claim that there is universal necessity, he was allowing for a distinctive process of unpredictable causation while making it possible to understand "how the uniformity of nature could have been brought about" (6.60). His point is that in asserting that spontaneity occurs, or that there is a lawlessness of uniqueness and individual events, he offers a generalization that does not contradict the further generalizations that there are laws and that they originate and grow in complexity. When the generalization that there is spontaneity is considered with the fact that there are other generalizations that cover specific laws, then the fact that there are formations of specific laws is rendered intelligible.

I am inclined to agree with Peirce’s understanding of the limitations of the explanatory value of his thesis. He admitted that the intelligibility in question lacks predictive power. And he offered his thesis as a way of keeping the direction of inquiry open rather than closing it at the point at which the origin of laws are accepted as ultimately unexplained. Thus, the thesis of spontaneity is at least heuristic. On the one hand, it is heuristic with respect to our expectations that new laws may be discovered. On the other hand, it is heuristic in promoting the demand of thought for more comprehensive and more fundamental generalization.

What is most important, however, is a further limitation implied by the thesis of spontaneity. If the term "spontaneity" refers to the condition by virtue of which there can be new order in the world, the term seems to do no more than name the generalization that something conditions irregularity and consequent orderliness. To say that there is spontaneity in the world, then, is to say that ordered generality, or what for Peirce is intelligibility, is founded on the unique, or what resists intelligibility. This point directs us to what I refer to as the paradox of creativity. Peirce’s notion of agape offers a conceptual frame for articulating, if not resolving, this paradox at the same time that it extends his thesis of spontaneity. In order to see why, it is necessary to view the paradox more closely.

II. The Paradox of Radical Creativity

The paradox of creativity can be seen in a peculiar character of the kind of process that culminates in something intelligible and novel that contributes substantively to a tradition of human endeavor. This sense of creativity is often overlooked by those who inquire about the topic because most inquiries are concerned with generic traits and abilities common to all processes rather than with the conditions of processes which are peculiarly creative.

Before this point is pursued, however, a few preliminary comments are in order. The kind of inquiry that leads to the paradox of creativity springs from the question: What source makes creativity possible? The terms "source" and "possible" are used here for two reasons. In using the word "source," I want to avoid the suggestion that creative acts can be fully traced to causal antecedents. Thus I do not pose the question in terms of the cause of creative acts. Further, in using the term "possible," I want to emphasize the point that whatever conditions are relevant to creative acts, these conditions are not guarantees, but at best are necessary if not sufficient for occurrences of radical creativity.

The basis for my skepticism about the possibility of identifying causes or of constructing a complete explanation of creativity cannot be presented here. I have tried to offer this basis elsewhere (1:20-47). However, most important for our immediate purposes, the view that there are limitations on both mechanistic and teleological causal explanations of creative events is expressed in Peirce’s own writings. In general, skepticism about a complete explanation of creativity is based on the notion that a creative act issues in an outcome that is new in kind, which was unpredictable, and which has a definite character that is neither reducible to the sum of its elements nor exhaustively traceable to its antecedents.

What, then, can be said about the source or active principle of a process that leads to created novelty?

A step toward answering this question is suggested by passages in Whitehead’s Adventures of ideas and Process and Reality. It will be helpful to use this approach to formulate the problem. Whitehead offers an analysis of the factors which function in the self-determination of an actual entity. In his analysis, he discriminates three factors or aspects of the developing process, all of which, acting together, determine the process so that it exhibits a novelty or a character not accounted for by data and principles which were present at the beginning of the process. The three factors he describes are the subject, or the unity of the process; the subjective form, or the manner of development; and the subjective aim, or the final cause of the process. Thus, in the growth of the process, the subject begins to develop in accord with its subjective form, and it is directed by the telos of its subjective aim. However, the manner of development and the initial aim both change as the process develops. The subjective aim at the end of the process is not what it was at the start, and, accordingly, the subjective form must change as the subject evolves.

