updated 6 November 2019
Abbreviations for citing Peirce's works
Selections from Peirce
Peirce works on this site:
Peirce (1839-1914; the name is pronounced like purse), considered by many the greatest American philosopher, laid the groundwork for both pragmatism and semiotics, the science of signs. As many of the crucial concepts in my own work Turning Signs have been ‘mined’ from Peirce's work, i've put this page together to help others get some sense of the whole of that work.
Peirce was and is recognized for his contributions to physical science and mathematics, but considered himself primarily a logician, for whom logic and semiotic are the same discipline.
Logic is a branch of philosophy. That is to say it is an experiential, or positive science, but a science which rests on no special observations, made by special observational means, but on phenomena which lie open to the observation of every man, every day and hour.
Peirce's work is very systematic and does not lend itself to being quoted out of context. On this and the other Peirce pages on this site (listed above), i present some of the longer passages from which i have quoted in my own work, so that readers might begin to develop their own understanding of Peircean terms and concepts apart from my uses of them. This page might also serve as a gateway to a more intensive study of Peirce — which is well worth the effort, in my opinion — so i have listed here the resources i have found most useful for that purpose: standard print sources, internet sources, and secondary print sources.
EP1 and EP2: The most comprehensive selection of Peirce's work now available to the average reader is The Essential Peirce: Volume 1 (1867-1893) and Volume 2 (1893-1913), edited by the Peirce Edition Project and published by Indiana University Press (1992 and 1998).
W: Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition, edited by the Peirce Edition Project and published by Indiana University Press beginning in 1982. This is now the standard scholarly edition of Peirce's works, but as of December 2009 only Volumes 1–6 and 8 have appeared, covering Peirce's works through 1892 (Vol. 7 will be devoted to Century Dictionary entries). Each volume includes a lengthy introduction relating Peirce's works to his life, and plenty of annotation. Online access to Volumes 1-6 is also available from Intelex. The PEP website gives lots of useful information on this edition. In citations, W6:123 refers to Volume 6, page 123.
CP: The Collected Papers, Vols. I-VI ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931-1935), Vols. VII-VIII ed. Arthur W. Burks (same publisher, 1958) — currently the most extensive collection containing works from all periods of Peirce's life, but the arrangement is by topic rather than chronological, and the editors often scattered parts of a single manuscript into different sections among the 8 volumes. Access to the whole as an online database can be purchased from InteLex. In citations, CP 8.123 refers to Volume 8, paragraph 123. (Sometimes this is followed by the year when Peirce wrote the text).
NEM: The New Elements of Mathematics, Vols. I-IV, ed. Carolyn Eisele (Mouton, 1976) is a voluminous collection of previously unpublished works by Peirce related to mathematics. Difficult to find in print, outside of university libraries. In citations, ‘NEM3, 234’ refers to Volume III, p. 234.
SS: Semiotic and Significs, the correspondence (1903-1912) between Peirce and Victoria Welby, edited (1977) by Charles Hardwick — includes a very readable summary by Peirce of his work on semiotics, and an introduction to existential graphs, along with an introduction to Welby's ‘significs’ and biographical context (both were in the final decade of their lives). Some of these letters are online at the Grupo de Estudios Peirceanos website.
MS and R: Many of Peirce's manuscripts remain unpublished in book form, but diligent scholarly work is making images and transcriptions of them available on the internet, notably through SPIN project. Most scholars cite them using the MS numbers assigned by Richard Robin, sometimes preceded by “R” instead of “MS”. See the top three sources on this list for more information on manuscript numbering.
RLT: Reasoning and the Logic of Things is the title of the Cambridge Lecture series given by Peirce in 1898. Parts of the series have been published in EP2 and (widely scattered) in CP, but the complete edition edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner (1992), with its introduction and extensive commentary by Ketner and Hilary Putnam, puts it back together.
HL: Peirce's Harvard Lectures on Pragmatism (1903) are included in EP (and CP), but the 1997 edition by Patricia Ann Turrisi, Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking, also includes some draft material that Peirce decided not to deliver (mostly for lack of time), along with Turrisi's commentary.
ILS: Illustrations of the Logic of Science, edited by Cornelis de Waal (2014): The Illustrations first appeared in the Popular Science Monthly in 1877–78, but Peirce later revised and added to them. This edition supplements the originally published articles with selections from the manuscripts containing proposed additions and revisions, many made near the end of Peirce's life.
PM: Philosophy of Mathematics, Selected Writings, edited (2010) by Matthew E. Moore (includes a few items not found in the other sources listed here).
BD: J.M. Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology (2 volumes, Macmillan, 1901/2) also contains many entries by Peirce. Some of these, and a list of the rest, are given here on my Peirce/Baldwin page, along with links to a scan of the entire Dictionary viewable through www.archive.org. Cited by title of entry in ‘quotation marks’.
CD: The Century Dictionary, a massive reference work (first edition 1889, Supplement 1909, final edition 1914) contains many thousands of definitions by Peirce. The words he defined are listed alphabetically on the website of the Université du Québec à Montréal, where a branch of the Peirce Edition Project is preparing a volume of the Writings (W7) entirely devoted to those definitions. For an article on Peirce's CD work, see the Peirce Project Newsletter 3:1 (1999). The entire CD is now online in a searchable format. Cited by title of entry in ‘quotation marks’.
Justus Buchler's edition of Philosophical Writings of Peirce (Dover, 1955) is adequate as a very inexpensive selection of Peirce's work.
A relation is a fact about a number of things. Thus the fact that a locomotive blows off steam constitutes a relation, or more accurately a relationship (the Century Dictionary, under relation, 3, gives the terminology. See also relativity, etc.) between the locomotive and the steam. In reality, every fact is a relation. Thus, that an object is blue consists of the peculiar regular action of that object on human eyes. This is what should be understood by the ‘relativity of knowledge.’
Not only is every fact really a relation, but your thought of the fact implicitly represents it as such. Thus, when you think ‘this is blue,’ the demonstrative ‘this’ shows you are thinking of something just brought up to your notice; while the adjective shows that you recognise a familiar idea as applicable to it. Thus, your thought, when explicated, develops into the thought of a fact concerning this thing and concerning the character of blueness. Still, it must be admitted that, antecedently to the unwrapping of your thought, you were not actually thinking of blueness as a distinct object, and therefore were not thinking of the relation as a relation. There is an aspect of every relation under which it does not appear as a relation. Thus, the blowing off of steam by a locomotive may be regarded as merely an action of the locomotive, the steam not being conceived to be a thing distinct from the engine. This aspect we enphrase in saying, ‘the engine blows.’— CP 3.416-17 (1892)
The great difference between the logic of relatives and ordinary logic is that the former regards the form of relation in all its generality and in its different possible species while the latter is tied down to the matter of the single special relation of similarity. The result is that every doctrine and conception of logic is wonderfully generalized, enriched, beautified, and completed in the logic of relatives.
Thus, the ordinary logic has a great deal to say about genera and species, or in our nineteenth century dialect, about classes. Now, a class is a set of objects comprising all that stand to one another in a special relation of similarity. But where ordinary logic talks of classes the logic of relatives talks of systems. A system is a set of objects comprising all that stand to one another in a group of connected relations. Induction according to ordinary logic rises from the contemplation of a sample of a class to that of the whole class; but according to the logic of relatives it rises from the contemplation of a fragment of a system to the envisagement of the complete system.
Peirce identified this more complete kind of logic with semiotic. CP 2.227 (c. 1897):
Logic, in its general sense, is, as I believe I have shown, only another name for semiotic (σημειωτικη), the quasi-necessary, or formal, doctrine of signs. By describing the doctrine as ‘quasi-necessary,’ or formal, I mean that we observe the characters of such signs as we know, and from such an observation, by a process which I will not object to naming Abstraction, we are led to statements, eminently fallible, and therefore in one sense by no means necessary, as to what must be the characters of all signs used by a ‘scientific’ intelligence, that is to say, by an intelligence capable of learning by experience. As to that process of abstraction, it is itself a sort of observation. The faculty which I call abstractive observation is one which ordinary people perfectly recognize, but for which the theories of philosophers sometimes hardly leave room. It is a familiar experience to every human being to wish for something quite beyond his present means, and to follow that wish by the question, ‘Should I wish for that thing just the same, if I had ample means to gratify it?’ To answer that question, he searches his heart, and in doing so makes what I term an abstractive observation. He makes in his imagination a sort of skeleton diagram, or outline sketch, of himself, considers what modifications the hypothetical state of things would require to be made in that picture, and then examines it, that is, observes what he has imagined, to see whether the same ardent desire is there to be discerned. By such a process, which is at bottom very much like mathematical reasoning, we can reach conclusions as to what would be true of signs in all cases, so long as the intelligence using them was scientific. The modes of thought of a God, who should possess an intuitive omniscience superseding reason, are put out of the question. Now the whole process of development among the community of students of those formulations by abstractive observation and reasoning of the truths which must hold good of all signs used by a scientific intelligence is an observational science, like any other positive science, notwithstanding its strong contrast to all the special sciences which arises from its aiming to find out what must be and not merely what is in the actual world.
Note the ambiguity here in the word ‘necessary.’ Logic is about what ‘must be’ in the latter sense above, and is therefore often contrasted by Peirce to psychology, a ‘special’ science which aims to explain what goes on in the mind/brain by reasoning from empirical observations — and therefore must call upon logic (tacitly at least) to guide its reasoning. The ‘skeleton diagram’ of oneself mentioned above is an icon, the only kind of sign which can be deliberately used to discover new truths about its object, as in mathematics (CP 2.279, c. 1895):
Turning now to the rhetorical evidence, it is a familiar fact that there are such representations as icons. Every picture (however conventional its method) is essentially a representation of that kind. So is every diagram, even although there be no sensuous resemblance between it and its object, but only an analogy between the relations of the parts of each. Particularly deserving of notice are icons in which the likeness is aided by conventional rules. Thus, an algebraic formula is an icon, rendered such by the rules of commutation, association, and distribution of the symbols. It may seem at first glance that it is an arbitrary classification to call an algebraic expression an icon; that it might as well, or better, be regarded as a compound conventional sign. But it is not so. For a great distinguishing property of the icon is that by the direct observation of it other truths concerning its object can be discovered than those which suffice to determine its construction. Thus, by means of two photographs a map can be drawn, etc. Given a conventional or other general sign of an object, to deduce any other truth than that which it explicitly signifies, it is necessary, in all cases, to replace that sign by an icon. This capacity of revealing unexpected truth is precisely that wherein the utility of algebraical formulae consists, so that the iconic character is the prevailing one.
When Peirce described himself as a logician, his ‘general conception of logic was closer to modern-day philosophy of science, together with epistemology and philosophical logic, than to today's mathematical logic’; mathematics was only a subdiscipline within logic, which ‘he came to regard as a normative science concerned with intellectual goodness, and, in his most developed view, it is coextensive with semiotic, which constitutes the very heart of philosophy’ (Nathan Houser, EP1:xxx).
424. In order to understand why this system of expression has the construction it has, it is indispensable to grasp the precise purpose of it, and not to confuse this with four other purposes, to wit:
First, although the study of it and practice with it will be highly useful in helping to train the mind to accurate thinking, still that consideration has not had any influence in determining the characters of the signs employed; and an exposition of it, which should have that aim, ought to be based upon psychological researches of which it is impossible here to take account.
Second, this system is not intended to serve as a universal language for mathematicians or other reasoners, like that of Peano.
Third, this system is not intended as a calculus, or apparatus by which conclusions can be reached and problems solved with greater facility than by more familiar systems of expression. Although some writers have studied the logical algebras invented by me with that end apparently in view, in my own opinion their structure, as well as that of the present system, is quite antagonistic to much utility of that sort. The principal desideratum in a calculus is that it should be able to pass with security at one bound over a series of difficult inferential steps. What these abbreviated inferences may best be, will depend upon the special nature of the subject under discussion. But in my algebras and graphs, far from anything of that sort being attempted, the whole effort has been to dissect the operations of inference into as many distinct steps as possible.
Fourth, although there is a certain fascination about these graphs, and the way they work is pretty enough, yet the system is not intended for a plaything, as logical algebra has sometimes been made, but has a very serious purpose which I proceed to explain.
425. Admirable as the work of research of the special sciences — physical and psychical — is, as a whole, the reasoning [employed in them] is of an elementary kind except when it is mathematical, and it is not infrequently loose. The philosophical sciences are greatly inferior to the special sciences in their reasoning. Mathematicians alone reason with great subtlety and great precision. But hitherto nobody has succeeded in giving a thoroughly satisfactory logical analysis of the reasoning of mathematics. That is to say, although every step of the reasoning is evidently such that the collective premisses cannot be true and yet the conclusion false, and although for each such step, A, we are able to draw up a self-evident general rule that from a premiss of such and such a form such and such a form of conclusion will necessarily follow, this rule covering the particular inferential step, A, yet nobody has drawn up a complete list of such rules covering all mathematical inferences. It is true that mathematics has its calculus which solves problems by rules which are fully proved; but, in the first place, for some branches of the calculus those proofs have not been reduced to self-evident rules, and in the second place, it is only routine work which can be done by simply following the rules of the calculus, and every considerable step in mathematics is performed in other ways.
426. If we consult the ordinary treatises on logic for an account of necessary reasoning, all the help that they afford is the rules of syllogism. They pretend that ordinary syllogism explains the reasoning of mathematics; and books have professed to exhibit considerable parts of the reasoning of the first book of Euclid's Elements stated in the form of syllogisms. But if this statement is examined, it will be found that it represents transformations of statements to be made that are not reduced to strict syllogistic form; and on examination it will be found that it is precisely in these transformations that the whole gist of the reasoning lies. The nearest approach to a logical analysis of mathematical reasoning that has ever been made was Schröder's statement, with improvements, in a logical algebra of my invention, of Dedekind's reasoning (itself in a sort of logical form) concerning the foundations of arithmetic. But though this relates only to an exceptionally simple kind of mathematics, my opinion — quite against my natural leanings toward my own creation — is that the soul of the reasoning has even here not been caught in the logical net.
428. There is reason to believe that a thorough understanding of the nature of mathematical reasoning would lead to great improvements in mathematics. For when a new discovery is made in mathematics, the demonstration first found is almost always replaced later by another much simpler. Now it may be expected that, if the reasoning were thoroughly understood, the unnecessary complications of the first proof would be eliminable at once. Indeed, one might expect that the shortest route would be taken at the outset. Then again, consider the state of topical geometry, or geometrical topics, otherwise called topology. Here is a branch of geometry which not only leaves out of consideration the proportions of the different dimensions of figures and the magnitudes of angles (as does also graphics, or projective geometry — perspective, etc.) but also leaves out of account the straightness or mode of curvature of lines and the flatness or mode of bending of surfaces, and confines itself entirely to the connexions of the parts of figures (distinguishing, for example, a ring from a ball). Ordinary metric geometry equally depends on the connections of parts; but it depends on much besides. It, therefore, is a far more complicated subject, and can hardly fail to be of its own nature much the more difficult. And yet geometrical topics stands idle with problems to all appearance very simple staring it unsolved in the face, merely because mathematicians have not found out how to reason about it. Now a thorough understanding of mathematical reasoning must be a long stride toward enabling us to find a method of reasoning about this subject as well, very likely, as about other subjects that are not even recognized to be mathematical.
429. This, then, is the purpose for which my logical algebras were designed but which, in my opinion, they do not sufficiently fulfill. The present system of existential graphs is far more perfect in that respect, and has already taught me much about mathematical reasoning. Whether or not it will explain all mathematical inferences is not yet known.
Our purpose, then, is to study the workings of necessary inference. What we want, in order to do this, is a method of representing diagrammatically any possible set of premisses, this diagram to be such that we can observe the transformation of these premisses into the conclusion by a series of steps each of the utmost possible simplicity.
430. What we have to do, therefore, is to form a perfectly consistent method of expressing any assertion diagrammatically. The diagram must then evidently be something that we can see and contemplate. Now what we see appears spread out as upon a sheet. Consequently our diagram must be drawn upon a sheet. We must appropriate a sheet to the purpose, and the diagram drawn or written on the sheet is to express an assertion. We can, then, approximately call this sheet our sheet of assertion. The entire graph, or all that is drawn on the sheet, is to express a proposition, which the act of writing is to assert.
431. But what are our assertions to be about? The answer must be that they are to be about an arbitrarily hypothetical universe, a creation of a mind. For it is necessary reasoning alone that we intend to study; and the necessity of such reasoning consists in this, that not only does the conclusion happen to be true of a pre-determinate universe, but will be true, so long as the premisses are true, howsoever the universe may subsequently turn out to be determined. Thus, conformity to an existing, that is, entirely determinate, universe does not make necessity, which consists in what always will be, that is, what is determinately true of a universe not yet entirely determinate. Physical necessity consists in the fact that whatever may happen will conform to a law of nature; and logical necessity, which is what we have here to deal with, consists of something being determinately true of a universe not entirely determinate as to what is true, and thus not existent. In order to fix our ideas, we may imagine that there are two persons, one of whom, called the grapheus, creates the universe by the continuous development of his idea of it, every interval of time during the process adding some fact to the universe, that is, affording justification for some assertion, although, the process being continuous, these facts are not distinct from one another in their mode of being, as the propositions, which state some of them, are. As fast as this process in the mind of the grapheus takes place, that which is thought acquires being, that is, perfect definiteness, in the sense that the effect of what, is thought in any lapse of time, however short, is definitive and irrevocable; but it is not until the whole operation of creation is complete that the universe acquires existence, that is, entire determinateness, in the sense that nothing remains undecided. The other of the two persons concerned, called the graphist, is occupied during the process of creation in making successive modifications (i.e., not by a continuous process, since each modification, unless it be final, has another that follows next after it), of the entire graph. Remembering that the entire graph is whatever is, at any time, expressed in this system on the sheet of assertion, we may note that before anything has been drawn on the sheet, the blank is, by that definition, a graph. It may be considered as the expression of whatever must be well-understood between the graphist and the interpreter of the graph before the latter can understand what to expect of the graph. There must be an interpreter, since the graph, like every sign founded on convention, only has the sort of being that it has if it is interpreted; for a conventional sign is neither a mass of ink on a piece of paper or any other individual existence, nor is it an image present to consciousness, but is a special habit or rule of interpretation and consists precisely in the fact that certain sorts of ink spots — which I call its replicas — will have certain effects on the conduct, mental and bodily, of the interpreter. So, then, the blank of the blank sheet may be considered as expressing that the universe, in process of creation by the grapheus, is perfectly definite and entirely determinate, etc. Hence, even the first writing of a graph on the sheet is a modification of the graph already written. The business of the graphist is supposed to come to an end before the work of creation is accomplished. He is supposed to be a mind-reader to such an extent that he knows some (perhaps all) the creative work of the grapheus so far as it has gone, but not what is to come. What he intends the graph to express concerns the universe as it will be when it comes to exist. If he risks an assertion for which he has no warrant in what the grapheus has yet thought, it may or may not prove true.
