The pattern that connects (Bateson) is also the pattern that creates, the sign that determines the form of existing things or systems. We discover these patterns by observing that similar beings have similar origins.

All natural classification is then essentially, we may almost say, an attempt to find out the true genesis of the objects classified. But by genesis must be understood, not the efficient action which produces the whole by producing the parts, but the final action which produces the parts because they are needed to make the whole. Genesis is production from ideas. It may be difficult to understand how this is true in the biological world, though there is proof enough that it is so. But in regard to science it is a proposition easily enough intelligible. A science is defined by its problem; and its problem is clearly formulated on the basis of abstracter science.

— Peirce, CP 1.227 (1902)

In biology, the genetic ‘idea’ is more recently called the genotype, and we now have a better understanding of its role in producing organisms classified by phenotype. But many biologists still do not see these as types in the Peircean sense, which here he calls ‘ideas’:

All classification, whether artificial or natural, is the arrangement of objects according to ideas. A natural classification is the arrangement of them according to those ideas from which their existence results. No greater merit can a taxonomist have than that of having his eyes open to the ideas in nature; no more deplorable blindness can afflict him than that of not seeing that there are ideas in nature which determine the existence of objects.

— Peirce, CP 1.231 (1902)

Thinking Through the Imagination

John Kaag’s 2014 book Thinking Through the Imagination explores the imaginative side of cognition in a manner complementary to Turning Signs, drawing upon Peirce’s insights regarding esthetics and abduction, and upon recent neuroscience to explain how these creative aspects of mind are embodied in the functional dynamics of the brain. Continue reading Thinking Through the Imagination

Inner authority

Peirce observes that ‘one of the main purposes of studying history ought to be to free us from the tyranny of our preconceived notions’ (EP2:114). The same goes for the study of scriptures; the purpose of revelation and discovery alike is to free us from confinement in a cognitive bubble. Turning symbols can liberate us in this way, but only if we can free ourselves from our preconceived notions of their value and authority, and give due respect to artistic and cultural creativity. Continue reading Inner authority


And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures that He has scattered through them: and He has power to gather them together when He wills.

Qur’án 42.29 (Yusuf Ali)

To ‘gather them together’ is to un-differentiate them, i.e. to uncreate them. On the other hand, the scattering is only through physical spacetime. In eternal meaning space, the myriad beings together now constitute the Living One, the buddha-nature, the Universe of Firstness. And since the world is inside out, each individual is a recreation of that singularity. ‘The entire universe suffers the pangs of a new creation in and through a person’s existence’ (Kim 1975, 172, after Dogen).