What regulates the modification which subjective form and subjective aim undergo? Whitehead says that in general the condition for a process must have its reason either in another actual entity or in the subject which is in process (PR 36). The question of source or condition raised here concerns the self-development of a process which yields novelty, or a product not predetermined by prior data; consequently, the answer must be that the subject is the source of determination. And Whitehead affirms this answer. He says that of all the factors which might regulate a change in the subjective aim, it is the subject, out of the spontaneity of its own essence, which is responsible for effecting this evolution (AI 328).

Now, there are two points which this analysis indicates and which are suggestive for the proposal I want to sketch. First, if a creative process begins with a telos and an aiming at an end, even though this end may be vague or only partially determinate, then the creative process begins, at least in part, by virtue of being lured. The process is given thrust and direction because it is a seeking of the aim which attracts it. Secondly, if the unity or subject of a creative process acts out of the spontaneity of its own essence, then it bears a certain kind of responsibility for the directions which its seeking takes. It is this aspect of the process which helps account for why the subjective aim is modified during the evolution of the actual entity.

III. The Notions of Eros and Agape in Understanding Radical Creativity

These two points, that the creative process includes the lure of a telos and that the agent of creativity is responsible for its activity, serve as a basis for the suggestion that self-determination in creative processes can be conceived in terms of two notions familiar to the philosophical tradition: eros and agape.

The chief advantage in calling on these terms in order to bring into focus the integration of telos and spontaneity in creativity is that these two notions are both rich and heuristically powerful. They point to aspects of the phenomenon of creativity in a way -- a metaphorical way, perhaps -- that more technical terms in a longer discussion would not.

It would be foolish to engage here in either a definition or an analysis of the terms, eros and agape. I must hope that their meanings will be evident in the context of the discussion. But a few brief remarks about how eros and agape contrast will be helpful. Eros is love that is expressed by what seeks something more perfect, or more fulfilling, than what is possessed by the lover in the absence of union with the beloved. Thus, eros is expressed by an agent that is relatively dependent on the beloved for fulfillment. Agape, on the other hand, is love expressed by an agent already fulfilled in its own terms, and it is directed not as a seeking but as a concern for the beloved. Agape is not the power to overcome dependence; it is the power to overflow in interdependence toward an other which is not something to be identified with but which may be dependent and in need of the love that overflows. Agape is commonly said to be illustrated by brotherly love or parental love or love for children.

The notion of eros as a dynamic principle in evolutionary processes is relatively easy to see in light of Whitehead’s analysis. To be lured by a final aim is to express eros. The evolving process is a passage from lack to fullness, from the less perfect to perfection -- where perfection is realized in a union of the lover and the beloved in a determinate end which is sought by the subject that loves. The process begins in relative indeterminateness and is directed toward the determinateness of the requirements of the telos which lures it. And eros serves as the dynamic principle which propels the process from the indeterminate condition to the determinate condition that fulfills the process. Although the movement eros introduces depends upon the power of the end which lures it, eros must be an integral component of the source of the process. For the telos taken alone could not impel or activate the process. Just as eros requires the telos to give it direction, eros is required in order that the telos be actualized in the product of the process.

The idea that creative acts may be driven by love in the sense of eros should not seem surprising. Eros has been construed as a power which in itself is not rational, and since creative acts elude rationality, eros seems to be an appropriate source of power for them. Furthermore, one of the key psychological concomitants of creating is an experience of elation like that which accompanies fulfillment of love. It is true that anguish and painful effort are often associated with creativity, yet creative processes have also been described in terms of fulfillment, ecstasy and love. The artist is said to have a love for his work, the scientist loves his subject, the moral reformer loves the values he brings forth for society. In particular, the artist is often said to be compelled to work because he recognizes and finds irresistible an envisaged result, however vague and puzzling that result might seem when he begins to create. And when he achieves the result, he is overcome with a joy like the joy of consummated love.