Peirce's development of existential graphs reached its greatest complexity in a 1906 article in the Monist entitled ‘Prolegomena to an Apology for Pragmaticism’ (also on this website). One section of it also clarifies the concepts of Mind, Quasi-mind, Thought and Sign.
3. A representation in thought or language of an act of the mind in thinking a quality or general sign, termed a predicate, to be applicable to something indicated, and termed a subject. This connecting of predicate and subject may range from a mental necessity to a mere impulse to look at a certain possibility. These differences are called differences in the mode, or modality, of the proposition, according to which, as ordinarily stated, propositions are either de inesse (that is, the mode is not considered) or modal, and in this case problematical, contingent, or apodictic. The modality may properly be said to affect the copula, or form of junction of the predicate and subject. The predicate, logically speaking, embraces the whole representation of the quality of the fact. Thus, in the proposition ‘Elijah was caught up to heaven,’ the grammatical predicate is ‘was caught up to heaven’; but the logical predicate includes the whole picture which the sentence conveys — that of a man caught up to heaven. The predicate, however, is not a mere picture; it views the fact represented analytically, and distinguishes certain objects as identical with the subjects. There may be only one subject, or, if the predicate expresses a relation, there may be several. These subjects cannot be sufficiently indicated by any general description, but only by a real junction with experience, as by a finger-pointing. In ordinary language they are for the most part but imperfectly expressed. In whatever way they are represented, they can commonly (in the last analysis always) be set forth in classes only; from such a class the subject meant is to be taken in one or other of three ways: first, by a suitable selection, so as to render the proposition true; secondly, by taking any one, no matter which; thirdly, by taking no matter what one among a selected proportion of those which present themselves in experience. The first mode of selection gives a particular proposition, as ‘An object can be selected which is a man caught up to heaven’; the second mode gives a universal proposition, as ‘Take any object you please in this world, and it is not a man caught up to heaven’; the third mode gives a statistical proposition, as ‘Half the human beings in the world are women.’ If there are several subjects, the order of their selection is often important. Thus, it is one thing to say that having taken any man you please a woman can be found who was his mother, and quite another to say that a woman can be found such that, whatever man you select, that woman was that man's mother. Several of the distinctions between propositions found in the old treatises are based on distinctions between the different categories (or, in modern logical language, universes) from which the subjects are understood to be drawn. Such is the distinction between a categorical proposition, whose subject is denoted by a noun, and a hypothetical proposition, whose subject is a hypothetical state of things denoted by a sentence. Such is also the distinction between a synthetical proposition, whose subject is drawn from the world of real experience, and may suitably be denoted by a concrete noun, and an analytic proposition, whose subject is drawn from a world of ideas, and may suitably be denoted by an abstract noun. Propositions are further distinguished according to the forms of their predicates; but these distinctions, unlike those already noticed, merely concern the form under which the proposition happens to be thought or expressed, and do not concern its substance. The predicates of propositions are either simple, negative, or compound; and in the latter case they may conveniently be considered (by a slight fiction) as either disjunctive or conjunctive.
The first thing to be taken into consideration is the general upshot of Kant's Critic of the Pure Reason. The first step of Kant's thought — the first moment of it, if you like that phraseology — is to recognize that all our knowledge is, and forever must be, relative to human experience and to the nature of the human mind. That conception being well digested, the second moment of the reasoning becomes evident, namely, that as soon as it has been shown concerning any conception that it is essentially involved in the very forms of logic or other forms of knowing, from that moment there can no longer be any rational hesitation about fully accepting that conception as valid for the universe of our possible experience. To repeat an example I have given before, you look at an object and say ‘That is red.’ I ask you how you prove that. You tell me you see it. Yes, you see something; but you do not see that it is red; because that it is red is a proposition; and you do not see a proposition. What you see is an image and has no resemblance to a proposition, and there is no logic in saying that your proposition is proved by the image. For a proposition can only be logically based on a premiss and a premiss is a proposition. To this you very properly reply, with Kant's aid, that my objections allege what is perfectly true, but that instead of showing that you have no right to say the thing is red they conclusively prove that you are logically justified in doing so. At this point, the idealist appears before the tribunal of your reason with the suggestion that since these metaphysical conceptions, that repose upon their being involved in the forms of logic, are only valid for experience and since all our knowledge is relative to the human mind, they are not valid for things as they objectively are; and since the conception of existence is preeminently a conception of that description, it is a mere fairy tale to say that outward objects exist, the only objects of possible experience being our own ideas. Hereupon comes the third moment of Kant's thought, which was only made prominent in the second edition, not, as Kant truly says, that it was not already in the book, but that it was an idea in which Kant's mind was so completely immersed that he failed to see the necessity of making an explicit statement of it, until Fichte misinterpreted him. It is really a most luminous and central element of Kant's thought. I may say that it is the very sun round which all the rest revolves. This third moment consists in the flat denial that the metaphysical conceptions do not apply to things in themselves. Kant never said that. What he said is that these conceptions do not apply beyond the limits of possible experience. But we have direct experience of things in themselves. Nothing can be more completely false than that we can experience only our own ideas. That is indeed without exaggeration the very epitome of all falsity. Our knowledge of things in themselves is entirely relative, it is true; but all experience and all knowledge is knowledge of that which is, independently of being represented. Even lies invariably contain this much truth, that they represent themselves to be referring to something whose mode of being is independent of its being represented. This is true even if the proposition relates to an object of representation as such. At the same time, no proposition can relate, or even thoroughly pretend to relate, to any object otherwise than as that object is represented. These things are utterly unintelligible as long as your thoughts are mere dreams. But as soon as you take into account that Secondness that jabs you perpetually in the ribs, you become awake to their truth. Duns Scotus and Kant are the great assertors of this doctrine, for which Thomas Reid deserves some credit too. But Kant failed to work out all the consequences of this third moment of thought and considerable retractions are called for, accordingly, from some of the positions of his Transcendental Dialectic. Nor in other respects must it be supposed that I assent to everything either in Scotus or in Kant. We all commit our blunders.
To this first consideration, it is necessary to add, in the second place, that of the great difference in the logical status of the future and the past, which Aristotle stated with great emphasis without finding anybody in modern times to comprehend what he said, not even Trendelenburg, who comes the nearest to it. Aristotle is understood by modern critics to be in a childishly naive state of mind on this subject. Now it is quite true that Aristotle was almost the first pioneer in logic and just stood at its threshold. It is also true that there are some monumental follies in his physical books; but the worst of these may fairly be presumed to be insertions made by different students during the thirty years when his manuscripts lay on the shelves of his school for general use. But Aristotle was by many lengths the greatest intellect that human history has to show; and it was precisely in such fields of thought, as this distinction of past and future time, that his mind was the most thoroughly trained. So gigantic is his power of thought that those critics may almost be excused who hold it to be impossible that all of the books that have come down to us as his should all have been produced by one man. I am ashamed to have to confess that I shared the general opinion of Aristotle's childish naïveté in those passages, until the further progress of my own studies forced me to the very substance of what Aristotle says. The past is ended and done; the future is endless and can never have been done. To be sure, if we regard past time as having had no beginning, then, when we make general assertions concerning it, we can only be talking of it as an object of possible experience, that is, of what future researches may bring to light. Hence it might be inferred that the contrast Aristotle speaks of between the past and the future might be merely subjective, having to do with our different attitude toward them. But even a moderate appreciation of the Kantian argument will show that, besides being true in regard to our knowledge of time, it must also be regarded as true of real time; and time is real, whether we accept Kant's dubious view of it, which he is certainly far from making evident, as the form of the internal sense, or not. I do not question Time's being a form, that is, being of the nature of a Law, and not an Existence; nor its being an Intuition, that is, being at the same time a single object; nor its having a special connection with the internal world. But I doubt very much whether Kant has succeeded in rightly stating the connection between those three features of Time.
Now there are three characters which mark the universe of our experience in a way of their own. They are Variety, Uniformity, and the passage of Variety into Uniformity. By the Passage of Variety into Uniformity, I mean that variety upon being multiplied almost in every department of experience shows a tendency to form habits. These habits produce statistical uniformities. When the number of instances entering into the statistics are small compared with the degree of their variation, the law will be extremely rough, but when the number runs up into the trillions, that is to say cubes of millions, or much higher, as in the case of molecules, there are no departures from the law that our senses can take cognizance of.
CP 2.435 (from the ‘Short Logic,’ c. 1893):
A judgment is an act of consciousness in which we recognize a belief, and a belief is an intelligent habit upon which we shall act when occasion presents itself. Of what nature is that recognition? It may come very near action. The muscles may twitch and we may restrain ourselves only by considering that the proper occasion has not arisen. But in general, we virtually resolve upon a certain occasion to act as if certain imagined circumstances were perceived. This act which amounts to such a resolve, is a peculiar act of the will whereby we cause an image, or icon, to be associated, in a peculiarly strenuous way, with an object represented to us by an index. This act itself is represented in the proposition by a symbol, and the consciousness of it fulfills the function of a symbol in the judgment. Suppose, for example, I detect a person with whom I have to deal in an act of dishonesty. I have in my mind something like a ‘composite photograph’ of all the persons that I have known and read of that have had that character, and at the instant I make the discovery concerning that person, who is distinguished from others for me by certain indications, upon that index at that moment down goes the stamp of RASCAL, to remain indefinitely.
CP 2.297 (from chapter 2 of ‘The Art of Reasoning,’ c. 1895):
The word Symbol has so many meanings that it would be an injury to the language to add a new one. I do not think that the signification I attach to it, that of a conventional sign, or one depending upon habit (acquired or inborn), is so much a new meaning as a return to the original meaning. Etymologically, it should mean a thing thrown together, … the Greeks used ‘throw together’ (συμβαλλειν) very frequently to signify the making of a contract or convention.
CP 2.307 (from Baldwin's Dictionary, 1901-2, defining Symbol):
A Sign (q.v.) which is constituted a sign merely or mainly by the fact that it is used and understood as such, whether the habit is natural or conventional, and without regard to the motives which originally governed its selection.
CP 2.293 (‘Syllabus’, 1903):
A Symbol is a law, or regularity of the indefinite future. Its Interpretant must be of the same description; and so must be also the complete immediate Object, or meaning.
[footnote: There are two ways in which a Symbol may have a real Existential Thing as its real Object. First, the thing may conform to it, whether accidentally or by virtue of the Symbol having the virtue of a growing habit, and secondly, by the Symbol having an Index as a part of itself. But the immediate object of a symbol can only be a symbol and if it has in its own nature another kind of object, this must be by an endless series.]
CP 4.447 (from ‘On Existential Graphs’, c. 1903):
A symbol is a representamen whose special significance or fitness to represent just what it does represent lies in nothing but the very fact of there being a habit, disposition, or other effective general rule that it will be so interpreted. Take, for example, the word ‘man.’ These three letters are not in the least like a man; nor is the sound with which they are associated. Neither is the word existentially connected with any man as an index. It cannot be so, since the word is not an existence at all. The word does not consist of three films of ink. If the word ‘man’ occurs hundreds of times in a book of which myriads of copies are printed, all those millions of triplets of patches of ink are embodiments of one and the same word. I call each of those embodiments a replica of the symbol. This shows that the word is not a thing. What is its nature? It consists in the really working general rule that three such patches seen by a person who knows English will effect his conduct and thoughts according to a rule. Thus the mode of being of the symbol is different from that of the icon and from that of the index. An icon has such being as belongs to past experience. It exists only as an image in the mind. An index has the being of present experience. The being of a symbol consists in the real fact that something surely will be experienced if certain conditions be satisfied. Namely, it will influence the thought and conduct of its interpreter. Every word is a symbol. Every sentence is a symbol. Every book is a symbol. Every representamen depending upon conventions is a symbol. Just as a photograph is an index having an icon incorporated into it, that is, excited in the mind by its force, so a symbol may have an icon or an index incorporated into it, that is, the active law that it is may require its interpretation to involve the calling up of an image, or a composite photograph of many images of past experiences, as ordinary common nouns and verbs do; or it may require its interpretation to refer to the actual surrounding circumstances of the occasion of its embodiment, like such words as that, this, I, you, which, here, now, yonder, etc. Or it may be pure symbol, neither iconic nor indicative, like the words and, or, of, etc.
Letter to Welby, 1904 Oct 12 (SS, 33):
I define a Symbol as a sign which is determined by its dynamic object only in the sense that it will be so interpreted. It thus depends either upon a convention, a habit, or a natural disposition of its interpretant or of the field of its interpretant (that of which the interpretant is a determination). Every symbol is necessarily a legisign; for it is inaccurate to call a replica of a legisign a symbol.
See also the ‘Prolegomena to an Apology for Pragmaticism’ (1906) on Symbols.
The word Sign will be used to denote an Object perceptible, or only imaginable, or even unimaginable in one sense — for the word ‘fast,’ which is a Sign, is not imaginable, since it is not this word itself that can be set down on paper or pronounced, but only an instance of it, and since it is the very same word when it is written as it is when it is pronounced, but is one word when it means ‘rapidly’ and quite another when it means ‘immovable,’ and a third when it refers to abstinence. But in order that anything should be a Sign, it must ‘represent,’ as we say, something else, called its Object, although the condition that a Sign must be other than its Object is perhaps arbitrary, since, if we insist upon it we must at least make an exception in the case of a Sign that is a part of a Sign. Thus nothing prevents the actor who acts a character in an historical drama from carrying as a theatrical ‘property’ the very relic that that article is supposed merely to represent, such as the crucifix that Bulwer's Richelieu holds up with such effect in his defiance. On a map of an island laid down upon the soil of that island there must, under all ordinary circumstances, be some position, some point, marked or not, that represents qua place on the map, the very same point qua place on the island. A sign may have more than one Object. Thus, the sentence ‘Cain killed Abel,’ which is a Sign, refers at least as much to Abel as to Cain, even if it be not regarded as it should, as having ‘a killing’ as a third Object. But the set of objects may be regarded as making up one complex Object. In what follows and often elsewhere Signs will be treated as having but one object each for the sake of dividing difficulties of the study. If a Sign is other than its Object, there must exist, either in thought or in expression, some explanation or argument or other context, showing how — upon what system or for what reason the Sign represents the Object or set of Objects that it does. Now the Sign and the Explanation together make up another Sign, and since the explanation will be a Sign, it will probably require an additional explanation, which taken together with the already enlarged Sign will make up a still larger Sign; and proceeding in the same way, we shall, or should, ultimately reach a Sign of itself, containing its own explanation and those of all its significant parts; and according to this explanation each such part has some other part as its Object. According to this every Sign has, actually or virtually, what we may call a Precept of explanation according to which it is to be understood as a sort of emanation, so to speak, of its Object. (If the Sign be an Icon, a scholastic might say that the ‘species’ of the Object emanating from it found its matter in the Icon. If the Sign be an Index, we may think of it as a fragment torn away from the Object, the two in their Existence being one whole or a part of such whole. If the Sign is a Symbol, we may think of it as embodying the ‘ratio,’ or reason, of the Object that has emanated from it. These, of course, are mere figures of speech; but that does not render them useless.)
The Sign can only represent the Object and tell about it. It cannot furnish acquaintance with or recognition of that Object; for that is what is meant in this volume by the Object of a Sign; namely, that with which it presupposes an acquaintance in order to convey some further information concerning it. No doubt there will be readers who will say they cannot comprehend this. They think a Sign need not relate to anything otherwise known, and can make neither head nor tail of the statement that every Sign must relate to such an Object. But if there be anything that conveys information and yet has absolutely no relation nor reference to anything with which the person to whom it conveys the information has, when he comprehends that information, the slightest acquaintance, direct or indirect — and a very strange sort of information that would be — the vehicle of that sort of information is not, in this volume, called a Sign.
Two men are standing on the seashore looking out to sea. One of them says to the other, ‘That vessel there carries no freight at all, but only passengers.’ Now, if the other, himself, sees no vessel, the first information he derives from the remark has for its Object the part of the sea that he does see, and informs him that a person with sharper eyes than his, or more trained in looking for such things, can see a vessel there; and then, that vessel having been thus introduced to his acquaintance, he is prepared to receive the information about it that it carries passengers exclusively. But the sentence as a whole has, for the person supposed, no other Object than that with which it finds him already acquainted. The Objects — for a Sign may have any number of them — may each be a single known existing thing or thing believed formerly to have existed or expected to exist, or a collection of such things, or a known quality or relation or fact, which single Object may be a collection, or whole of parts, or it may have some other mode of being, such as some act permitted whose being does not prevent its negation from being equally permitted, or something of a general nature desired, required, or invariably found under certain general circumstances.
A sign does not function as a sign unless it be understood as a sign. It is impossible, in the present state of knowledge, to say, at once fully, precisely, and with a satisfactory approach to certitude, what it is to understand a sign. Consciousness is requisite for reasoning; and reasoning is required for the highest grade of understanding of the most perfect signs; but in view of the facts adduced by Von Hartmann and others concerning Unconscious Mind, it does not seem that consciousness can be considered as essential to the understanding of a sign. But what is indispensible is that there should be an interpretation of the sign; that is that the sign should, actually or virtually, bring about a determination of a sign of the same object of which it is itself a sign. This interpreting sign, like every sign, only functions as a sign so far as it again is interpreted, that is, actually or virtually, determines a sign of that same object of which it is itself a sign. Thus there is a virtual endless series of signs when a sign is understood; and a sign never understood can hardly be said to be a sign. There is an endless series of signs, at any rate, in the same sense in which Achilles runs over an endless series of distances in overtaking the tortoise.
