Mere ideas and memories

If a message doesn’t make a difference when you receive it, your memory is not likely to retain it (although you can still use external media to store it for later perusal). Likewise, a possibility which occurs to you without affecting your actions or your habits does not count as an experience, as Peirce defines it here:

An “Experience” is a brutally produced conscious effect that contributes to a habit, self-controlled, yet so satisfying, on deliberation, as to be destructible by no positive exercise of internal vigour. … Take for illustration the sensation undergone by a child that puts its forefinger into a flame with the acquisition of a habit of keeping all its members out of all flames. A compulsion is “Brute,” whose immediate efficacy nowise consists in conformity to rule or reason.

EP2:435 (1908)

This is followed, in Peirce’s ‘Neglected Argument for the Reality of God,’ by the explication of the ‘three Universes of Experience familiar to us all.’ The point here is that ‘mere Ideas’ do not count as ‘experience’ unless they affect your habits in some way beyond your control. Your memory of an event – that is, your ability to recall it not only now but in the future – is itself a habit; and you can’t count something as ‘an experience’ unless you at least remember it. (Your memory edits itself, as it were, in the very act of remembering, but this too is beyond your control – which makes it a real memory.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.