However, there is reason to insist that the kind of love which operates in creativity cannot be adequately described exclusively in terms of eros. As already suggested, eros requires a dynamic thrust from incompleteness toward completeness, and the basis of this thrust is the end or attraction of the perfection which is desired and sought after. Completion of the process serves the subject. The subject seeks this completeness because of a desire for the attractive nature of the end. If the subject is nonconscious, it is directed toward the end because the end fulfills it. Thus, if eros were the exclusive dynamic principle, of a process, that process would not be creative, for it would not allow for a change in the subject as determined by its initial direction. The subject would appropriate what it lacks, but it would have no way of varying its growth against the background of established goals and patterns of development. Novelty in the intelligible structure of the outcome would be absent. The structure of the process, the manner of developing, and the character of the subject would be predetermined according to the conditioning called for in the telos. The process would evolve in accord with a pattern, as an acorn evolves into an oak tree.

But a creative or self-determining process does not conform to this kind of evolutionary change. As Whitehead points out, the telos of the process itself changes; hence, it could not prestructure the process. Further, at the beginning of a creative process, the subject envisages only a vague and at best partially determinate end. The subject cannot initially seek a perfection or a completeness in an end to be attained at the terminus of the process. The subject must contribute to the constitution and the determinateness and thus the perfection of the goal which attracts it. The subject as well as the telos bears responsibility for the change. The subject must give as it seeks. If a process is creative, then, the subject contributes out of itself to the evolution of its process. Its spontaneity is given direction not because the subject is concerned for itself exclusively or for a predetermined goal which lures it, but because it is concerned for a creature to be in the future. The subject cannot be concerned exclusively for itself in such a process, because at the inception of the process, the character of the subject is not the process determined as it will be at the culmination of the process. Nor can the subject direct its activity in terms of a determinate standard of excellence which can serve as a model for the creation. But the subject must be concerned for a future creature which will or would exemplify an excellence in an end to be realized if the process is or were completed.

The dynamic principle of such self-development must be agape. In those instances in which spontaneity leads to valuable novelty -- that is, in those cases in which the subject is transformed and the final perfection is not given prior to the act of creation -- agape must operate. In creating valuable novelty, a subject is not impelled by a desire to fulfill itself. Instead, it offers itself by permitting its creation to grow in its own terms. Thus, paradoxically, in offering itself, it generates the excellence which, out of agape, it gives to its creature. Creative love must be agapastic.

The defect in eros and the need for agape is also evident in the relation of creative love to disorder and disharmony. In psychological terms, the creator senses disharmony at the inception of the creative process, if only in recognizing the need for something to be done. Moreover, the evolution of structure that takes place in creativity is a change marked by discontinuity. The status quo is overcome. What is intelligible before and at the beginning of the process is inadequate and is transmuted. Traditionally, eros was construed as a unity, driving linearly toward a goal. In this situation, disharmony is present -- the disharmony persisting until lover and beloved are united. But the disharmony is external to eros. Thus Empedocles saw the need for two forces in the cosmos, both love and strife. But love as eros is not directed toward strife; it is directed away from strife. Creative love, on the other hand, is concerned with strife; the creative agent loves strife. It must do so in order to transcend what is given as antecedently intelligible and valuable.

This discussion began with the observation that Peirce offered an insight into speculation about evolution when he introduced the notion of agape as an operative principle. It is in order now to consider what he thought to be the advantage of this insight.

IV. The Need for Agape in Peirce’s Doctrine of Evolution

I said earlier that in his account of evolutionary growth Peirce recognized the need for a condition not included in the other theories of evolution with which he was familiar. This condition he found in agape. It will be helpful to look briefly at ways in which Peirce anticipated the need for agape as a condition in evolution.

Peirce’s sensitivity to the fruitfulness of the notion of agape is foreshadowed in his writing of 1877-78, if not earlier. Although he does not introduce the notion of agape in these early writings, he does lay the basis for it. He characterized the development of thought as a process, each moment of which is transcendent of all predetermined contexts, and as a process that progresses toward new intelligibility.