Is it not essential to a sign’s being a sign that its influence should never cease finally to live, as lending strength to a habit, law, or rule which is ready to produce action when occasion may arise even although the truth of the sign (if it is a subject of truth or falsehood) be forever denied? What is anything that has perished and left not a wrack behind but a forgotten dream? Let the earth be struck by a comet and reduced to gas, let the whole universe, and space itself be annihilated and forgotten, yet still one or other of two alternatives remain, either it is a living law that if any mind should discover and read the first Book of Euclid, the 42nd proposition would produce its effect, pro or con, upon that mind, or else that proposition is utter nonsense and has no meaning. In this sense, every sign must be followed by an absolutely endless virtual succession of interpretant signs, or else not be in very truth a sign.
The third element of the phenomenon is that we perceive it to be intelligible, that is, to be subject to law, or capable of being represented by a general sign or Symbol. But I say the same element is in all signs. The essential thing is that it is capable of being represented. Whatever is capable of being represented is itself of a representative nature. The idea of representation involves infinity, since a representation is not really such unless it be interpreted in another representation. But infinity is nothing but a peculiar twist given to generality.
A sign stands for something to the idea which it produces, or modifies. Or, it is a vehicle conveying into the mind something from without. That for which it stands is called its object; that which it conveys, its meaning; and the idea to which it gives rise, its interpretant. The object of representation can be nothing but a representation of which the first representation is the interpretant. But an endless series of representations, each representing the one behind it, may be conceived to have an absolute object at its limit. The meaning of a representation can be nothing but a representation. In fact, it is nothing but the representation itself conceived as stripped of irrelevant clothing. But this clothing never can be completely stripped off; it is only changed for something more diaphanous. So there is an infinite regression here. Finally, the interpretant is nothing but another representation to which the torch of truth is handed along; and as representation, it has its interpretant again. Lo, another infinite series.
A Sign, or Representamen, is a First which stands in such a genuine triadic relation to a Second, called its Object, as to be capable of determining a Third, called its Interpretant, to assume the same triadic relation to its Object in which it stands itself to the same Object. The triadic relation is genuine, that is its three members are bound together by it in a way that does not consist in any complexus of dyadic relations. That is the reason the Interpretant, or Third, cannot stand in a mere dyadic relation to the Object, but must stand in such a relation to it as the Representamen itself does. Nor can the triadic relation in which the Third stands be merely similar to that in which the First stands, for this would make the relation of the Third to the First a degenerate Secondness merely. The Third must indeed stand in such a relation, and thus must be capable of determining a Third of its own; but besides that, it must have a second triadic relation in which the Representamen, or rather the relation thereof to its Object, shall be its own (the Third's) Object, and must be capable of determining a Third to this relation. All this must equally be true of the Third's Thirds and so on endlessly; and this, and more, is involved in the familiar idea of a Sign; and as the term Representamen is here used, nothing more is implied. A Sign is a Representamen with a mental Interpretant. Possibly there may be Representamens that are not Signs. Thus, if a sunflower, in turning towards the sun, becomes by that very act fully capable, without further condition, of reproducing a sunflower which turns in precisely corresponding ways toward the sun, and of doing so with the same reproductive power, the sunflower would become a Representamen of the sun. But thought is the chief, if not the only, mode of representation.The choice of an imaginary sunflower as an instance of a representamen that is not a sign creates a rather curious connection with James Joyce's notorious night-novel Finnegans Wake, whose events take place within the ‘heliotropical noughttime’ (349) of the ‘unknown sunseeker’ (110) who dreams it all, turning always to the light at the end of the dark dream-tunnel. Sample: ‘A way, the Margan, from our astamite, through dimdom done till light kindling light has led we hopas but hunt me the journeyon, iteritinerant, the kal his course, amid the semitary of Somnionia. Even unto Heliotropolis, the castellated, the enchanting’ (594). Variations on the terms ‘heliotrope’ and ‘sunflower’ occur frequently throughout this book in which deterministic narrative and daylight logic are eclipsed. If this book is unreadable, as some say, maybe that's because it represents its object nonmentally – i.e. without determining an interpretant which represents the book's relation to its object – and thus puts an end to interpretation as a self-conscious activity.— EP2:272-3
But turning back to Peirce's sunflower: if it could replicate itself and its heliotropic behavior endlessly by the very act of turning toward the sun, it would thus represent its Object (the sun) without a mental Interpretant, i.e. with no thought involved as a medium between the act of turning and its replica in the sunflower immediately reproduced by that act. Thus it would not be a Sign because the ‘second triadic relation’ characteristic of Signs is missing: that relation in which the Interpretant has for its own Object the relation between Representamen and Object. That is, the second (replicated) sunflower is not a genuine Interpretant because it pays no attention to the relation between the first sunflower and the sun, and thus is not involved in thought as all signs are. Of course this wholly unmediated form of reproduction does not occur with real sunflowers, and is hard to imagine in any case. Its very possibility is doubtful, and that remote possibility would be the only exception to the rule that thought is the mode of representation. Comprehending this rule, however, requires us to understand what Peirce means by thought.
The passage above is from the second section of Peirce's ‘Syllabus’ of 1903. Earlier in that section (EP2:269), he had introduced the subject of Thought in this way:
Thirdness is found whenever one thing brings about a Secondness between two things. In all such cases, it will be found that Thought plays a part. By thought is meant something like the meaning of a word, which may be ‘embodied in,’ that is, may govern, this or that, but is not confined to any existent. Thought is often supposed to be something in consciousness; but on the contrary, it is impossible ever actually to be directly conscious of thought. It is something to which consciousness may conform, as a writing may conform to it. Thought is rather of the nature of a habit, which determines the suchness of that which may come into existence, when it does come into existence. Of such a habit one may be conscious of a symptom; but to speak of being directly conscious of a habit, as such, is nonsense.
Habits determine the suchness of our acts. They develop self-control by directing attention, not to themselves, but to the real connections between perception and action, theory and practice, ideal and actual (see Peirce's ‘New Elements’). Signs mediate, in our thinking, between consciousness and thought, experience and habit, behavior and belief. We think in thought-signs, yet we should not confuse thinking with thought. See the closing pages of Peirce's 1868 essay on ‘Some Consequences of Four Incapacities’ (part of which is included below), and his 1906 ‘Prolegomena to an Apology for Pragmaticism’.
The third principle whose consequences we have to deduce is, that, whenever we think, we have present to the consciousness some feeling, image, conception, or other representation, which serves as a sign. But it follows from our own existence (which is proved by the occurrence of ignorance and error) that everything which is present to us is a phenomenal manifestation of ourselves. This does not prevent its being a phenomenon of something without us, just as a rainbow is at once a manifestation both of the sun and of the rain. When we think, then, we ourselves, as we are at that moment, appear as a sign. Now a sign has, as such, three references: 1st, it is a sign to some thought which interprets it; 2d, it is a sign for some object to which in that thought it is equivalent; 3d, it is a sign, in some respect or quality, which brings it into connection with its object. Let us ask what the three correlates are to which a thought-sign refers.
1. When we think, to what thought does that thought-sign which is ourself address itself? It may, through the medium of outward expression, which it reaches perhaps only after considerable internal development, come to address itself to thought of another person. But whether this happens or not, it is always interpreted by a subsequent thought of our own. If, after any thought, the current of ideas flows on freely, it follows the law of mental association. In that case, each former thought suggests something to the thought which follows it, i.e., is the sign of something to this latter. Our train of thought may, it is true, be interrupted. But we must remember that, in addition to the principal element of thought at any moment, there are a hundred things in our mind to which but a small fraction of attention or consciousness is conceded. It does not, therefore, follow, because a new constituent of thought gets the uppermost that the train of thought which it displaces is broken off altogether. On the contrary, from our second principle, that there is no intuition or cognition not determined by previous cognitions, it follows that the striking in of a new experience is never an instantaneous affair, but is an event occupying time, and coming to pass by a continuous process. Its prominence in consciousness, therefore, must probably be the consummation of a growing process; and if so, there is no sufficient cause for the thought which had been the leading one just before, to cease abruptly and instantaneously. But if a train of thought ceases by gradually dying out, it freely follows its own law of association as long as it lasts, and there is no moment at which there is a thought belonging to this series, subsequently to which there is not a thought which interprets or repeats it. There is no exception, therefore, to the law that every thought-sign is translated or interpreted in a subsequent one, unless it be that all thought comes to an abrupt and final end in death.
2. The next question is: For what does the thought-sign stand — what does it name — what is its suppositum? The outward thing, undoubtedly, when a real outward thing is thought of. But still, as the thought is determined by a previous thought of the same object, it only refers to the thing through denoting this previous thought. Let us suppose, for example, that Toussaint is thought of, and first thought of as a Negro, but not distinctly as a man. If this distinctness is afterwards added, it is through the thought that a Negro is a man; that is to say, the subsequent thought, man, refers to the outward thing by being predicated of that previous thought, Negro, which has been had of that thing. If we afterwards think of Toussaint as a general, then we think that this Negro, this man, was a general. And so in every case the subsequent thought denotes what was thought in the previous thought.
3. The thought-sign stands for its object in the respect which is thought; that is to say, this respect is the immediate object of consciousness in the thought, or, in other words, it is the thought itself, or at least what the thought is thought to be in the subsequent thought to which it is a sign.
The concluding section of ‘Some Consequences of Four Incapacities’, CP 5.311-17; EP1:52-5 (1868):
At any moment we are in possession of certain information, that is, of cognitions which have been logically derived by induction and hypothesis from previous cognitions which are less general, less distinct, and of which we have a less lively consciousness. These in their turn have been derived from others still less general, less distinct, and less vivid; and so on back to the ideal first, which is quite singular, and quite out of consciousness. [Peirce note: By an ideal, I mean the limit which the possible cannot attain.] This ideal first is the particular thing-in-itself. It does not exist as such. That is, there is no thing which is in-itself in the sense of not being relative to the mind, though things which are relative to the mind doubtless are, apart from that relation. The cognitions which thus reach us by this infinite series of inductions and hypotheses (which though infinite a parte ante logice, is yet as one continuous process not without a beginning in time) are of two kinds, the true and the untrue, or cognitions whose objects are real and those whose objects are unreal. And what do we mean by the real? It is a conception which we must first have had when we discovered that there was an unreal, an illusion; that is, when we first corrected ourselves. Now the distinction for which alone this fact logically called, was between an ens relative to private inward determinations, to the negations belonging to idiosyncrasy, and an ens such as would stand in the long run. The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase of knowledge. And so those two series of cognition — the real and the unreal — consist of those which, at a time sufficiently future, the community will always continue to re-affirm; and of those which, under the same conditions, will ever after be denied. Now, a proposition whose falsity can never be discovered, and the error of which therefore is absolutely incognizable, contains, upon our principle, absolutely no error. Consequently, that which is thought in these cognitions is the real, as it really is. There is nothing, then, to prevent our knowing outward things as they really are, and it is most likely that we do thus know them in numberless cases, although we can never be absolutely certain of doing so in any special case.
But it follows that since no cognition of ours is absolutely determinate, generals must have a real existence. Now this scholastic realism is usually set down as a belief in metaphysical fictions. But, in fact, a realist is simply one who knows no more recondite reality than that which is represented in a true representation. Since, therefore, the word “man” is true of something, that which “man” means is real. The nominalist must admit that man is truly applicable to something; but he believes that there is beneath this a thing in itself, an incognizable reality. His is the metaphysical figment. Modern nominalists are mostly superficial men, who do not know, as the more thorough Roscellinus and Occam did, that a reality which has no representation is one which has no relation and no quality. The great argument for nominalism is that there is no man unless there is some particular man. That, however, does not affect the realism of Scotus; for although there is no man of whom all further determination can be denied, yet there is a man, abstraction being made of all further determination. There is a real difference between man irrespective of what the other determinations may be, and man with this or that particular series of determinations, although undoubtedly this difference is only relative to the mind and not in re. Such is the position of Scotus. Occam's great objection is, there can be no real distinction which is not in re, in the thing-in-itself; but this begs the question, for it is itself based only on the notion that reality is something independent of representative relation.
Such being the nature of reality in general, in what does the reality of the mind consist? We have seen that the content of consciousness, the entire phenomenal manifestation of mind, is a sign resulting from inference. Upon our principle, therefore, that the absolutely incognizable does not exist, so that the phenomenal manifestation of a substance is the substance, we must conclude that the mind is a sign developing according to the laws of inference. What distinguishes a man from a word? There is a distinction doubtless. The material qualities, the forces which constitute the pure denotative application, and the meaning of the human sign, are all exceedingly complicated in comparison with those of the word. But these differences are only relative. What other is there? It may be said that man is conscious, while a word is not. But consciousness is a very vague term. It may mean that emotion which accompanies the reflection that we have animal life. This is a consciousness which is dimmed when animal life is at its ebb in old age, or sleep, but which is not dimmed when the spiritual life is at its ebb; which is the more lively the better animal a man is, but which is not so, the better man he is. We do not attribute this sensation to words, because we have reason to believe that it is dependent upon the possession of an animal body. But this consciousness, being a mere sensation, is only a part of the material quality of the man-sign. Again, consciousness is sometimes used to signify the I think, or unity in thought; but the unity is nothing but consistency, or the recognition of it. Consistency belongs to every sign, so far as it is a sign; and therefore every sign, since it signifies primarily that it is a sign, signifies its own consistency. The man-sign acquires information, and comes to mean more than he did before. But so do words. Does not electricity mean more now than it did in the days of Franklin? Man makes the word, and the word means nothing which the man has not made it mean, and that only to some man. But since man can think only by means of words or other external symbols, these might turn round and say: “You mean nothing which we have not taught you, and then only so far as you address some word as the interpretant of your thought.” In fact, therefore, men and words reciprocally educate each other; each increase of a man's information involves and is involved by, a corresponding increase of a word's information.
Without fatiguing the reader by stretching this parallelism too far, it is sufficient to say that there is no element whatever of man's consciousness which has not something corresponding to it in the word; and the reason is obvious. It is that the word or sign which man uses is the man himself. For, as the fact that every thought is a sign, taken in conjunction with the fact that life is a train of thought, proves that man is a sign; so, that every thought is an external sign, proves that man is an external sign. That is to say, the man and the external sign are identical, in the same sense in which the words homo and man are identical. Thus my language is the sum total of myself; for the man is the thought.
It is hard for man to understand this, because he persists in identifying himself with his will, his power over the animal organism, with brute force. Now the organism is only an instrument of thought. But the identity of a man consists in the consistency of what he does and thinks, and consistency is the intellectual character of a thing; that is, is its expressing something.
Finally, as what anything really is, is what it may finally come to be known to be in the ideal state of complete information, so that reality depends on the ultimate decision of the community; so thought is what it is, only by virtue of its addressing a future thought which is in its value as thought identical with it, though more developed. In this way, the existence of thought now depends on what is to be hereafter; so that it has only a potential existence, dependent on the future thought of the community.
The individual man, since his separate existence is manifested only by ignorance and error, so far as he is anything apart from his fellows, and from what he and they are to be, is only a negation. This is man,proud man,Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence.
Having thus endeavored to state the law of mind, in general, I descend to the consideration of a particular phenomenon which is remarkably prominent in our own consciousnesses, that of personality. A strong light is thrown upon this subject by recent observations of double and multiple personality. The theory, which at one time seemed plausible, that two persons in one body corresponded to the two halves of the brain will, I take it, now be universally acknowledged to be insufficient. But that which these cases make quite manifest is that personality is some kind of coordination or connection of ideas. Not much to say, this, perhaps. Yet when we consider that, according to the principle which we are tracing out, a connection between ideas is itself a general idea, and that a general idea is a living feeling, it is plain that we have at least taken an appreciable step toward the understanding of personality. This personality, like any general idea, is not a thing to be apprehended in an instant. It has to be lived in time; nor can any finite time embrace it in all its fullness. Yet in each infinitesimal interval it is present and living, though specially colored by the immediate feelings of that moment. Personality, so far as it is apprehended in a moment, is immediate self-consciousness.
But the word coordination implies somewhat more than this; it implies a teleological harmony in ideas, and in the case of personality this teleology is more than a mere purposive pursuit of a predeterminate end; it is a developmental teleology. This is personal character. A general idea, living and conscious now, it is already determinative of acts in the future to an extent to which it is not now conscious.
This reference to the future is an essential element of personality. Were the ends of a person already explicit, there would be no room for development, for growth, for life; and consequently there would be no personality. The mere carrying out of predetermined purposes is mechanical. This remark has an application to the philosophy of religion. It is that a genuine evolutionary philosophy, that is, one that makes the principle of growth a primordial element of the universe, is so far from being antagonistic to the idea of a personal creator that it is really inseparable from that idea; while a necessitarian religion is in an altogether false position and is destined to become disintegrated. But a pseudo-evolutionism which enthrones mechanical law above the principle of growth is at once scientifically unsatisfactory, as giving no possible hint of how the universe has come about, and hostile to all hopes of personal relations to God.
