Chapter 19. First grace: idle questions

Some questions seem idle, but leave me restless. Such as,

“Isn’t there a connection between photography and ethics?”

That question is not rhetorical, not as if one is already clear on the relationship between one and the other. At most it is a curious hunch. It is an invitation to research, to interrogate.

Yet the very posing of the question already *gifts* the relation between photography (or the sign vehicle) and the ethical ( or the signified). The questioning, particularly when ongoing, is the interpretant, connecting or relating one to the other, pointing one to the other.

The questioning is the gifting interpretant. It is a gift because the relating of photography and ethics follows not any evidential logic; it is completely unnecessary.  There is no deductive implication which necessarily fetches such relating.  Nothing, as yet, demonstrates that photography does relate with ethics. Such questioning simply holds up the two (sign and signified) and relates them, precisely through that conscious “holding up”, performatively. (This has already been established in Chapter 18. “Infallible Propositions”)

Our capacity for questioning, and hence, performative semiosis, is our capacity for gifting, for agapastic connectings.

Again, if such research or interrogation is not coerced, if the gifting and performative semiosis is not compelled, and if instead, the question is received freely, willingly, then: the posing of the question (which is distinguished from the ongoing questioning), our very willingness or interest or desire to pose the question is indeed like first grace. It is that which initiates the semiosis. Against any inertia, any refusal to wonder, the beginning to wonder, “how are these connected?” is itself a gift, that grace, that agapic initiation into the semiotic relationship which one gifts, agapastically.  One gives, only because one has been given.

Unlike hypothetical or contingent, obedient questioning due for an assignment or as part of a skeptical challenge, categorical hobbyist wonder is like first grace. Why is it that we can wonder?  Such wondering is completely uncalled for. It’s not as if the connection is already established or obvious, so that there might be a hint, scientifically, of that relation, and hence of the question.  Without grasping that relation, the question seems completely arbitrary.  It is not the same as an inductive leap from some recurring patterns. Here, we are posing that question, and then, looking for patterns. Rather, from nothing, that question, that curious hunch, arises. It interests me to think: “what is the relationship between x and y?” It – such wonder – is first grace.

That first grace is sufficient: if pursued (in corporation with such wonder) the proposition which has been posed as a question, as something to wonder, is infallibly true, as has been said above.