In his paper, "The Fixation of Belief," he rejected all methods of inquiry which are terminated in conclusions limited by self-fulfillment (5.358-87). The methods of tenacity, authority, and a priori reasoning serve goals defined by restricted standards, standards dependent upon finite inquirers. Only the method of science is other-directed and dependent upon a standard that transcends finite determination. As indicated in "How to Make Our Ideas Clear," this standard consists in a community that has no assignable, actual boundary (5. 388-410). It is the drive toward the realization of this community that guarantees the growth of thought and the survival of mankind itself. At the same time, however, this community remains unknown to the finite mind. It cannot be envisaged as a defined goal, for it remains to be given form and it lies in an infinite future, a future not wholly free of surprises and irregularities within a growing system of laws.

In addition to his insistence on the inadequacy of moments of thought that do not transcend themselves, Peirce also makes it clear that he views the growth of thought in the light of normative conditions. The hypothesis that there are reals and an external permanency is affirmed as a commitment -- a commitment of the kind one makes in marriage. It is a commitment to what one ought to think in order to know what one’s conduct ought to be. This last point is suggested in a number of Peirce’s discussions, particularly in his accounts of the function of the sciences (see, for instance, 1.191) as well as in his references to the goal of rational conduct which is the summum bonum (e.g., 5.4-5, 5.433).

The pattern of development from the limited to a goal that is unbounded and envisaged in an infinite future also can be seen in Peirce’s rejection, in "Some Consequences of Four Incapacities," of Cartesian philosophy, particularly in his opposition to what he took to be the standard of subjectivity (5.263-317). This standard, he thought, was grounded in the finite thinker; hence it was inadequate.

Now, what is important here is that the pattern of development from the finite to the infinite as Peirce defines it can be accounted for by the notion of agape. To see why this is so, we must consider his genetic account of the world, an account that concerns the origin of the universe. Peirce’s discussion of this origin is presented as a metaphysical hypothesis about an initial condition or state prior to evolution itself. It is "a state of things in which that universe [the whole universe of being] did not exist" (6.214). It is the state from which the universe originated.

This initial condition of the universe is not referred to as a state in which either actual being or law reigns. Nor is it clear on Peirce’s account that the initial state is to be identified under the category of firstness, for it is not, since it is prior to the universe, a condition in which chance functions or in which sheer qualitative suchness is manifest phenomenally. Yet it seems to be most readily spoken of in the way firstness is when firstness is considered as a mode of being. The initial state is a pure nothing (6.217). As a pure nothing, it is without determination. Consequently, it cannot be limited or in any way finite. Nor does it either consist in or contain determinate, and thus limited, components. It is not the nothing of negation in the sense of being something which, as something, must be other than another thing. At the same time, however, Peirce insists, it is not a nothingness of inactivity. Here Peirce seems to treat the initial state as real possibility. It is real, first, in that it is not dependent on a mind or a community of minds; it is not dependent on any thing whatsoever for its being. Secondly, it is real in that it cannot be unrealized. It is the possibility not of non-self-contradiction, but of what may exist. It is a condition of actuality. It is pure potentiality. That it is pure potentiality is argued by Peirce when he indicates the grounds for saying that it cannot remain inactive. Peirce says that it must annul itself as nothing, because otherwise it would be idle, "do-nothing potentiality" (6.219). But completely idle potentiality is annulled by its complete idleness. Either it is not completely idle, in which case, it annuls its inactivity, or it is completely idle, in which case it annuls as potentiality, thus generating its own activity. Peirce, then, must assume that pure nothing in some sense is, viz., as potentiality. It must be at least this; otherwise, it would not be an initial state, and no thought or language would apply to it. Thus Peirce treats being as necessarily dynamic. But it is not necessarily dynamic in some specific way. Though it is germinal, foreshadowing the universe, it has no constraint on what is foreshadowed (6.217). What remains for an account of evolution, then, is not to account for a dynamic principle as such, since being dynamic must be taken for granted if anything is to be hypothesized about the origin of the cosmos.