The next excerpt, from ‘Immortality in the Light of Synechism’ (1893), follows up on the idea of mind and personality as connection. Peirce derived the term synechism from the Greek συνεχης (‘continuous’) and defined it (in contrast to both materialism and idealism) as ‘the tendency to regard everything as continuous’ (EP2:1). CP 7.570-72; EP2:2-3:
Synechism, even in its less stalwart forms, can never abide dualism, properly so called. It does not wish to exterminate the conception of twoness, nor can any of these philosophic cranks who preach crusades against this or that fundamental conception find the slightest comfort in this doctrine. But dualism in its broadest legitimate meaning as the philosophy which performs its analyses with an axe, leaving as the ultimate elements, unrelated chunks of being, this is most hostile to synechism. In particular, the synechist will not admit that physical and psychical phenomena are entirely distinct,— whether as belonging to different categories of substance, or as entirely separate sides of one shield,— but will insist that all phenomena are of one character, though some are more mental and spontaneous, others more material and regular. Still, all alike present that mixture of freedom and constraint, which allows them to be, nay, makes them to be teleological, or purposive.With that final sentence we might compare Gandhi:
Nor must any synechist say, ‘I am altogether myself, and not at all you.’ If you embrace synechism, you must abjure this metaphysics of wickedness. In the first place, your neighbors are, in a measure, yourself, and in far greater measure than, without deep studies in psychology, you would believe. Really, the selfhood you like to attribute to yourself is, for the most part, the vulgarest delusion of vanity. In the second place, all men who resemble you and are in analogous circumstances are, in a measure, yourself, though not quite in the same way in which your neighbors are you.
There is still another direction in which the barbaric conception of personal identity must be broadened. A Brahmanical hymn begins as follows: ‘I am that pure and infinite Self, who am bliss, eternal, manifest, all-pervading, and who am the substrate of all that owns name and form.’ This expresses more than humiliation,— the utter swallowing up of the poor individual self in the Spirit of prayer. All communication from mind to mind is through continuity of being. A man is capable of having assigned to him a rôle in the drama of creation, and so far as he loses himself in that rôle,— no matter how humble it may be,— so far he identifies himself with its Author.
Our duty is to strive for self-realization and we should lose ourselves in that aim.— Gandhi (1926, 86)
The principle of continuity is the idea of fallibilism objectified. For fallibilism is the doctrine that our knowledge is never absolute but always swims, as it were, in a continuum of uncertainty and of indeterminacy. Now the doctrine of continuity is that all things so swim in continua.CP 1.171 (c. 1897)
All human affairs rest upon probabilities, and the same thing is true everywhere. If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every great fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does. In place of this we have death.
But what, without death, would happen to every man, with death must happen to some man. At the same time, death makes the number of our risks, of our inferences, finite, and so makes their mean result uncertain. The very idea of probability and of reasoning rests on the assumption that this number is indefinitely great. We are thus landed in the same difficulty as before, and I can see but one solution of it. It seems to me that we are driven to this, that logicality inexorably requires that our interests shall not be limited. They must not stop at our own fate, but must embrace the whole community. This community, again, must not be limited, but must extend to all races of beings with whom we can come into immediate or mediate intellectual relation. It must reach, however vaguely, beyond this geological epoch, beyond all bounds. He who would not sacrifice his own soul to save the whole world, is, as it seems to me, illogical in all his inferences, collectively. Logic is rooted in the social principle.
To be logical men should not be selfish; and, in point of fact, they are not so selfish as they are thought. The willful prosecution of one's desires is a different thing from selfishness. The miser is not selfish; his money does him no good, and he cares for what shall become of it after his death. We are constantly speaking of our possessions on the Pacific, and of our destiny as a republic, where no personal interests are involved, in a way which shows that we have wider ones. We discuss with anxiety the possible exhaustion of coal in some hundreds of years, or the cooling-off of the sun in some millions, and show in the most popular of all religious tenets that we can conceive the possibility of a man's descending into hell for the salvation of his fellows.
Now, it is not necessary for logicality that a man should himself be capable of the heroism of self-sacrifice. It is sufficient that he should recognize the possibility of it, should perceive that only that man's inferences who has it are really logical, and should consequently regard his own as being only so far valid as they would be accepted by the hero. So far as he thus refers his inferences to that standard, he becomes identified with such a mind.
This makes logicality attainable enough. Sometimes we can personally attain to heroism. The soldier who runs to scale a wall knows that he will probably be shot, but that is not all he cares for. He also knows that if all the regiment, with whom in feeling he identifies himself, rush forward at once, the fort will be taken. In other cases we can only imitate the virtue. The man whom we have supposed as having to draw from the two packs, who if he is not a logician will draw from the red pack from mere habit, will see, if he is logician enough, that he cannot be logical so long as he is concerned only with his own fate, but that that man who should care equally for what was to happen in all possible cases of the sort could act logically, and would draw from the pack with the most red cards, and thus, though incapable himself of such sublimity, our logician would imitate the effect of that man's courage in order to share his logicality.
But all this requires a conceived identification of one's interests with those of an unlimited community. Now, there exist no reasons, and a later discussion will show that there can be no reasons, for thinking that the human race, or any intellectual race, will exist forever. On the other hand, there can be no reason against it; and, fortunately, as the whole requirement is that we should have certain sentiments, there is nothing in the facts to forbid our having a hope, or calm and cheerful wish, that the community may last beyond any assignable date.
It may seem strange that I should put forward three sentiments, namely, interest in an indefinite community, recognition of the possibility of this interest being made supreme, and hope in the unlimited continuance of intellectual activity, as indispensable requirements of logic. Yet, when we consider that logic depends on a mere struggle to escape doubt, which, as it terminates in action, must begin in emotion, and that, furthermore, the only cause of our planting ourselves on reason is that other methods of escaping doubt fail on account of the social impulse, why should we wonder to find social sentiment presupposed in reasoning? As for the other two sentiments which I find necessary, they are so only as supports and accessories of that. It interests me to notice that these three sentiments seem to be pretty much the same as that famous trio of Charity, Faith, and Hope, which, in the estimation of St. Paul, are the finest and greatest of spiritual gifts. Neither Old nor New Testament is a textbook of the logic of science, but the latter is certainly the highest existing authority in regard to the dispositions of heart which a man ought to have.
Among vitally important truths there is one which I verily believe — and which men of infinitely deeper insight than mine have believed — to be solely supremely important. It is that vitally important facts are of all truths the veriest trifles. For the only vitally important matter is my concern, business, and duty — or yours. Now you and I — what are we? Mere cells of the social organism. Our deepest sentiment pronounces the verdict of our own insignificance. Psychological analysis shows that there is nothing which distinguishes my personal identity except my faults and my limitations — or if you please, my blind will, which it is my highest endeavor to annihilate. Not in the contemplation of ‘topics of vital importance’ but in those universal things with which philosophy deals, the factors of the universe, is man to find his highest occupation. To pursue ‘topics of vital importance’ as the first and best can lead only to one or other of two terminations — either on the one hand what is called, I hope not justly, Americanism, the worship of business, the life in which the fertilizing stream of genial sentiment dries up or shrinks to a rill of comic tit-bits, or else on the other hand, to monasticism, sleepwalking in this world with no eye nor heart except for the other. Take for the lantern of your footsteps the cold light of reason and regard your business, your duty, as the highest thing, and you can only rest in one of those goals or the other. But suppose you embrace, on the contrary, a conservative sentimentalism, modestly rate your own reasoning powers at the very mediocre price they would fetch if put up at auction, and then what do you come to? Why, then, the very first command that is laid upon you, your quite highest business and duty, becomes, as everybody knows, to recognize a higher business than your business, not merely an avocation after the daily task of your vocation is performed, but a generalized conception of duty which completes your personality by melting it into the neighboring parts of the universal cosmos. If this sounds unintelligible, just take for comparison the first good mother of a family that meets your eye, and ask whether she is not a sentimentalist, whether you would wish her to be otherwise, and lastly whether you can find a better formula in which to outline the universal features of her portrait than that I have just given. I dare say you can improve upon that; but you will find one element of it is correct — especially if your understanding is aided by the logic of relatives — and that is that the supreme commandment of the Buddhisto-christian religion is, to generalize, to complete the whole system even until continuity results and the distinct individuals weld together. Thus it is, that while reasoning and the science of reasoning strenuously proclaim the subordination of reasoning to sentiment, the very supreme commandment of sentiment is that man should generalize, or what the logic of relatives shows to be the same thing, should become welded into the universal continuum, which is what true reasoning consists in. But this does not reinstate reasoning, for this generalization should come about, not merely in man's cognitions, which are but the superficial film of his being, but objectively in the deepest emotional springs of his life. In fulfilling this command, man prepares himself for transmutation into a new form of life, the joyful Nirvana in which the discontinuities of his will shall have all but disappeared.This same lecture, as printed in EP2:40-41, ends by saying that science/philosophy in its purest form is ‘gradually uncovering one great cosmos of forms, a world of potential being.… The end that Pure Mathematics is pursuing is to discover that real potential world.’
But such ideas are only suitable to regulate another life than this. Here we are in this workaday world, little creatures, mere cells in a social organism itself a poor and little thing enough, and we must look to see what little and definite task our circumstances have set before our little strength to do. The performance of that task will require us to draw upon all our powers, reason included. And in the doing of it we should chiefly depend not upon that department of the soul which is most superficial and fallible,—I mean our reason,—but upon that department that is deep and sure,—which is instinct. Instinct is capable of development and growth,—though by a movement which is slow in the proportion in which it is vital; and this development takes place upon lines which are altogether parallel to those of reasoning. And just as reasoning springs from experience, so the development of sentiment arises from the soul's inward and outward experiences. Not only is it of the same nature as the development of cognition; but it chiefly takes place through the instrumentality of cognition. The soul's deeper parts can only be reached through its surface. In this way the eternal forms, that mathematics and philosophy and the other sciences make us acquainted with, will by slow percolation gradually reach the very core of one's being; and will come to influence our lives; and this they will do, not because they involve truths of merely vital importance, but because they are ideal and eternal verities.
In the works of his final years (for instance his ‘Neglected Argument for the Reality of God’), Peirce espoused a ‘Critical Common-sensism’ as part of his ‘Pragmaticism, which implies faith in common-sense and in instinct, though only as they issue from the cupel-furnace of measured criticism’ (EP2:446).
Peirce defined ‘instinct’ as follows in a 1913 letter to F.A. Woods (Ketner 1998, 104-5):
I use the word instinct in the precise sense of an animal's faculty of acting (whether physically or psychically) in a reasonable (or better ‘an adaptive’) manner when the animal (human or other) would be unable by reasoning to reach the requisite conclusion. It follows that, adopting this definition, I must admit that all reasoning ultimately reposes on ‘instinct.’ That is to say, it rests on a rule of logic which could not be reached by reasoning without a petitio principii, or its equivalent.
But what is to be said of the property of feeling? If consciousness belongs to all protoplasm, by what mechanical constitution is this to be accounted for? The slime is nothing but a chemical compound. There is no inherent impossibility in its being formed synthetically in the laboratory, out of its chemical elements; and if it were so made, it would present all the characters of natural protoplasm. No doubt, then, it would feel. To hesitate to admit this would be puerile and ultra-puerile. By what element of the molecular arrangement, then, would that feeling be caused? This question cannot be evaded or pooh-poohed. Protoplasm certainly does feel; and unless we are to accept a weak dualism, the property must be shown to arise from some peculiarity of the mechanical system. Yet the attempt to deduce it from the three laws of mechanics, applied to never so ingenious a mechanical contrivance, would obviously be futile. It can never be explained, unless we admit that physical events are but degraded or undeveloped forms of psychical events. But once grant that the phenomena of matter are but the result of the sensibly complete sway of habits upon mind, and it only remains to explain why in the protoplasm these habits are to some slight extent broken up, so that, according to the law of mind, in that special clause of it sometimes called the principle of accommodation, feeling becomes intensified. [CSP footnote: “Physiologically, … accommodation means the breaking up of a habit.… Psychologically, it means reviving consciousness.” Baldwin, Psychology, Part III, ch. 1., §5.] Now the manner in which habits generally get broken up is this. Reactions usually terminate in the removal of a stimulus; for the excitation continues as long as the stimulus is present. Accordingly, habits are general ways of behaviour which are associated with the removal of stimuli. But when the expected removal of the stimulus fails to occur, the excitation continues and increases, and non-habitual reactions take place; and these tend to weaken the habit. If, then, we suppose that matter never does obey its ideal laws with absolute precision, but that there are almost insensible fortuitous departures from regularity, these will produce, in general, equally minute effects. But protoplasm is in an excessively unstable condition; and it is the characteristic of unstable equilibrium that near that point excessively minute causes may produce startlingly large effects. Here then, the usual departures from regularity will be followed by others that are very great; and the large fortuitous departures from law so produced will tend still further to break up the laws, supposing that these are of the nature of habits. Now, this breaking up of habit and renewed fortuitous spontaneity will, according to the law of mind, be accompanied by an intensification of feeling. The nerve-protoplasm is, without doubt, in the most unstable condition of any kind of matter; and consequently there the resulting feeling is the most manifest.
Thus we see that the idealist has no need to dread a mechanical theory of life. On the contrary, such a theory, fully developed, is bound to call in a tychistic idealism as its indispensable adjunct. Wherever chance-spontaneity is found, there in the same proportion feeling exists. In fact, chance is but the outward aspect of that which within itself is feeling. I long ago showed that real existence, or thing-ness, consists in regularities. So, that primeval chaos in which there was no regularity was mere nothing, from a physical aspect. Yet it was not a blank zero; for there was an intensity of consciousness there, in comparison with which all that we ever feel is but as the struggling of a molecule or two to throw off a little of the force of law to an endless and innumerable diversity of chance utterly unlimited.
But after some atoms of the protoplasm have thus become partially emancipated from law, what happens next to them? To understand this we have to remember that no mental tendency is so easily strengthened by the action of habit as is the tendency to take habits. Now, in the higher kinds of protoplasm, especially, the atoms in question have not only long belonged to one molecule or another of the particular mass of slime of which they are parts; but before that, they were constituents of food of a protoplasmic constitution. During all this time they have been liable to lose habits and to recover them again; so that now, when the stimulus is removed, and the foregone habits tend to reassert themselves, they do so in the case of such atoms with great promptness. Indeed, the return is so prompt that there is nothing but the feeling to show conclusively that the bonds of law have ever been relaxed.
In short, diversification is the vestige of chance spontaneity; and wherever diversity is increasing, there chance must be operative. On the other hand, wherever uniformity is increasing, habit must be operative. But wherever actions take place under an established uniformity, there, so much feeling as there may be, takes the mode of a sense of reaction. That is the manner in which I am led to define the relation between the fundamental elements of consciousness and their physical equivalents.
It remains to consider the physical relations of general ideas. It may be well here to reflect that if matter has no existence except as a specialization of mind, it follows that whatever affects matter according to regular laws is itself matter. But all mind is directly or indirectly connected with all matter, and acts in a more or less regular way; so that all mind more or less partakes of the nature of matter. Hence, it would be a mistake to conceive of the psychical and the physical aspects of matter as two aspects absolutely distinct. Viewing a thing from the outside, considering its relations of action and reaction with other things, it appears as matter. Viewing it from the inside, looking at its immediate character as feeling, it appears as consciousness. These two views are combined when we remember that mechanical laws are nothing but acquired habits, like all the regularities of mind, including the tendency to take habits, itself; and that this action of habit is nothing but generalization, and generalization is nothing but the spreading of feelings. But the question is, how do general ideas appear in the molecular theory of protoplasm?
The consciousness of a habit involves a general idea. In each action of that habit certain atoms get thrown out of their orbit, and replaced by others. Upon all the different occasions it is different atoms that are thrown off, but they are analogous from a physical point of view, and there is an inward sense of their being analogous. Every time one of the associated feelings recurs, there is a more or less vague sense that there are others, that it has a general character, and of about what this general character is. We ought not, I think, to hold that in protoplasm habit never acts in any other than the particular way suggested above. On the contrary, if habit be a primary property of mind, it must be equally so of matter, as a kind of mind. We can hardly refuse to admit that wherever chance motions have general characters, there is a tendency for this generality to spread and to perfect itself. In that case, a general idea is a certain modification of consciousness which accompanies any regularity or general relation between chance actions.
The consciousness of a general idea has a certain “unity of the ego” in it, which is identical when it passes from one mind to another. It is, therefore, quite analogous to a person; and, indeed, a person is only a particular kind of general idea. Long ago, in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy (Vol. II, p. 156), I pointed out that a person is nothing but a symbol involving a general idea; but my views were, then, too nominalistic to enable me to see that every general idea has the unified living feeling of a person.
All that is necessary, upon this theory, to the existence of a person is that the feelings out of which he is constructed should be in close enough connection to influence one another. Here we can draw a consequence which it may be possible to submit to experimental test. Namely, if this be the case, there should be something like personal consciousness in bodies of men who are in intimate and intensely sympathetic communion. It is true that when the generalization of feeling has been carried so far as to include all within a person, a stopping-place, in a certain sense, has been attained; and further generalization will have a less lively character. But we must not think it will cease. Esprit de corps, national sentiment, sympathy, are no mere metaphors. None of us can fully realize what the minds of corporations are, any more than one of my brain cells can know what the whole brain is thinking. But the law of mind clearly points to the existence of such personalities, and there are many ordinary observations which, if they were critically examined and supplemented by special experiments, might, as first appearances promise, give evidence of the influence of such greater persons upon individuals. It is often remarked that on one day half a dozen people, strangers to one another, will take it into their heads to do one and the same strange deed, whether it be a physical experiment, a crime, or an act of virtue. When the thirty thousand young people of the society for Christian Endeavor were in New York, there seemed to me to be some mysterious diffusion of sweetness and light. If such a fact is capable of being made out anywhere, it should be in the church. The Christians have always been ready to risk their lives for the sake of having prayers in common, of getting together and praying simultaneously with great energy, and especially for their common body, for “the whole state of Christ's church militant here in earth,” as one of the missals has it. This practice they have been keeping up everywhere, weekly, for many centuries. Surely, a personality ought to have developed in that church, in that “bride of Christ,” as they call it, or else there is a strange break in the action of mind, and I shall have to acknowledge my views are much mistaken. Would not the societies for psychical research be more likely to break through the clouds, in seeking evidences of such corporate personality, than in seeking evidences of telepathy, which, upon the same theory, should be a far weaker phenomenon?
Thirdness as I use the term is only a synonym for Representation, to which I prefer the less colored term because its suggestions are not so narrow and special as those of the word Representation. Now it is proper to say that a general principle that is operative in the real world is of the essential nature of a Representation and of a Symbol because its modus operandi is the same as that by which words produce physical effects.…
Words then do produce physical effects. It is madness to deny it. The very denial of it involves a belief in it; and nobody can consistently fail to acknowledge it until he sinks to a complete mental paresis.
But how do they produce their effect? They certainly do not, in their character as symbols, directly react upon matter. Such action as they have is merely logical. It is not even psychological. It is merely that one symbol would justify another. However, suppose that first difficulty to have been surmounted, and that they do act upon actual thoughts. That thoughts act on the physical world and conversely, is one of the most familiar of facts. Those who deny it are persons with whom theories are stronger than facts. But how thoughts act on things it is impossible for us, in the present state of our knowledge, so much as to make any very promising guess; although, as I will show you presently, a guess can be made which suffices to show that the problem is not beyond all hope of ultimate solution.
All this is equally true of the manner in which the laws of nature influence matter. A law is in itself nothing but a general formula or symbol. An existing thing is simply a blind reacting thing, to which not merely all generality, but even all representation, is utterly foreign. The general formula may logically determine another, less broadly general. But it will be of its essential nature general, and its being narrower does not in the least constitute any participation in the reacting character of the thing. Here we have that great problem of the principle of individuation which the scholastic doctors after a century of the closest possible analysis were obliged to confess was quite incomprehensible to them. Analogy suggests that the laws of nature are ideas or resolutions in the mind of some vast consciousness, who, whether supreme or subordinate, is a Deity relatively to us. I do not approve of mixing up Religion and Philosophy; but as a purely philosophical hypothesis, that has the advantage of being supported by analogy. Yet I cannot clearly see that beyond that support to the imagination it is of any particular scientific service.— CP 5.106-7
Later in the same lecture (or rather in the manuscript notes for it), Peirce makes some remarks on ‘sympathy’ or empathy, followed by an explanation of ‘what part Qualities can play in the economy of the universe’ (EP2:192-4; HL, 275-6, 201; CP 1.314-16, 5.119):
Philosophers, who very properly call all things into question, have asked whether we have any reason to suppose that red looks to one eye as it does to another. I answer that slight differences there may be, but the books tell of a man blind from birth who remarked that he imagined that red was something like the blare of a trumpet. He had collected that notion from hearing ordinary people converse together about colors, and since I was not born to be one of those whom he had heard converse, the fact that I can see a certain analogy, shows me not only that my feeling of redness is something like the feelings of the persons whom he had heard talk, but also his feeling of a trumpet's blare was very much like mine. I am confident that a bull and I feel much alike at the sight of a red rag. As for the senses of my dog, I must confess that they seem very unlike my own, but when I reflect to how small a degree he thinks of visual images, and of how smells play a part in his thoughts and imaginations analogous to the part played by sights in mine, I cease to be surprised that the perfume of roses or of orange flowers does not attract his attention at all and that the effluvia that interest him so much, when at all perceptible to me, are simply unpleasant. He does not think of smells as sources of pleasure and disgust but as sources of information, just as I do not think of blue as a nauseating color, nor of red as a maddening one. I know very well that my dog's musical feelings are quite similar to mine though they agitate him more than they do me. He has the same emotions of affection as I, though they are far more moving in his case. You would never persuade me that my horse and I do not sympathize, or that the canary bird that takes such delight in joking with me does not feel with me and I with him; and this instinctive confidence of mine that it is so, is to my mind evidence that it really is so. My metaphysical friend who asks whether we can ever enter into one another's feelings — and one particular sceptic whom I have in mind is a most exceptionally sympathetic person, whose doubts are born of her intense interest in her friends — might just as well ask me whether I am sure that red looked to me yesterday as it does today and that memory is not playing me false. I know experimentally that sensations do vary slightly even from hour to hour; but in the main the evidence is ample that they are common to all beings whose senses are sufficiently developed.
I hear you say: ‘All that is not fact; it is poetry.’ Nonsense! Bad poetry is false, I grant; but nothing is truer than true poetry. And let me tell the scientific men that the artists are much finer and more accurate observers than they are, except of the special minutiae that the scientific man is looking for.
I hear you say: ‘This smacks too much of an anthropomorphic conception.’ I reply that every scientific explanation of a natural phenomenon is a hypothesis that there is something in nature to which the human reason is analogous; and that it really is so all the successes of science in its applications to human convenience are witnesses. They proclaim that truth over the length and breadth of the modern world. In the light of the successes of science to my mind there is a degree of baseness in denying our birthright as children of God and in shamefacedly slinking away from anthropomorphic conceptions of the universe.
Therefore, if you ask me what part Qualities can play in the economy of the universe, I shall reply that the universe is a vast representamen, a great symbol of God's purpose, working out its conclusions in living realities. Now every symbol must have, organically attached to it, its Indices of Reactions and its Icons of Qualities; and such part as these reactions and these qualities play in an argument, that they of course play in the universe, that Universe being precisely an argument. In the little bit that you or I can make out of this huge demonstration, our perceptual judgments are the premisses for us and these perceptual judgments have icons as their predicates, in which icons Qualities are immediately presented. But what is first for us is not first in nature. The premisses of Nature's own process are all the independent uncaused elements of facts that go to make up the variety of nature which the necessitarian supposes to have been all in existence from the foundation of the world, but which the Tychist supposes are continually receiving new accretions. These premisses of nature, however, though they are not the perceptual facts that are premisses to us, nevertheless must resemble them in being premisses. We can only imagine what they are by comparing them with the premisses for us. As premisses they must involve Qualities.
Now as to their function in the economy of the Universe,— the Universe as an argument is necessarily a great work of art, a great poem,— for every fine argument is a poem and a symphony,— just as every true poem is a sound argument. But let us compare it rather with a painting,— with an impressionist seashore piece,— then every Quality in a Premiss is one of the elementary colored particles of the Painting; they are all meant to go together to make up the intended Quality that belongs to the whole as whole. That total effect is beyond our ken; but we can appreciate in some measure the resultant Quality of parts of the whole,— which Qualities result from the combinations of elementary Qualities that belong to the premisses.
The simplest form of pragmatism essentially says that the question ‘What does it mean?’ is equivalent to the question ‘What difference does it make to the conduct of our life?’ Pragmatism in this Peircean sense is communal, directly opposed to the ‘low and sordid’ individualistic sense (see below) often heard in the language of power politics. Peirce did not define pragmatism in the Century Dictionary, but c. 1902 he wrote this entry in his personal interleaved copy of it:
Pragmatism … is a method in philosophy. Philosophy is that branch of positive science (i.e., an investigating theoretical science which inquires what is the fact, in contradistinction to pure mathematics which merely seeks to know what follows from certain hypotheses) which makes no observations but contents itself with so much of experience as pours in upon every man during every hour of his waking life. The study of philosophy consists, therefore, in reflexion, and pragmatism is that method of reflexion which is guided by constantly holding in view its purpose and the purpose of the ideas it analyzes, whether these ends be of the nature and uses of action or of thought.(When Peirce says that philosophy ‘makes no observations,’ he means that it does not set up special occasions or use special equipment to do so. See Peirce on phenomenology concerning observation in philosophy.) It was mostly William James, and later John Dewey, who brought pragmatism to popular attention; but Peirce was not entirely happy with the ‘spin’ they imparted to it, so he renamed his own version pragmaticism. The first published statement of Peirce's idea was in a series of articles in the Popular Science Monthy in 1877-78 (though he did not call it pragmatism in those articles). Here is a key passage from one of those essays, ‘How to Make Our Ideas Clear’ (1878; CP 5.397-402; EP1:129-32). The version presented here incorporates some revisions made by Peirce in 1894 (MS 422):— (CP 5.13 Fn P1)
And what, then, is belief? It is the demi-cadence which closes a musical phrase in the symphony of our intellectual life. We have seen that it has just three properties: First, it is something that we are aware of; second, it appeases the irritation of doubt; and, third, it involves the establishment in our nature of a rule of action, or, say for short, a habit. As it appeases the irritation of doubt, which is the motive for thinking, thought relaxes, and comes to rest for a moment when belief is reached. But, since belief is a rule for action, the application of which involves further doubt and further thought, at the same time that it is a stopping-place, it is also a new starting-place for thought. That is why I have permitted myself to call it thought at rest, although thought is essentially an action. The final upshot of thinking is the exercise of volition, and of this thought no longer forms a part; but belief is only a stadium of mental action, an effect upon our nature due to thought, which will influence future thinking.This is what Peirce later refers to as the pragmatic maxim. He added this note in 1893 (CP 5.402 n2):
The essence of belief is the establishment of a habit, and different beliefs are distinguished by the different modes of action to which they give rise. If beliefs do not differ in this respect, if they appease the same doubt by producing the same rule of action, then no mere differences in the manner of consciousness of them can make them different beliefs, any more than playing a tune in different keys is playing different tunes. Imaginary distinctions are often drawn between beliefs which differ only in their mode of expression;— the wrangling which ensues is real enough, however.… Such false distinctions do as much harm as the confusion of beliefs really different, and are among the pitfalls of which we ought constantly to beware, especially when we are upon metaphysical ground. One singular deception of this sort, which often occurs, is to mistake the sensation produced by our own unclearness of thought for a character of the object we are thinking. Instead of perceiving that the obscurity is purely subjective, we fancy that we contemplate a quality of the object which is essentially mysterious; and if our conception be afterward presented to us in a clear form we do not recognize it as the same, owing to the absence of the feeling of unintelligibility. So long as this deception lasts, it obviously puts an impassable barrier in the way of perspicuous thinking; so that it equally interests the opponents of rational thought to perpetuate it, and its adherents to guard against it.
Another such deception is to mistake a mere difference in the grammatical construction of two words for a distinction between the ideas they express. In this pedantic age, when the general mob of writers attend so much more to words than to things, this error is common enough. When I just said that thought is an action, and that it consists in a relation, although a person performs an action but not a relation, which can only be the result of an action, yet there was no inconsistency in what I said, but only a grammatical vagueness.
From all these sophisms we shall be perfectly safe so long as we reflect that the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action; and that whatever there is connected with a thought, but irrelevant to its purpose, is an accretion to it, but no part of it. If there be a unity among our sensations which has no reference to how we shall act on a given occasion, as when we listen to a piece of music, why we do not call that thinking. To develop its meaning, we have, therefore, simply to determine what habits it produces, for what a thing means is simply what habits it involves. Now, the identity of a habit depends on how it might lead us to act, not merely under such circumstances as are likely to arise, but under such as might possibly occur, no matter how improbable they may be — no matter if contrary to all previous experience. What the habit is depends on when and how it causes us to act. As for the when, every stimulus to action is derived from perception; as for the how, every purpose of action is to produce some sensible result. Thus, we come down to what is tangible and conceivably practical, as the root of every real distinction of thought, no matter how subtile it may be; and there is no distinction of meaning so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice.
To see what this principle leads to, consider in the light of it such a doctrine as that of transubstantiation. The Protestant churches generally hold that the elements of the sacrament are flesh and blood only in a tropical sense; they nourish our souls as meat and the juice of it would our bodies. But the Catholics maintain that they are literally just meat and blood; although they possess all the sensible qualities of wafercakes and diluted wine. But we can have no conception of wine except what may enter into a belief, either —
Such beliefs are nothing but self-notifications that we should, upon occasion, act in regard to such things as we believe to be wine according to the qualities which we believe wine to possess. The occasion of such action would be some sensible perception, the motive of it to produce some sensible result. Thus our action has exclusive reference to what affects the senses, our habit has the same bearing as our action, our belief the same as our habit, our conception the same as our belief; and we can consequently mean nothing by wine but what has certain effects, direct or indirect, upon our senses; and to talk of something as having all the sensible characters of wine, yet being in reality blood, is senseless jargon. Now, it is not my object to pursue the theological question; and having used it as a logical example I drop it, without caring to anticipate the theologian's reply. I only desire to point out how impossible it is that we should have an idea in our minds which relates to anything but conceived sensible effects of things. Our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects; and if we fancy that we have any other we deceive ourselves, and mistake a mere sensation accompanying the thought for a part of the thought itself. It is absurd to say that thought has any meaning unrelated to its only function. It is foolish for Catholics and Protestants to fancy themselves in disagreement about the elements of the sacrament, if they agree in regard to all their sensible effects, here and hereafter.
- That this, that, or the other, is wine; or,
- That wine possesses certain properties.
It appears, then, that the rule for attaining the third [and highest] grade of clearness of apprehension is as follows: Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.
Before we undertake to apply this rule, let us reflect a little upon what it implies. It has been said to be a sceptical and materialistic principle. But it is only an application of the sole principle of logic which was recommended by Jesus; “Ye may know them by their fruits,” and it is very intimately allied with the ideas of the gospel. We must certainly guard ourselves against understanding this rule in too individualistic a sense. To say that man accomplishes nothing but that to which his endeavors are directed would be a cruel condemnation of the great bulk of mankind, who never have leisure to labor for anything but the necessities of life for themselves and their families. But, without directly striving for it, far less comprehending it, they perform all that civilization requires, and bring forth another generation to advance history another step. Their fruit is, therefore, collective; it is the achievement of the whole people. What is it, then, that the whole people is about, what is this civilization that is the outcome of history, but is never completed? We cannot expect to attain a complete conception of it; but we can see that it is a gradual process, that it involves a realization of ideas in man's consciousness and in his works, and that it takes place by virtue of man's capacity for learning, and by experience continually pouring upon him ideas he has not yet acquired. We may say that it is the process whereby man, with all his miserable littlenesses, becomes gradually more and more imbued with the Spirit of God, in which Nature and History are rife. We are also told to believe in a world to come; but the idea is itself too vague to contribute much to the perspicuity of ordinary ideas. It is a common observation that those who dwell continually upon their expectations are apt to become oblivious to the requirements of their actual station. The great principle of logic is self-surrender, which does not mean that self is to lay low for the sake of an ultimate triumph. It may turn out so; but that must not be the governing purpose.
When we come to study the great principle of continuity and see how all is fluid and every point directly partakes the being of every other, it will appear that individualism and falsity are one and the same. Meantime, we know that man is not whole as long as he is single, that he is essentially a possible member of society. Especially, one man's experience is nothing, if it stands alone. If he sees what others cannot, we call it hallucination. It is not “my” experience, but “our” experience that has to be thought of; and this “us” has indefinite possibilities.
Neither must we understand the practical in any low and sordid sense. Individual action is a means and not our end. Individual pleasure is not our end; we are all putting our shoulders to the wheel for an end that none of us can catch more than a glimpse at — that which the generations are working out. But we can see that the development of embodied ideas is what it will consist in.
See also the definition of pragmatism that appeared in Baldwin's Dictionary, parts of which were contributed by others.
In ‘Consequences of Pragmaticism’ (1906), Peirce added the following comment on his ‘pragmatic maxim’:
Note that in these three lines one finds, ‘conceivably,’ ‘conceive,’ ‘conception,’ ‘conception,’ ‘conception.’ Now I find there are many people who detect the authorship of my unsigned screeds; and I doubt not that one of the marks of my style by which they do so is my inordinate reluctance to repeat a word. This employment five times over of derivates of concipere must then have had a purpose. In point of fact it had two. One was to show that I was speaking of meaning in no other sense than that of intellectual purport. The other was to avoid all danger of being understood as attempting to explain a concept by percepts, images, schemata, or by anything but concepts. I did not, therefore, mean to say that acts, which are more strictly singular than anything, could constitute the purport, or adequate proper interpretation, of any symbol. I compared action to the finale of the symphony of thought, belief being a demi-cadence. Nobody conceives that the few bars at the end of a musical movement are the purpose of the movement. They may be called its upshot. But the figure obviously would not bear detailed application. I only mention it to show that the suspicion I myself expressed (Baldwin's Dictionary Article, Pragmatism) after a too hasty rereading of the forgotten magazine paper, that it expressed a stoic, that is, a nominalistic, materialistic, and utterly philistine state of thought, was quite mistaken.
No doubt, Pragmaticism makes thought ultimately apply to action exclusively — to conceived action. But between admitting that and either saying that it makes thought, in the sense of the purport of symbols, to consist in acts, or saying that the true ultimate purpose of thinking is action, there is much the same difference as there is between saying that the artist-painter's living art is applied to dabbing paint upon canvas, and saying that that art-life consists in dabbing paint, or that its ultimate aim is dabbing paint. Pragmaticism makes thinking to consist in the living inferential metaboly of symbols whose purport lies in conditional general resolutions to act. As for the ultimate purpose of thought, which must be the purpose of everything, it is beyond human comprehension; but according to the stage of approach which my thought has made to it — with aid from many persons, among whom I may mention Royce (in his World and Individual), Schiller (in his Riddles of the Sphinx) as well, by the way, as the famous poet [Friedrich Schiller] (in his Aesthetische Briefe), Henry James the elder (in his Substance and Shadow and in his conversations), together with Swedenborg himself — it is by the indefinite replication of self-control upon self-control that the vir is begotten, and by action, through thought, he grows an esthetic ideal, not for the behoof of his own poor noddle merely, but as the share which God permits him to have in the work of creation.
This ideal, by modifying the rules of self-control modifies action, and so experience too — both the man's own and that of others, and this centrifugal movement thus rebounds in a new centripetal movement, and so on; and the whole is a bit of what has been going on, we may presume, for a time in comparison with which the sum of the geological ages is as the surface of an electron in comparison with that of a planet.— CP 5.402 n3
By the way, Peirce's comparison of ‘action to the finale of the symphony of thought, belief being a demi-cadence’ could be an echo of Swedenborg's Divine Love and Wisdom, 26:
26. Because the whole heaven and all things of heaven have relation to one God, angelic speech is such that by a certain unison flowing from the unison of heaven it closes in a single cadence - a proof that it is impossible for the angels to think otherwise than of one God; for speech is from thought.The final definition of pragmatism included here is from ‘The Kernel of Pragmatism’ (c. 1906):
It is now high time to explain what pragmatism is. I must, however, preface the explanation by a statement of what it is not … Suffice it to say once more that pragmatism is, in itself, no doctrine of metaphysics, no attempt to determine any truth of things. It is merely a method of ascertaining the meanings of hard words and of abstract concepts. All pragmatists of whatsoever stripe will cordially assent to that statement. As to the ulterior and indirect effects of practising the pragmatistic method, that is quite another affair.