Let me digress for a moment from the main course of the discussion to observe that this last point must be kept in mind as an answer to a possible objection to Peirce’s account. The objection I have in mind is that the initial state is an ideal limit and, as such, is prior to any actual state or process. But this ideal limit for Peirce is not an abstraction. It is what is proposed hypothetically through the articulation of a language that it is in part nonliteral. The thrust of Peirce’s hypothesis is metaphorical, or perhaps, analogical. With such language, he tries to suggest the concrete content of the limit which is an ideal. What he attributes to the initial state is prescinded, and it is based on his three categories.

If my interpretation of Peirce’s discussion of the initial state of the universe is correct, then dynamism is given; and the issue before us is to account for the direction the given dynamism takes. Peirce suggests a beginning for such an account when he indicates that once sporting within the initial state is acknowledged, we are drawn to a consideration of the respects in which sporting occurs. Once determination and thus differentiation is acknowledged, we are drawn to the question of what kinds of differentiation take place. Differentiations occur in directed ways, ways that constitute a pattern in which there is increased orderliness of determinations. How is this to be accounted for? Sheer undifferentiated real possibility cannot account for the direction of its realization. Since the initial state is necessarily non-idle, differentiation is necessary. But there is no necessity that can constrain one direction rather than another.

Nor can the directed change, the orderliness, or developing third-ness, account for itself. Peirce claims that law wants a reason. The laws of nature and their connections present the intelligibility of the universe. But this intelligibility itself is without foundation just insofar as it is claimed to be introduced out of a state of pure potentiality, lacking one or more necessities that have specific directedness. What, then, is the basis for directed development toward new order? What is the source of directed change or ordered tendencies toward law?

Now, it is my contention that Peirce’s discussion of evolutionary love is his answer to this question. Ordered development out of sheer potentiality and spontaneity requires that there be love in the cosmos. Without the principle that love is, there would be nothing operative in the origin and development of the universe which could give it specificity and directed order. However, it is essential to see that such love cannot itself be a law like the laws for which it is responsible. If, as Peirce says, agapasm is the proposition that the law of love is operative, this law could not be a regularity of any specific determinateness (6.302). Laws, Peirce says, cannot ultimately be accounted for by reference to prior laws. Laws cannot produce heterogeneity from homogeneity (6.14). The initial condition of the universe together with the laws that make it intelligible do not yield a system of laws. Thus the tendency to growth must be supposed to have grown from an infinitesimal germ accidentally started (6.202-09). Once this accident has occurred, it is more than accident. It is an event over against what it is not, and regularity is ingredient within it, since it is sustained even if only momentarily, and it thus has an increment of continuity in it (6.203). Further, the initial incident may be sustained long enough to initiate a habit, which is a generalizing tendency (6.204). Out of a complex of such generalizing tendencies, finally, "is differentiated the particular actual universe of existence in which we happen to be" (6.208). The laws of nature, then, are "formed under the influence of a universal tendency of things to take habits" (6.209). This tendency is the foundation of lawfulness and is the product or expression of evolutionary love.