All pragmatists will further agree that their method of ascertaining the meanings of words and concepts is no other than that experimental method by which all the successful sciences (in which number nobody in his senses would include metaphysics) have reached the degrees of certainty that are severally proper to them today; this experimental method being itself nothing but a particular application of an older logical rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Beyond these two propositions to which pragmatists assent nem. con., we find such slight discrepancies between the views of one and another declared adherent as are to be found in every healthy and vigorous school of thought in every department of inquiry. …— CP 5.464-6
Remembering that all matter is really mind, remembering, too, the continuity of mind, let us ask what aspect Lamarckian evolution takes on within the domain of consciousness. Direct endeavor can achieve almost nothing. It is as easy by taking thought to add a cubit to one's stature as it is to produce an idea acceptable to any of the Muses by merely straining for it before it is ready to come. We haunt in vain the sacred well and throne of Mnemosyne; the deeper workings of the spirit take place in their own slow way, without our connivance. Let but their bugle sound, and we may then make our effort, sure of an oblation for the altar of whatsoever divinity its savour gratifies. Besides this inward process, there is the operation of the environment, which goes to break up habits destined to be broken up and so to render the mind lively. Everybody knows that the long continuance of a routine of habit makes us lethargic, while a succession of surprises wonderfully brightens the ideas. Where there is a motion, where history is a-making, there is the focus of mental activity, and it has been said that the arts and sciences reside within the temple of Janus, waking when that is open, but slumbering when it is closed. Few psychologists have perceived how fundamental a fact this is. A portion of mind, abundantly commissured to other portions, works almost mechanically. It sinks to a condition of a railway junction. But a portion of mind almost isolated, a spiritual peninsula, or cul-de-sac, is like a railway terminus. Now mental commissures are habits. Where they abound, originality is not needed and is not found; but where they are in defect spontaneity is set free. Thus, the first step in the Lamarckian evolution of mind is the putting of sundry thoughts into situations in which they are free to play. As to growth by exercise, I have already shown, in discussing "Man's Glassy Essence," in last October's Monist, what its modus operandi must be conceived to be, at least, until a second equally definite hypothesis shall have been offered. Namely, it consists of the flying asunder of molecules, and the reparation of the parts by new matter. It is, thus, a sort of reproduction. It takes place only during exercise, because the activity of protoplasm consists in the molecular disturbance which is its necessary condition. Growth by exercise takes place also in the mind. Indeed, that is what it is to learn. But the most perfect illustration is the development of a philosophical idea by being put into practice. The conception which appeared, at first, as unitary splits up into special cases; and into each of these new thought must enter to make a practicable idea. This new thought, however, follows pretty closely the model of the parent conception; and thus a homogeneous development takes place. The parallel between this and the course of molecular occurrences is apparent. Patient attention will be able to trace all these elements in the transaction called learning.
Direct experience is neither certain nor uncertain, because it affirms nothing,— it just is. There are delusions, hallucinations, dreams. But there is no mistake that such things really do appear, and direct experience means simply the appearance. It involves no error, because it testifies to nothing but its own appearance. For the same reason, it affords no certainty. It is not exact, because it leaves much vague; though it is not inexact either; that is, it has no false exactitude.
All this is true of direct experience at its first presentation. But when it comes up to be criticized it is past, itself, and is represented by memory. Now the deceptions and inexactitude of memory are proverbial.— 1893 (CP 1.145-6)
Continuity involves infinity in the strictest sense, and infinity even in a less strict sense goes beyond the possibility of direct experience.— 1893 (CP 1.166, PM 157)
All the elements of experience belong to three classes, which, since they are best defined in terms of numbers, may be termed Kainopythagorean categories. Namely, experience is composed of
1st, monadic experiences, or simples, being elements each of such a nature that it might without inconsistency be what it is though there were nothing else in all experience;
2nd, dyadic experiences, or recurrences, each a direct experience of an opposing pair of objects;
3rd, triadic experiences, or comprehensions, each a direct experience which connects other possible experiences.— 1899? (CP 7.528)
That we cannot have an experience of exertion without a direct experience therein of resistance to our exertion is plain. By an experience of exertion, I do not mean a consciousness of resolving to do something, nor the collection of our force preparatory to an effort, but merely what we experience in the very act of doing. This being understood, I contend that it is equally true that we cannot have an experience of being affected by anything without having therein a direct experience of our resisting the effect.— (CP 7.531)
Although in all direct experience of reaction, an ego, a something within, is one member of the pair, yet we attribute reactions to objects outside of us. When we say that a thing exists, what we mean is that it reacts upon other things. That we are transferring to it our direct experience of reaction is shown by our saying that one thing acts upon another. It is our hypothesis to explain the phenomena,— a hypothesis, which like the working hypothesis of a scientific inquiry, we may not believe to be altogether true, but which is useful in enabling us to conceive of what takes place.— (CP 7.534)
… continuity, regularity, and significance are essentially the same idea with merely subsidiary differences. That this element is found in experience is shown by the fact that all experience involves time. Now the flow of time is conceived as continuous. No matter whether this continuity is a datum of sense, or a quasi-hypothesis imported by the mind into experience, or even an illusion; in any case it remains a direct experience. For experience is not what analysis discovers but the raw material upon which analysis works. This element then is an element of direct experience.— (CP 7.535)
Deceive yourself as you may, you have a direct experience of something reacting against you. You may suppose that there is some substance in which ego and non-ego have alike the roots of their being; but that is beside the question. The fact of the reaction remains. There is the proposition which is so, whatever you may opine about it. The essence of truth lies in its resistance to being ignored.— 1902 (CP 2.139)
Whatever strikes the eye or the touch, whatever strikes upon the ear, whatever affects nose or palate, contains something unexpected. Experience of the unexpected forces upon us the idea of duality. Will you say, “Yes, the idea is forced upon us, but it is not directly experienced, because only what is within is directly experienced”? The reply is that experience means nothing but just that of a cognitive nature which the history of our lives has forced upon us. It is indirect, if the medium of some other experience or thought is required to bring it out. Duality, thought abstractly, no doubt requires the intervention of reflexion; but that upon which this reflexion is based, the concrete duality, is there in the very experience itself.— 1902? (ms 596)
But no method of reasoning is directly revealed by experience. For direct experience is merely that here and now something occurs; while a method of reasoning is not of the nature of an occurrence on a special occasion. The facts, therefore, will have to be reasoned about. In this reasoning, the reader will have to use such notions of reasoning as he has.— 1902? (ms 599)
A poor analyst is he who cannot see that the Unexpected is a direct experience of duality, that just as there can be no effort without resistance, so there can be no subjectivity of the unexpected without the objectivity of the unexpected, that they are merely two aspects of one experience given together and beyond all criticism.— (ms 599)
If you object that there can be no immediate consciousness of generality, I grant that. If you add that one can have no direct experience of the general, I grant that as well. Generality, Thirdness, pours in upon us in our very perceptual judgments, and all reasoning, so far as it depends on necessary reasoning, that is to say, mathematical reasoning, turns upon the perception of generality and continuity at every step.— 1903 (Harvard Lecture 5, EP2:207)
In Existential Graphs, a spot with one tail —X represents a quality, a spot with two tails —R— a dyadic relation. Joining the ends of two tails is also a dyadic relation. But you can never by such joining make a graph with three tails. You may think that a node connecting three lines of identity is not a triadic idea. But analysis will show that it is so. I see a man on Monday. On Tuesday I see a man, and I exclaim, “Why, that is the very man I saw on Monday.” We may say, with sufficient accuracy, that I directly experienced the identity. On Wednesday I see a man and I say, “That is the same man I saw on Tuesday, and consequently is the same I saw on Monday.” There is a recognition of triadic identity; but it is only brought about as a conclusion from two premisses, which is itself a triadic relation. If I see two men at once, I cannot by any such direct experience identify both of them with a man I saw before. I can only identify them if I regard them, not as the very same, but as two different manifestations of the same man. But the idea of manifestation is the idea of a sign. Now a sign is something, A, which denotes some fact or object, B, to some interpretant thought, C.— 1903 (Lowell Lecture 3, CP1.346)
The first step of Kant's thought — the first moment of it, if you like that phraseology — is to recognize that all our knowledge is, and forever must be, relative to human experience and to the nature of the human mind. That conception being well digested, the second moment of the reasoning becomes evident, namely, that as soon as it has been shown concerning any conception that it is essentially involved in the very forms of logic or other forms of knowing, from that moment there can no longer be any rational hesitation about fully accepting that conception as valid for the universe of our possible experience. To repeat an example I have given before, you look at an object and say “That is red.” I ask you how you prove that. You tell me you see it. Yes, you see something; but you do not see that it is red; because that it is red is a proposition; and you do not see a proposition. What you see is an image and has no resemblance to a proposition, and there is no logic in saying that your proposition is proved by the image. For a proposition can only be logically based on a premiss and a premiss is a proposition. To this you very properly reply, with Kant's aid, that my objections allege what is perfectly true, but that instead of showing that you have no right to say the thing is red they conclusively prove that you are logically justified in doing so. At this point, the idealist appears before the tribunal of your reason with the suggestion that since these metaphysical conceptions, that repose upon their being involved in the forms of logic, are only valid for experience and since all our knowledge is relative to the human mind, they are not valid for things as they objectively are; and since the conception of existence is preeminently a conception of that description, it is a mere fairy tale to say that outward objects exist, the only objects of possible experience being our own ideas. Hereupon comes the third moment of Kant's thought, which was only made prominent in the second edition, not, as Kant truly says, that it was not already in the book, but that it was an idea in which Kant's mind was so completely immersed that he failed to see the necessity of making an explicit statement of it, until Fichte misinterpreted him. It is really a most luminous and central element of Kant's thought. I may say that it is the very sun round which all the rest revolves. This third moment consists in the flat denial that the metaphysical conceptions do not apply to things in themselves. Kant never said that. What he said is that these conceptions do not apply beyond the limits of possible experience. But we have direct experience of things in themselves. Nothing can be more completely false than that we can experience only our own ideas. That is indeed without exaggeration the very epitome of all falsity. Our knowledge of things in themselves is entirely relative, it is true; but all experience and all knowledge is knowledge of that which is, independently of being represented. Even lies invariably contain this much truth, that they represent themselves to be referring to something whose mode of being is independent of its being represented. This is true even if the proposition relates to an object of representation as such. At the same time, no proposition can relate, or even thoroughly pretend to relate, to any object otherwise than as that object is represented. These things are utterly unintelligible as long as your thoughts are mere dreams. But as soon as you take into account that Secondness that jabs you perpetually in the ribs, you become awake to their truth.— 1903 (Lowell Lecture 6, CP 6.95)
If we call experience all the thought which is forced upon us, matter is a word which serves merely to express the element of reaction which we find in experience, which by the nature of it can have place only between the members of a pair, and of which we have direct experience when we exert ourselves to push against anything. We express this experience by saying that a quoddam pushes against us. Then, if we see a red patch moving about, and others see it, too, we say that a quoddam is red. This is as good a formulation of the experience as any philosopher could construct. The contrast of this red patch to what surrounds it leads us to think there is something of the nature of resistance to the will there; and experiment will confirm this, generally speaking.
Aristotle held that Matter and Form were the only elements of experience. But he had an obscure conception of what he calls entelechy, which I take to be a groping for the recognition of a third element which I find clearly in experience. Indeed it is by far the most overt of the three. It was this that caused Aristotle to overlook it. Attention cannot be concentrated on that which covers the entire field; and this element is so universal that it is difficult to find a point of view from which there shall be any unquestionable contrast in this respect.— 1903? (NEM4, 294)
Direct experience is experience then and there. Indirect experience is an indication by means of a relation to a direct experience. Thus, if one speaks of yesterday, the interpreter will know what is meant only by its relation to the time-date that is present to him. If a length is expressed by its ratio to a metre, since it is very unlikely that the interpreter is at that moment gazing upon the prototype metre in the Pavillon de Breteuil, in the Park of St. Cloud,— and even if he were, mere gazing would not be the experience required to acquaint him with, say, 0.0254 of a metre, it seems to be quite impossible to make the experience quite direct. For example, I once carried a yard-bar, which I had compared with the particular interval on a certain brass bar called the “Troughton scale,” which had for generations been the basis of all American specifications of lengths in the English system,— I carried this to Westminster and compared it with the prototype yard. The operation occupied some weeks; and after the observations were complete, it still remained to make the necessary calculations. Clearly, there was no point of time in which I was under a direct experience of the ratio of the American to the British yard. If my result was published, as it must have been in due time, it was the inferential result of the combination of hundreds of observations each made under extraordinary precautions. All scientific experience is of that kind. Indeed, it is not regarded by scientific men as being satisfactory unless it combines the direct experiences of different observers. Direct experience is far too vague or uncertain to be admitted among the number of scientific results. Of course, the most cogent experience, the experience that least violates the principle of contradiction (I mean by this bizarre expression that, for example, one of the least vague of scientific experiences is that an inch is somewheres in the neighborhood of 2.54 centimetres; but any one value from 2.53999 to 2.54001 was, at my last advices, about as true, considered as the result of scientific experience, as any other, although according to the principle of contradiction, but a single answer to any single question can be true.). Indeed, direct experience is a sort of figment, in one sense, although it is the basis of all certitude. If I am making a chemical weighing, I set down a figure which goes a little beyond the sensitiveness of my balance. According to the usual theory of errors, which is, itself, only a convenient substitute for a knowledge that I do not possess, the average of a hundred weighings (with a rider which enables me to express the result considerably more accurately than any weighing can be made,) should be ten times as accurate as a single weighing. Upon the same principle, a scientific result that is regarded a single experience is far superior to a direct experience, although it is derived from direct experience by a process of which we know,— though we do not know much about it,— that it is not strictly defensible.R 200:E94-E97, 1908 (J.A. Schmidt transcription, July 2018)
But without beating longer round the bush, let us come to close quarters. Experience is our only teacher. Far be it from me to enunciate any doctrine of a tabula rasa. For as I said a few minutes ago, there manifestly is not one drop of principle in the whole vast reservoir of established scientific theory that has sprung from any other source than the power of the human mind to originate ideas that are true. But this power, for all it has accomplished, is so feeble that as ideas flow from their springs in the soul, the truths are almost drowned in a flood of false notions; and that which experience does is gradually, and by a sort of fractionation, to precipitate and filter off the false ideas, eliminating them and letting the truth pour on in its mighty current.
But precisely how does this action of experience take place? It takes place by a series of surprises. There is no need of going into details. At one time a ship is sailing along in the trades over a smooth sea, the navigator having no more positive expectation than that of the usual monotony of such a voyage — when suddenly she strikes upon a rock. The majority of discoveries, however, have been the result of experimentation. Now no man makes an experiment without being more or less inclined to think that an interesting result will ensue; for experiments are much too costly of physical and psychical energy to be undertaken at random and aimlessly. And naturally nothing can possibly be learned from an experiment that turns out just as was anticipated. It is by surprises that experience teaches all she deigns to teach us.
In all the works on pedagogy that ever I read — and they have been many, big, and heavy — I don't remember that any one has advocated a system of teaching by practical jokes, mostly cruel. That, however, describes the method of our great teacher, Experience. She says,Open your mouth and shut your eyesand thereupon she keeps her promise, and seems to take her pay in the fun of tormenting us.
And I'll give you something to make you wise;
The phenomenon of surprise in itself is highly instructive in reference to this category because of the emphasis it puts upon a mode of consciousness which can be detected in all perception, namely, a double consciousness at once of an ego and a non-ego, directly acting upon each other. Understand me well. My appeal is to observation — observation that each of you must make for himself.
The question is what the phenomenon is. We make no vain pretense of going beneath phenomena. We merely ask, what is the content of the Percept? Everybody should be competent to answer that of himself. Examine the Percept in the particularly marked case in which it comes as a surprise. Your mind was filled [with] an imaginary object that was expected. At the moment when it was expected the vividness of the representation is exalted, and suddenly, when it should come, something quite different comes instead. I ask you whether at that instant of surprise there is not a double consciousness, on the one hand of an Ego, which is simply the expected idea suddenly broken off, on the other hand of the Non-Ego, which is the strange intruder, in his abrupt entrance.
The whole question is what the perceptual facts are, as given in direct perceptual judgments. By a perceptual judgment, I mean a judgment asserting in propositional form what a character of a percept directly present to the mind is. The percept of course is not itself a judgment, nor can a judgment in any degree resemble a percept. It is as unlike it as the printed letters in a book, where a Madonna of Murillo is described, are unlike the picture itself. You may adopt any theory that seems to you acceptable as to the psychological operations by which perceptual judgments are formed. For our present purpose it makes no difference what that theory is. All that I insist upon is that those operations, whatever they may be, are utterly beyond our control and will go on whether we are pleased with them or not. Now I say that taking the word “criticize” in the sense it bears in philosophy, that of apportioning praise and blame, it is perfectly idle to criticize anything over which you can exercise no sort of control. You may wisely criticize a reasoning, because the reasoner, in the light of your criticism, will certainly go over his reasoning again and correct it if your blame of it was just. But to pronounce an involuntary operation of the mind good or bad, has no more sense than to pronounce the proportion of weights in which hydrogen and chlorine combine, that of 1 to 35.11 to be good or bad. I said it was idle; but in point of fact “nonsensical” would have been an apter word.
If, therefore, our careful direct interpretation of perception, and more emphatically of such perception as involves surprise, is that the perception represents two objects reacting upon one another, that is not only a decision from which there is no appeal, but it is downright nonsense to dispute the fact that in perception two objects really do so react upon one another.
That, of course, is the doctrine of Immediate Perception which is upheld by Reid, Kant, and all dualists who understand the true nature of dualism, and the denial of which led Cartesians to the utterly absurd theory of divine assistance upon which the preestablished harmony of Leibniz is but a slight improvement. Every philosopher who denies the doctrine of Immediate Perception — including idealists of every stripe — by that denial cuts off all possibility of ever cognizing a relation. Nor will he better his position by declaring that all relations are illusive appearances, since it is not merely true knowledge of them that he has cut off, but every mode of cognitive representation of them.
Peirce elaborated a bit further on this in his notes for the fourth Harvard Lecture (EP2:195):
Now when a man is surprised he knows that he is surprised. Now comes a dilemma. Does he know he is surprised by direct perception or by inference? First try the hypothesis that it is by inference. This theory would be that a person (who must be supposed old enough to have acquired self-consciousness) on becoming conscious of that peculiar quality of feeling which unquestionably belongs to all surprise, is induced by some reason to attribute this feeling to himself. It is, however, a patent fact that we never, in the first instance, attribute a Quality of feeling to ourselves. We first attribute it to a non-ego and only come to attribute it to ourselves when irrefragable reasons compel us to do so. Therefore, the theory would have to be that the man first pronounces the surprising object a wonder, and upon reflection convinces himself that it is only a wonder in the sense that he is surprised. That would have to be the theory. But it is in conflict with the facts which are that a man is more or less placidly expecting one result, and suddenly finds something in contrast to that forcing itself upon his recognition. A duality is thus forced upon him: on the one hand, his expectation which he had been attributing to Nature, but which he is now compelled to attribute to some mere inner world, and on the other hand, a strong new phenomenon which shoves that expectation into the background and occupies its place. The old expectation, which is [what he] was familiar with, is his inner world, or ego. The new phenomenon, the stranger, is from the exterior world or non-ego. He does not conclude that he must be surprised because the object is so marvellous. But on the contrary, it is because of the duality presenting itself as such that he [is] led by generalization to a conception of a quality of marvellousness.
Try, then, the other alternative that it is by direct perception, that is, in a direct perceptual judgment, that a man knows that he is surprised. The perceptual judgment, however, certainly does not represent that it is he himself who has played a little trick upon himself. A man cannot startle himself by jumping up with an exclamation of Boo! Nor could the perceptual judgment have represented anything so out of nature. The perceptual judgment, then, can only be that it is the non-ego, something over against the ego and bearing it down, is what has surprised him. But if that be so, this direct perception presents an ego to which the smashed expectation belonged, and the non-ego, the sadder and wiser man, to which the new phenomenon belongs.
Peirce's reflections on scientific method as involving all three types of inference – induction, deduction, and abduction (also called ‘hypothesis’ or ‘retroduction’) – were set forth in his fourth Cambridge lecture of 1898, ‘The First Rule of Logic’ (EP2:42-56, with omissions; RLT 165-78):
Certain methods of mathematical computation correct themselves; so that if an error be committed, it is only necessary to keep right on, and it will be corrected in the end. For instance, I want to extract the cube root of 2.
[calculations and other remarks omitted here]
This calls to mind one of the most wonderful features of reasoning, and one of the most important philosophemes in the doctrine of science, of which, however, you will search in vain for any mention in any book I can think of; namely, that reasoning tends to correct itself, and the more so, the more wisely its plan is laid. Nay, it not only corrects its conclusions, it even corrects its premises. The theory of Aristotle is that a necessary conclusion is just equally as certain as its premises, while a probable conclusion is somewhat less so. Hence, he was driven to his strange distinction between what is better known to Nature and what is better known to us. But were every probable inference less certain than its premises, science, which piles inference upon inference, often quite deeply, would soon be in a bad way. Every astronomer, however, is familiar with the fact that the catalogue place of a fundamental star, which is the result of elaborate reasoning, is far more accurate than any of the observations from which it was deduced.
That Induction tends to correct itself, is obvious enough. When a man undertakes to construct a table of mortality upon the basis of the Census, he is engaged in an inductive inquiry. And lo, the very first thing that he will discover from the figures, if he did not know it before, is that those figures are very seriously vitiated by their falsity. The young find it to their advantage to be thought older than they are, and the old to be thought younger than they are. The number of young men who are just 21 is altogether in excess of those who are 20, although in all other cases the ages expressed in round numbers are in great excess. Now the operation of inferring a law in a succession of observed numbers is, broadly speaking, inductive; and therefore we see that a properly conducted Inductive research corrects its own premises.
That the same thing may be true of a Deductive inquiry our arithmetical example has shown. Theoretically, I grant you, there is no possibility of error in necessary reasoning. But to speak thus “theoretically,” is to use language in a Pickwickian sense. In practice, and in fact, mathematics is not exempt from that liability to error that affects everything that man does. Strictly speaking, it is not certain that twice two is four. If on an average in every thousand figures obtained by addition by the average man there be one error, and if a thousand million men have each added 2 to 2 ten thousand times, there is still a possibility that they have all committed the same error of addition every time. If everything were fairly taken into account, I do not suppose that twice two is four is more certain than Edmund Gurney held the existence of veridical phantasms of the dying or dead to be. Deductive inquiry, then, has its errors; and it corrects them, too. But it is by no means so sure, or at least so swift to do this as is Inductive science. A celebrated error in the Mécanique Céleste concerning the amount of theoretical acceleration of the moon's mean motion deceived the whole world of astronomy for more than half a century. Errors of reasoning in the first book of Euclid's Elements, the logic of which book was for two thousand years subjected to more careful criticism than any other piece of reasoning without exception ever was or probably ever will be, only became known after the non-Euclidean geometry had been developed. The certainty of mathematical reasoning, however, lies in this, that once an error is suspected, the whole world is speedily in accord about it.
As for Retroductive Inquiries, or the Explanatory Sciences, such as Geology, Evolution, and the like, they always have been and always must be theatres of controversy. These controversies do get settled, after a time, in the minds of candid inquirers; though it does not always happen that the protagonists themselves are able to assent to the justice of the decision. Nor is the general verdict always logical or just.
So it appears that this marvellous self-correcting property of Reason, which Hegel made so much of, belongs to every sort of science, although it appears as essential, intrinsic, and inevitable only in the highest type of reasoning, which is induction. But the logic of relatives shows that the other types of reasoning, Deduction and Retroduction, are not so thoroughly unlike Induction as they might be thought, and as Deduction, at least, always has been thought to be. Stuart Mill alone among the older logicians in his analysis of the Pons Asinorum came very near to the view which the logic of relatives forces us to take. Namely, in the logic of relatives, treated let us say, in order to fix our ideas, by means of those existential graphs of which I gave a slight sketch in the last lecture, begins a Deduction by writing down all the premises. Those different premises are then brought into one field of assertion, that is, are colligated, as Whewell would say, or joined into one copulative proposition. Thereupon, we proceed attentively to observe the graph. It is just as much an operation of Observation as is the observation of bees. This observation leads us to make an experiment upon the Graph. Namely, we first duplicate portions of it; and then we erase portions of it, that is, we put out of sight part of the assertion in order to see what the rest of it is. We observe the result of this experiment, and that is our deductive conclusion. Precisely those three things are all that enter into the experiment of any Deduction — Colligation, Iteration, Erasure. The rest of the process consists of observing the result. It is not, however, in every Deduction that all the three possible elements of the Experiment take place. In particular, in ordinary syllogism the iteration may be said to be absent. And that is the reason that ordinary syllogism can be worked by a machine. There is but one conclusion of any consequence to be drawn by ordinary syllogism from given premises. Hence it is that we fall into the habit of talking of the conclusion. But in the logic of relatives there are conclusions of different orders, depending upon how much iteration takes place. What is the conclusion deducible from the very simple first principles of number? It is ridiculous to speak of the conclusion. The conclusion is no less than the aggregate of all the theorems of higher arithmetic that have been discovered or that ever will be discovered. Now let us turn to Induction. This mode of reasoning also begins by a colligation. In fact, it is precisely the colligation that gave induction its name, επαγαγειν with Socrates, συναγωγη with Plato, επαγωγη with Aristotle. It must, by the rule of predesignation, be a deliberate Experiment. In ordinary induction we proceed to observe something about each instance. Relative induction is illustrated by the process of making out the law of the arrangement of the scales of a pine-cone. It is necessary to mark a scale taken as an instance, and counting in certain directions to come back to that marked scale. This double observation of the same instance corresponds to Iteration in deduction. Finally, we erase the particular instances and leave the class or system sampled directly connected with the characters, relative or otherwise, which have been found in the sample of it.
We see, then, that induction and deduction are after all not so very unlike. It is true that in Induction we commonly make many experiments and in deduction only one. Yet this is not always the case. The chemist contents himself with a single experiment to establish any qualitative fact. True, he does this because he knows that there is such a uniformity in the behaviour of chemical bodies that another experiment would be a mere repetition of the first in every respect. But it is precisely such a knowledge of a uniformity that leads the mathematician to content himself with one experiment. The inexperienced student in mathematics will mentally perform a number of geometrical experiments, which the veteran would regard as superfluous, before he will permit himself to come to a general conclusion. For example, if the question is, how many rays can cut four rays fixed in space, the experienced mathematician will content himself with imagining that two of the fixed rays intersect and that the other two likewise intersect. He will see, then, that there is one ray through the two intersections and another along the intersection of the two planes of pairs of intersecting fixed rays, and will unhesitatingly declare thereupon that but two rays can cut four fixed rays, unless the fixed rays are so situated that an infinite multitude of rays will cut them all. But I dare say many of you would want to experiment with other arrangements of the four fixed rays, before making any confident pronouncement. A friend of mine who seemed to have difficulties in adding up her accounts was once counselled to add each column five times and adopt the mean of the different results. It is evident that when we run a column of figures down as well as up, as a check, or when we review a demonstration in order to look out for any possible flaw in the reasoning, we are acting precisely as when in an induction we enlarge our sample for the sake of the self-correcting effect of induction.
As for retroduction, it is itself an experiment. A retroductive research is an experimental research; and when we look upon induction and deduction from the point of view of experiment and observation, we are merely tracing in those types of reasoning their affinity to retroduction. It begins always with colligation, of course, of a variety of separately observed facts about the subject of the hypothesis.… Something corresponding to iteration may or may not take place. And then comes an observation. Not, however, an external observation of the objects as in induction, nor yet an observation made upon the parts of a diagram, as in deduction; but for all that just as truly an observation. For what is observation? What is experience? It is the enforced element in the history of our lives. It is that which we are constrained to be conscious of by an occult force residing in an object which we contemplate. The act of observation is the deliberate yielding of ourselves to that force majeure — an early surrender at discretion, due to our foreseeing that we must, whatever we do, be borne down by that power, at last. Now the surrender which we make in retroduction, is a surrender to the insistence of an idea. The hypothesis, as the Frenchman says, c'est plus fort que moi. It is irresistible; it is imperative. We must throw open our gates and admit it, at any rate for the time being. … Finally, retroduction lets slip out of attention the special characters involved in its premises, because they are virtually contained in the hypothesis which it has been led to presume. But as our study of the subject of the hypothesis grows deeper, that hypothesis will be sure gradually to take another color, little by little to receive modifications, corrections, amplifications, even in case no catastrophe befalls it.
Thus it is that inquiry of every type, fully carried out, has the vital power of self-correction and of growth. This is a property so deeply saturating its inmost nature that it may truly be said that there is but one thing needful for learning the truth, and that is a hearty and active desire to learn what is true. If you really want to learn the truth, you will, by however devious a path, be surely led into the way of truth, at last. No matter how erroneous your ideas of the method may be at first, you will be forced at length to correct them so long as your activity is moved by that sincere desire. Nay, no matter if you only half desire it, at first, that desire would at length conquer all others, could experience continue long enough. But the more veraciously truth is described at the outset, the shorter by centuries will the road to it be.
In order to demonstrate that this is so, it is necessary to note what is essentially involved in the Will to Learn. The first thing that the Will to Learn supposes is a dissatisfaction with one's present state of opinion. There lies the secret of why it is that our American universities are so miserably insignificant. What have they done for the advance of civilization? What is the great idea or where is [the] single great man who can truly be said to be the product of an American university? The English universities, rotting with sloth as they always have, have nevertheless in the past given birth to Locke and to Newton, and in our time to Cayley, Sylvester, and Clifford. The German universities have been the light of the whole world. The medieval University of Bologna gave Europe its system of law. The University of Paris and that despised scholasticism took Abelard and made him into Descartes. The reason was that they were institutions of learning while ours are institutions for teaching. In order that a man's whole heart may be in teaching he must be thoroughly imbued with the vital importance and absolute truth of what he has to teach; while in order that he may have any measure of success in learning he must be penetrated with a sense of the unsatisfactoriness of his present condition of knowledge. The two attitudes are almost irreconcilable. But just as it is not the self-righteous man who brings multitudes to a sense of sin, but the man who is most deeply conscious that he is himself a sinner, and it is only by a sense of sin that men can escape its thraldom; so it is not the man, who thinks he knows it all, that can bring other men to feel their need of learning, and it is only a deep sense that one is miserably ignorant that can spur one on in the toilsome path of learning. That is why, to my very humble apprehension, it cannot but seem that those admirable pedagogical methods, for which the American teacher is distinguished, are of little more consequence than the cut of his coat, that they surely are as nothing compared with that fever for learning that must consume the soul of the man who is to infect others with the same apparent malady. Let me say that of the present condition of Harvard I really know nothing at all except that I know the leaders of the department of philosophy to be all true scholars, particularly marked by eagerness to learn and freedom from dogmatism. And in every age, it can only be the philosophy of that age, such as it may be, which can animate the special sciences to any work that shall really carry forward the human mind to some new and valuable truth. Because the valuable truth is not the detached one, but the one that goes toward enlarging the system of what is already known.
The inductive method springs directly out of dissatisfaction with existing knowledge. The great rule of predesignation which must guide it is as much as to say that an induction to be valid must be prompted by a definite doubt or at least an interrogation; and what is such an interrogation but first, a sense that we do not know something; second, a desire to know it; and third, an effort,— implying a willingness to labor,— for the sake of seeing how the truth may really be. If that interrogation inspires you, you will be sure to examine the instances; while if it does not, you will pass them by without attention.
I repeat that I know nothing about the Harvard of today, but …
There is one thing that I am sure a Harvard education cannot fail to do, because it did that much even in my time, and for a very insouciant student; I mean that it cannot fail to disabuse the student of the popular notion that modern science is so very great a thing as to be commensurate with Nature and indeed to constitute of itself some account of the universe, and to show him that it is yet, what it appeared to Isaac Newton to be, a child's collection of pebbles gathered upon the beach,— the vast ocean of Being lying there unsounded.
[Several paragraphs demonstrating the above claim, giving many examples from the state of science in Peirce's time, are omitted here.]
When I say that a retroductive inference is not a matter for belief at all, I encounter the difficulty that there are certain inferences which, scientifically considered, are undoubtedly hypotheses and yet which practically are perfectly certain. Such for instance is the inference that Napoleon Bonaparte really lived at about the beginning of this century, a hypothesis which we adopt for the purpose of explaining the concordant testimony of a hundred memoirs, the public records of history, tradition, and numberless monuments and relics. It would surely be downright insanity to entertain a doubt about Napoleon's existence. A still better example is that of the translations of the cuneiform inscriptions which began in mere guesses, in which their authors could have had no real confidence. Yet by piling new conjectures upon former conjectures apparently verified, this science has gone on to produce under our very eyes a result so bound together by the agreement of the readings with one another, with other history, and with known facts of linguistics, that we are unwilling any longer to apply the word theory to it. You will ask me how I can reconcile such facts as these with my dictum that hypothesis is not a matter for belief. In order to answer this question I must first examine such inferences in their scientific aspect and afterwards in their practical aspect. The only end of science, as such, is to learn the lesson that the universe has to teach it. In induction it simply surrenders itself to the force of facts. But it finds, at once,— I am partially inverting the historical order, in order to state the process in its logical order,— it finds I say that this is not enough. It is driven in desperation to call upon its inward sympathy with nature, its instinct for aid, just as we find Galileo at the dawn of modern science making his appeal to il lume naturale. But in so far as it does this, the solid ground of fact fails it. It feels from that moment that its position is only provisional. It must then find confirmations or else shift its footing. Even if it does find confirmations, they are only partial. It still is not standing upon the bedrock of fact. It is walking upon a bog, and can only say, this ground seems to hold for the present. Here I will stay till it begins to give way. Moreover, in all its progress, science vaguely feels that it is only learning a lesson. The value of Facts to it, lies only in this, that they belong to Nature; and Nature is something great, and beautiful, and sacred, and eternal, and real,— the object of its worship and its aspiration. It therein takes an entirely different attitude toward facts from that which Practice takes. For Practice, facts are the arbitrary forces with which it has to reckon and to wrestle. Science, when it comes to understand itself, regards facts as merely the vehicle of eternal truth, while for Practice they remain the obstacles which it has to turn, the enemy of which it is determined to get the better. Science, feeling that there is an arbitrary element in its theories, still continues its studies, confident that so it will gradually become more and more purified from the dross of subjectivity; but Practice requires something to go upon, and it will be no consolation to it to know that it is on the path to objective truth,— the actual truth it must have, or when it cannot attain certainty must at least have high probability, that is, must know that, though a few of its ventures may fail the bulk of them will succeed. Hence the hypothesis which answers the purpose of theory may be perfectly worthless for Art. After a while, as Science progresses, it comes upon more solid ground. It is now entitled to reflect: this ground has held a long time without showing signs of yielding. I may hope that it will continue to hold for a great while longer. This reflection, however, is quite aside from the purpose of Science. It does not modify its procedure in the least degree. It is extra-scientific. For Practice, however, it is vitally important, quite altering the situation. As Practice apprehends it, the conclusion no longer rests upon mere retroduction, it is inductively supported. For a large sample has now been drawn from the entire collection of occasions in which the theory comes into comparison with fact, and an overwhelming proportion, in fact all the cases that have presented themselves, have been found to bear out the theory. And so, says Practice, I can safely presume that so it will be with the great bulk of the cases in which I shall go upon the theory; especially as they will closely resemble those which have been well tried. In other words there is now reason to believe in the theory, for belief is the willingness to risk a great deal upon a proposition. But this belief is no concern of science which has nothing at stake on any temporal venture, but is in pursuit of eternal verities, not semblances to truth, and looks upon this pursuit, not as the work of one man's life, but as that of generation after generation, indefinitely. Thus those retroductive inferences which at length acquire such high degrees of certainty, so far as they are so probable are not pure retroductions and do not belong to science, as such, while so far as they are scientific and are pure retroductions, have no true probability and are not matters for belief. We call them in science established truths, that is, they are propositions into which the economy of endeavor prescribes that for the time being further inquiry shall cease.