A link between Peirce’s most highly speculative remarks on the origin of the universe and his somewhat less speculative discussion of evolutionary love can be seen in his reasons for considering tychastic and anancastic theories of evolution to be inadequate when taken alone. Briefly, his reasons are as follows. Tychastic evolution depends upon fortuitous deviations, which are arbitrary and require the rejection and sacrifice of some creatures in favor of others. Departures from what is lawful are purposeless, and these departures which set up their own habits establish new lawlessness purposelessly. The anancastic theory is inadequate because it depends upon necessity, which excludes freedom. Its tendency is toward preordained perfection. Developments are constrained, though without the possibility of foreseeing the direction toward which they tend. Tychasm construes evolution as heedless. Anancasm construes it as blind. In contrast, agapastic evolution does not require the sacrifice of any of its deviations. Any deviation may be a creation accepted by positive sympathy. Agapastic evolution is open to free development, neither heedlessly nor blindly, but "by the immediate attraction for the idea itself, whose nature is divined before the mind possesses it, by the power of sympathy, that is, by virtue of the continuity of mind" (6.307). The love that drives the world toward lawfulness provides the world with a tendency between the poles of spontaneity, of indeterminate and unlawful occurrence, and established order. It does so out of sympathy, not for preordained order, but for order as such. Thus Peirce introduced an account of growth that applies to the origin of law from the sheer indeterminate potentiality of the initial condition of the universe.

It is important to emphasize that the creative love which Peirce identifies is different from eros. The operative principle, agape, is not a power or force that constrains or is constrained by precedent or previously conditioned directions. It is dynamic. But it is permissive. Moreover, in its permissiveness it embraces discord. For Peirce, disharmony was integral to evolutionary love. He says that God’s love, agapastic love, embraces and needs hatred. Quoting Henry James, Sr., he says that agapastic love must be "reserved only for what intrinsically is most bitterly hostile and negative to itself" (6.287).

V. A Limitation on Peirce’s Thesis and the Value of His Insight

In spite of Peirce’s insight into the need for agape in evolution, his metaphysical inclinations placed boundaries on the application of his insight. One way in which he limits his insight can be seen in his conception of the connection between discord and agape. Although he viewed disharmony as integral to the function of agape, he remained faithful to his inclination to be an idealist by subsuming disharmony under harmony. The disharmony that is acceptable to agape must be overcome. In this respect Peirce’s agape is inseparable from eros with respect to the goal or final end to be reached by love. And more important, agape, like eros, takes on a unifying function, a function of exfoliating a fundamental continuity of past, present, and future. This continuity is the heart of Peirce’s general doctrine of synechism, under which, as I read him, agapastic evolution must be subsumed. Agape is not pure spontaneity. Rather, it is manifested as directed chance; it is manifest in a teleological continuum.

It should be emphasized, to be sure, that Peirce does not affirm an anancastic teleology. As he suggests in "The Law of Mind" the teleology of the growth of regularities is developmental (6.156). Consequently, the teleological form agapastic evolution takes includes a spontaneity and both a giving and a surrendering of lawfulness -- a lawfulness which must be determined by other conditions that are independent of agape, and which are defined subsequently to its agapastic act. This is why Peirce says that agapastic evolution consists in a bestowal by parents on offspring of spontaneous energy. To the extent that this characterization of evolution is emphasized, Peirce does seem to leave room for the possibility of discord.

However, Peirce also says that it is the disposition of the offspring to catch the general idea [the lawful process] of those about it and thus to subserve the general purpose (6.303). Further, he speaks of the movement of evolutionary love as circular; it is a projecting of independency and a drawing of created products into a harmony (6.288). In saying that agape is circular, Peirce reminds us that agape introduces direction into the universe. In being permissive, it is not blind. Its sights are on harmony -- and a specific harmony to be defined by its creatures.

On the cosmic scale, Peirce’s agapism in part accommodates the characterization of radical creativity suggested earlier. It offers a way of speaking about a source which spontaneously yields new intelligibility. The source of this kind of novelty cannot be preconditioned, and it cannot itself precondition or constrain. It must let its creatures establish their own intelligibility. It establishes a distance between itself and its creation. Yet it is concerned with or aimed at the good of its creation.

On the cosmic scale, the intelligibility that agape originates is a harmony; it is an orderliness of continuities among things and events. In this respect, agape is circular, since it permits what it loves to be like itself insofar as it is a tendency toward lawfulness in general, i.e., insofar as it is a harmony. Cosmic love is permissive and giving of itself as a grand movement that is inevitably reflected in the orderliness of particular creatures.