Peirce presented an equally ‘religious’ view of science in his review of Pearson's Grammar of Science (EP2:58-9):
The man of science has received a deep impression of the majesty of truth, as that to which, sooner or later, every knee must bow. He has further found that his own mind is sufficiently akin to that truth, to enable him, on condition of submissive observation, to interpret it in some measure. As he gradually becomes better and better acquainted with the character of cosmical truth, and learns that human reason is its issue and can be brought step by step into accord with it, he conceives a passion for its fuller revelation. He is keenly aware of his own ignorance, and knows that personally he can make but small steps in discovery. Yet, small as they are, he deems them precious; and he hopes that by conscientiously pursuing the methods of science he may erect a foundation upon which his successors may climb higher. This, for him, is what makes life worth living and what makes the human race worth perpetuation. The very being of law, general truth, reason,— call it what you will,— consists in its expressing itself in a cosmos and in intellects which reflect it, and in doing this progressively; and that which makes progressive creation worth doing,— so the researcher comes to feel,— is precisely the reason, the law, the general truth for the sake of which it takes place.Peirce claims that this, ‘as a matter of fact, is the motive which effectually works for the man of science.’ With an eye on the professional corporate-funded scientist of today, we may well doubt that ‘the scientist’ is so indifferent to career or compensation as to dedicate himself so purely to the quest for truth. But Peirce would say that anyone who falls far short of this standard should not be called a ‘man of science’ but a ‘pseudo-scientist’:
The worst feature of the present state of things is that the great majority of the members of many scientific societies, and a large part of others, are men whose chief interest in science is as a means of gaining money, and who have a contempt, or half-contempt, for pure science. Now, to declare that the sole reason for scientific research is the good of society is to encourage those pseudo-scientists to claim, and the general public to admit, that they, who deal with the applications of knowledge, are the true men of science, and that the theoreticians are little better than idlers.— EP2:61
I open this intensely interesting question by showing that of the three types of induction one alone is of any real scientific value. I then show that all that an induction of this type really accomplishes is to ascertain the value of a ratio. It follows that the whole substance of science must come to us by abduction, in the same sense in which, according to the theory of natural selection in its extended form, the whole interval between the moner and man has been traversed by insensible variations in reproduction. Induction, like natural selection, merely weeds out the unfit. What, then, can be the justification for a hypothesis? In the first place, abduction only concludes interrogatively. But that is no sufficient answer to the question. Idle interrogations are as noxious as can be. The only justification is that which is often illustrated in playing the game of whist. Three rounds remain of a hand. How the cards lie, the leader does not know. But he does know that if they lie in certain way, a certain lead will save the odd card, while if they do not lie in that way, no lead will do so. This justifies his assuming, for the purposes of the lead, that so the cards do lie. For so alone his end may be gained. The principle is that we are always justified in presuming, for the purposes of conduct, that our sole end may be reached. But all belief is belief for the purposes of conduct. Nothing has any meaning aside from practical purposes. Aside from its practical aspects a proposition cannot be false, because a meaningless thing is not a proposition, and as such, has no room to be false. If, then, it comes to this, that a certain hypothesis must be true or there is no comprehensible truth, and if, as our ethical and esthetical discussions have shown is the case, the comprehension of the universe is the sole aim which a man can deliberately pronounce to be good, he is justified in unconditionally embracing the hypothesis which is alone consonant with the attainment of a comprehension of the truth. It need not be said that the hypotheses which perfectly fulfill that condition are extremely few. Perhaps the hypothesis that the universe is governed by a self-conscious mind, in the senses in which ‘self-conscious’ and ‘mind’ are logically defined, is the only one there is. Still, practically, the case often comes to that. Possible hypotheses consist of such hypotheses as we can make. ‘Can’ is, no doubt, an elastic word. What ‘can’ be done depends on the amount of effort. Still, the effects of efforts converge toward a limit. To fix our ideas, take a concrete example. The commander of an army is in battle. The battle is of such importance that the total sum of the commander's duty is to win the day. As well as he can make out, in the limited time he has for considering the question, if a certain position can be immediately taken, the battle may be won, but otherwise cannot. Then logic commands him to believe with his whole heart and soul that that position can be taken, although if he had time to make a reconnaissance it might be foolhardy and illogical in the extreme to come to such a conclusion merely from such data as are actually in his possession. This illustrates how much the time that is allowed to form an opinion has to do, logically, with that opinion. Now a scientific investigator is in a double situation. As a unit of the scientific world, with which he in some measure identifies himself, he can wait five centuries, if need be, before he decides upon the acceptability of a certain hypothesis. But as engaged in the investigation which it is his duty diligently to pursue, he must be ready the next morning to go on that hypothesis or to reject it. What logic requires of him is that he should accept that hypothesis which is the only way that he can, at that time, see in which there should be any comprehensible truth, and think of the most surprising observable necessary consequence of it he can, and the next morning put that consequence to the test of experiment. Being as he is in a double position, as an individual, and as a representative of the science of the race, he ought to be in a double state of mind about the hypothesis, at once ardent in his belief that so it must be, and yet not committing himself further than to do his best to try the experiment. If he is merely skeptical, he will not do half justice to the experiment; if he forgets his relation to general science, he will shrink from putting his darling theory to such a test. He must combine the two attitudes. Mendeleef, drawing up his very rough arrangement of the elements, and upon the basis of that risking his detailed descriptions of Gallium, Scandium, and Germanium, is the very exemplar of what the logic of abduction prescribes.
As to the ideal to be aimed at, it is, in the first place, desirable for any branch of science that it should have a vocabulary furnishing a family of cognate words for each scientific conception, and that each word should have a single exact meaning, unless its different meanings apply to objects of different categories that can never be mistaken for one another. To be sure, this requisite might be understood in a sense which would make it utterly impossible. For every symbol is a living thing, in a very strict sense that is no mere figure of speech. The body of the symbol changes slowly, but its meaning inevitably grows, incorporates new elements and throws off old ones. But the effort of all should be to keep the essence of every scientific term unchanged and exact; although absolute exactitude is not so much as conceivable. Every symbol is, in its origin, either an image of the idea signified, or a reminiscence of some individual occurrence, person or thing, connected with its meaning, or is a metaphor. Terms of the first and third origins will inevitably be applied to different conceptions; but if the conceptions are strictly analogous in their principal suggestions, this is rather helpful than otherwise, provided always that the different meanings are remote from one another, both in themselves and in the occasions of their occurrence. Science is continually gaining new conceptions; and every new scientific conception should receive a new word, or better, a new family of cognate words. The duty of supplying this word naturally falls upon the person who introduces the new conception; but it is a duty not to be undertaken without a thorough knowledge of the principles and a large acquaintance with the details and history of the special terminology in which it is to take a place, nor without a sufficient comprehension of the principles of word-formation of the national language, nor without a proper study of the laws of symbols in general. That there should be two different terms of identical scientific value may or may not be an inconvenience, according to circumstances. Different systems of expression are often of the greatest advantage.
You have all heard of the dissipation of energy. It is found that in all transformations of energy a part is converted into heat and heat is always tending to equalize its temperature. The consequence is that the energy of the universe is tending by virtue of its necessary laws toward a death of the universe in which there shall be no force but heat and the temperature everywhere the same. This is a truly astounding result, and the most materialistic the most anti-teleological conceivable.
We may say that we know enough of the forces at work in the universe to know that there is none that can counteract this tendency away from every definite end but death.
But although no force can counteract this tendency, chance may and will have the opposite influence. Force is in the long run dissipative; chance is in the long run concentrative. The dissipation of energy by the regular laws of nature is by these very laws accompanied by circumstances more and more favorable to its reconcentration by chance. There must therefore be a point at which the two tendencies are balanced and that is no doubt the actual condition of the whole universe at the present time.
The very being of the General, of Reason, consists in its governing individual events. So, then, the essence of Reason is such that its being never can have been completely perfected. It always must be in a state of incipiency, of growth. It is like the character of a man which consists in the ideas that he will conceive and in the efforts that he will make, and which only develops as the occasions actually arise. Yet in all his life long no son of Adam has ever fully manifested what there was in him. So, then, the development of Reason requires as a part of it the occurrence of more individual events than ever can occur. It requires, too, all the coloring of all qualities of feeling, including pleasure in its proper place among the rest. This development of Reason consists, you will observe, in embodiment, that is, in manifestation. The creation of the universe, which did not take place during a certain busy week, in the year 4004 B.C., but is going on today and never will be done, is this very development of Reason. I do not see how one can have a more satisfying ideal of the admirable than the development of Reason so understood. The one thing whose admirableness is not due to an ulterior reason is Reason itself comprehended in all its fullness, so far as we can comprehend it. Under this conception, the ideal of conduct will be to execute our little function in the operation of the creation by giving a hand toward rendering the world more reasonable whenever, as the slang is, it is ‘up to us’ to do so.— Peirce, first Lowell Lecture, 1903 (EP2:255; CP 1.615)
A little book by Lady Victoria Welby has lately appeared, entitled What is Meaning?. The book has sundry merits, among them that of showing that there are three modes of meaning. But the best feature of it is that it presses home the question ‘What is meaning?’ A word has meaning for us in so far as we are able to make use of it in communicating our knowledge to others and in getting at the knowledge that these others seek to communicate to us. That is the lowest grade of meaning. The meaning of a word is more fully the sum total of all the conditional predictions which the person who uses it intends to make himself responsible for or intends to deny. That conscious or quasi-conscious intention in using the word is the second grade of meaning. But besides the consequences to which the person who accepts a word knowingly commits himself to, there is a vast ocean of unforeseen consequences which the acceptance of the word is destined to bring about, not merely consequences of knowing but perhaps revolutions of society. One cannot tell what power there may be in a word or a phrase to change the face of the world; and the sum of these consequences makes up the third grade of meaning.(EP2:255-6; CP 8.176)
In a 1907 manuscript (MS 318), Peirce defines the ‘ultimate logical interpretant’ (and thus meaning) in terms of ‘habit-change’ (CP 5.475-7):
Now the problem of what the ‘meaning’ of an intellectual concept is can only be solved by the study of the interpretants, or proper significate effects, of signs. These we find to be of three general classes with some important subdivisions. The first proper significate effect of a sign is a feeling produced by it. There is almost always a feeling which we come to interpret as evidence that we comprehend the proper effect of the sign, although the foundation of truth in this is frequently very slight. This ‘emotional interpretant,’ as I call it, may amount to much more than that feeling of recognition; and in some cases, it is the only proper significate effect that the sign produces. Thus, the performance of a piece of concerted music is a sign. It conveys, and is intended to convey, the composer's musical ideas; but these usually consist merely in a series of feelings. If a sign produces any further proper significate effect, it will do so through the mediation of the emotional interpretant, and such further effect will always involve an effort. I call it the energetic interpretant. The effort may be a muscular one, as it is in the case of the command to ground arms; but it is much more usually an exertion upon the Inner World, a mental effort. It never can be the meaning of an intellectual concept, since it is a single act, [while] such a concept is of a general nature. But what further kind of effect can there be?In advance of ascertaining the nature of this effect, it will be convenient to adopt a designation for it, and I will call it the logical interpretant, without as yet determining whether this term shall extend to anything beside the meaning of a general concept, though certainly closely related to that, or not. Shall we say that this effect may be a thought, that is to say, a mental sign? No doubt, it may be so; only, if this sign be of an intellectual kind — as it would have to be — it must itself have a logical interpretant; so that it cannot be the ultimate logical interpretant of the concept. It can be proved that the only mental effect that can be so produced and that is not a sign but is of a general application is a habit-change; meaning by a habit-change a modification of a person's tendencies toward action, resulting from previous experiences or from previous exertions of his will or acts, or from a complexus of both kinds of cause. It excludes natural dispositions, as the term ‘habit’ does, when it is accurately used; but it includes beside associations, what may be called ‘transsociations,’ or alterations of association, and even includes dissociation, which has usually been looked upon by psychologists (I believe mistakenly), as of deeply contrary nature to association.Habits have grades of strength varying from complete dissociation to inseparable association. These grades are mixtures of promptitude of action, say excitability and other ingredients not calling for separate examination here. The habit-change often consists in raising or lowering the strength of a habit. Habits also differ in their endurance (which is likewise a composite quality). But generally speaking, it may be said that the effects of habit-change last until time or some more definite cause produces new habit-changes.
In another part of this same manuscript (EP2:411-13), Peirce defines the term semiosis while explaining how a sign means, or
just what the nature is of the essential effect upon the interpreter, brought about by the sē mī ō′sis of the sign, which constitutes the logical interpretant. (It is important to understand what I mean by semiosis. All dynamical action, or action of brute force, physical or psychical, either takes place between two subjects,— whether they react equally upon each other, or one is agent and the other patient, entirely or partially,— or at any rate is a resultant of such actions between pairs. But by ‘semiosis’ I mean, on the contrary, an action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs. Σημείωσις in Greek of the Roman period, as early as Cicero's time, if I remember rightly, meant the action of almost any kind of sign; and my definition confers on anything that so acts the title of a ‘sign.’)In a footnote to this last paragraph, Peirce tells a story — also told, somewhat differently, at CP 5.538 (1902) — about an incident in which his brother Herbert, as a child of 3 or 4, responded immediately and appropriately in an emergency because he had previously imagined what he would do in just such a situation.Although the definition does not require the logical interpretant (or, for that matter, either of the other two interpretants) to be a modification of consciousness, yet our lack of experience of any semiosis in which this is not the case, leaves us no alternative to beginning our inquiry into its general nature with a provisional assumption that the interpretant is, at least, in all cases, a sufficiently close analogue of a modification of consciousness to keep our conclusion pretty near to the general truth. We can only hope that, once that conclusion is reached, it may be susceptible of such a generalization as will eliminate any possible error due to the falsity of that assumption. The reader may well wonder why I do not simply confine my inquiry to psychical semiosis, since no other seems to be of much importance. My reason is that the too frequent practice, by those logicians who do not go to work without any method at all, of basing propositions in the science of logic upon results of the science of psychology,— as contradistinguished from common-sense observations concerning the workings of the mind, observations well-known even if little noticed, to all grown men and women, that are of sound minds,— that practice is to my apprehension as unsound and insecure as was that bridge in the novel of ‘Kenilworth’ that, being utterly without any sort of support, sent the poor Countess Amy to her destruction; seeing that, for the firm establishment of the truths of the science of psychology, almost incessant appeals to the results of the science of logic,— as contradistinguished from natural perceptions that one relation evidently involves another,— are peculiarly indispensable. Those logicians continually confound psychical truths with psychological truths, although the distinction between them is of that kind that takes precedence over all others as calling for the respect of anyone who would tread the strait and narrow road that leadeth unto exact truth.Making that provisional assumption, then, I ask myself, since we have already seen that the logical interpretant is general in its possibilities of reference (i.e., refers or is related to whatever there may be of a certain description), what categories of mental facts there be that are of general reference. I can find only these four: conceptions, desires (including hopes, fears, etc.), expectations, and habits. I trust I have made no important omission. Now it is no explanation of the nature of the logical interpretant (which, we already know, is a concept) to say that it is a concept. This objection applies also to desire and expectation, as explanations of the same interpretant; since neither of these is general otherwise than through connection with a concept. Besides, as to desire, it would be easy to show (were it worth the space), that the logical interpretant is an effect of the energetic interpretant, in the sense in which the latter is an effect of the emotional interpretant. Desire, however, is cause, not effect, of effort. As to expectation, it is excluded by the fact that it is not conditional. For that which might be mistaken for a conditional expectation is nothing but a judgment that, under certain conditions, there would be an expectation: there is no conditionality in the expectation itself, such as there is in the logical interpretant after it is actually produced. Therefore, there remains only habit, as the essence of the logical interpretant.Let us see, then, just how, according to the rule derived from mathematical concepts (and confirmed by others), this habit is produced; and what sort of a habit it is. In order that this deduction may be rightly made, the following remark will be needed. It is not a result of scientific psychology, but is simply a bit of the catholic and undeniable common sense of mankind, with no other modification than a slight accentuation of certain features.Every sane person lives in a double world, the outer and the inner world, the world of percepts and the world of fancies. What chiefly keeps these from being mixed up together is (besides certain marks they bear) everybody's well knowing that fancies can be greatly modified by a certain non-muscular effort, while it is muscular effort alone (whether this be ‘voluntary,’ that is, pre-intended, or whether all the intended endeavour is to inhibit muscular action, as when one blushes, or when peristaltic action is set up on experience of danger to one's person) that can to any noticeable degree modify percepts. A man can be durably affected by his percepts and by his fancies. The way in which they affect him will be apt to depend upon his personal inborn disposition and upon his habits. Habits differ from dispositions in having been acquired as consequences of the principle, virtually well-known even to those whose powers of reflexion are insufficient to its formulation, that multiple reiterated behaviour of the same kind, under similar combinations of percepts and fancies, produces a tendency,— the habit,— actually to behave in a similar way under similar circumstances in the future. Moreover,— here is the point,— every man exercises more or less control over himself by means of modifying his own habits; and the way in which he goes to work to bring this effect about in those cases in which circumstances will not permit him to practice reiterations of the desired kind of conduct in the outer world shows that he is virtually well-acquainted with the important principle that reiterations in the inner world,— fancied reiterations,— if well-intensified by direct effort, produce habits, just as do reiterations in the outer world; and these habits will have power to influence actual behaviour in the outer world; especially, if each reiteration be accompanied by a peculiar strong effort that is usually likened to issuing a command to one's future self.
Note that there is no difference (or at least no distinction made here) between modifying a habit and producing a habit. Such a distinction would be pragmatically pointless because we have no experience of a habit appearing (being created or produced) ex nihilo.