It must be emphasized, however, that what has been said applies to creativity on the cosmic scale. In the context of finite creative acts, the creator’s love cannot have the same structure that agape has in the context of the cosmos. It cannot be permissive in the same way as cosmic creative love. The contrast between cosmic agape and finite individual creative love was not explored by Peirce. In my final remarks, I should like to consider this contrast. These remarks will indicate that Peirce’s notion of agape must be modified when applied to finite contexts within the cosmos.

The finite creator is responsible, not only for accepting disorder and for openness to developing tendencies to lawfulness in general and thus to intelligibility, but also for actual specifications of this tendency and of the order it reaches in individual outcomes. This responsibility requires that an element of eros be an ingredient of finite, creative love. The relation between eros and agape may be seen more clearly if we notice the role agape plays in the Christian tradition. In this tradition God has been thought of as creating out of agape which he has for his creatures. In this context, the Creator has been considered to be a Supreme Being, omnipotent and omniscient. Consequently there is a basic difference between this general notion in the tradition and the notion of agape in finite creativity. The creative process which we are considering is constituted by specific aims and finite acts. If agape is operative in such finite processes, then the creator could not be omnipotent or omniscient. Whether or not one insists on the supremacy of God as a Creator, my contention is that there are also finite agencies and events in the world which manifest creative spontaneity. Peirce seems to believe this, too, since he views agape as spreading among the creatures who participate in creative evolution, and he speaks of the genius as one who acts agapastically as an individual rather than as a community. Let me suggest, too, that Whitehead similarly insists on finite creativity, though in different words, when he says that "all actual entities share with God" and that they have the "characteristic of self-causation" (PR 339).

Now, the presence of creative love in finite creatures is paradoxical. As was pointed out a moment ago, because the agape in question is a principle of finite creative agents, the agapastic love of these agents must be infected by eros. A subject functioning agapastically directs its concern toward its creature. But both the creature and the creative agent are incomplete during creation. The creator is not fully what it must be as a source responsible for its creation. Its power lacks the determination necessary to specify the criteria of the creature to be created. Its permissiveness, unlike the cosmic creative force, does not flow from a fullness. Its permissiveness is limited. Hence, it seeks while it gives. The creative agent is directed in eros away from its initial state toward a perfection. Yet is not directed in some given way toward the specific end it will achieve. It seeks something more specific than sheer intelligibility, or regularity -- but it knows not what. As it develops, through its own spontaneity, it generates some particular direction and purpose. And as it does this, it generates its gift to its creature. As it forms the product, it forms the standards which serve as the model for the creation.

The point I am trying to make is consistent with Peirce’s reference to the agapastic relationship of the creative agent to its creatures as circular, "at one end the same impulse projecting creations into independency and drawing them into harmony" (6.288). But there is a difference between this circularity when we consider cosmic love and when we consider finite love.

Universal agape engages in a closed circle; harmony gives way to diversity which is transformed back into general harmony. Finite agape engages in an open circle, giving way to specific order that is other than the order of the giver.

It should be pointed out here that Peirce’s view of the circularity of cosmic agape is consistent with the overarching thesis of synechism which embraces agapasticism. Thus, he says, "Love, recognizing germs of loveliness in the hateful, gradually warms it into life, and makes it lovely. That is the sort of evolution which every careful student of my essay ‘The Law of Mind’ must see that synechism calls for" (6.289). In the final analysis, then, Peirce is committed to a fundamental continuity to which are subjected all departures from law, and all leaps from the established to what is novel. Novelty, after all, is submerged in the continuity of the world and the final whole realizable in an infinite future. Although Peirce does insist that there is divergence from law and increasing variety in the world, and that at no time in the finite future will there be no aberrancy from law (6.91), he also insists that growth is continually expanding into law and that if we were to reach a point in the infinitely distant future, we would have reached a state of no indeterminacy or chance but a complete reign of law (6.33). Synechism, Peirce’s fundamental "regulative principle of logic," requires the ideal removal of novelty from the world (6.173). But when we apply the notion of agape to finite contexts, the subjection of novelty to fundamental continuity cannot be appealed to without admitting a radical appeal to a context far removed from cosmic creation. The order, the valuable novelty, for which the finite creator is responsible is not general harmony, but a specific order, and an order that may, in the context of what is finite, stand in disharmony with its past. It is significant that if there is such discord, there are more severe demands placed on the finite creator than on the cosmic creator. The cosmic creator loves disorder within a larger context in which discord is assuaged. The finite creator does not have the benefit of this context. The finite creator must love discord without benefit of envisaging a place for the discord within a larger harmony.

The mixture of eros and agape deserves much closer examination. However, the chief purpose of the point I am trying to make has been served. I have tried to emphasize the reason agape is both relevant and essential in an account of creative evolution at the level of both the cosmic and the finite. It is to Peirce’s credit to have revealed a fundamental insight in introducing agape as a dynamic principle.

Let me conclude with a brief suggestion about the conceptual utility of Peirce’s view. There are two ways the notion of agape as applied to creative activity is conceptually helpful. First, further development of the proposal that agape functions in evolution, and specifically in finite creative processes, would provide a general framework within which distinctively creative processes can be related to other processes. It is significant that provision for such a framework was also one of Whitehead’s aims in his process philosophy. The difference between the conceptual function of Peirce’s view and the metaphysics of Whitehead lies in the kind of focus each gives to spontaneity. For Whitehead, creativity, in the final analysis, is an ultimate category. As such, it is inexplicable, and whatever can be said about it takes the form of illustration. Further, as an ultimate category, creativity for Whitehead must be present in some degree in every process. Every subject of an actual entity determines itself from its own essence. Creative acts are illustrated everywhere. As an account of spontaneity, Peirce’s view leaves creativity just as inexplicable as does Whitehead’s category of creativity. However, in proposing that agape is the principle of creativity, Peirce attempted to show that specific instances of spontaneity can be the responsibility of an operative principle, agape, which specifically functions creatively. Peirce did not propose agapism as a premise, but rather as a hypothesis based on both inference and the experience of love. Thus, a metaphysics based on a notion of agape as suggested by Peirce, when applied to finite contexts, has its sights directly on what is manifest as distinctively creative rather than what is manifest everywhere in change. Peirce points to the importance of viewing creativity in a developmental teleology -- a teleology in which new intelligibility can develop. And such a metaphysics requires more than a general category of creativity. It requires the presence in the world of a special dynamic principle, agape, which is especially meaningful, if not fully understandable, in concrete instances of the origin of new intelligibility. Whether Whitehead’s conceptual framework is like Peirce’s and includes interesting question. But this question is a topic which deserves major study.

There is another, more immediately applicable way in which the notion of agape introduced here is preferable to the use of the notion of eros in accounting for creativity. The suggestion may point us to a clue about certain traits in human personality which are necessary conditions of creativity. Thus, a person incapable of agape would not be expected to create. If the dynamism of his life were that of eros, he might grow and develop and achieve valuable results in his activities. But he would not achieve novelty through his actions, for, put simply, he would only achieve excellencies which are already determinate. On the other hand, if he were capable of agape, he might be capable of creativity. His seeking could be for something more than ends which are operative prior to his seeking. His motives could transcend utilitarian ends -- a desire for wealth or, to recall a thesis of Freud’s, a desire for love and fame. This is not to say that predetermined ends and that wealth, love, and fame might not be conditions of his activity. Eros would function in his life. But unless he were driven by more than eros, then he would not, out of the spontaneity of his own essence, be directed toward valuable novelty. Unless he were a source of agape, he would not be radically creative.



All references to Peirce’s writings have been cited according to volume number followed by paragraph number of the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985).

1. Carl H. Hausman. "Spontaneity: Its Arationality and Its Reality," International Philosophical Quarterly 4/1 (February, 1964), 20-47.