|obverse Chapter 12·||Turning Signs (Contents)||References||SourceNet|
This webpage is the current version of rePatch ·12 (the reverse side of Chapter 12·) of Turning Signs, as of 30 May 2020. Each point is independent but some terms are hyperlinked to their definitions or to related contexts elsewhere.
To save your place when reading this page, click the [next] at the end of any section and then save a bookmark with your browser.
Tip: You can also search this page or the whole netbook or the gnoxic blog for any term.
The universe is wider than our views of it.— Thoreau, Walden
The psychologist Alexander Bain wrote in 1875 of belief that ‘it first shapes and forecasts the order of the world and then proceeds upon that, till a check occurs’ (quoted in Fisch 1986, 85-6). This ‘check’ may crack the shell of a brittle belief, creating space for imagination, abduction, inquiry, recycling and renewal of the belief system, the guidance system. [next]
Whatever you have done, said, thought, deeply heard or read, has contributed something to your view of the world as usual. And then there's reality, which breaks into your house of habits like a thief in the night. [next]
Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through the active construction in which we participate.In order to participate fully in the ‘Great Conversation,’ you have to believe that it's going somewhere, and that your contribution carries it (however slightly) forward, and that ultimately it would arrive at the Truth abut its subject if it could be carried forward forever. This belief cannot be firmly based on evidence – because much of the conversation hasn't yet happened, but also because it underwrites our very recognition of what counts as evidence. It's a matter of faith, like the scientist's faith that the universe makes sense, that the laws of nature are knowable; or like the singer's faith in the song, the player's faith in the play, performing as if it presented the whole moment of truth. This is what belief means in the act of meaning.— Prigogine and Stengers (1984, 293)
In the Great Dialog, the ultimate Truth is what you speak to; yet it's equally true that you can only speak from the time you are living. So you strive to speak the Next Word for that time, to bring the Dialog up to date, even though the part of you observing the Dialog knows that your word is only one step along a way that leaves every step behind. You can also be sure that the Dialog will not last forever, and even if it did, no finite mind could ever comprehend its full text, let alone its full context. The whole of which the current conversation is a part is itself only a minute fragment of the greater Whole. Trying to catch the whole sense even of this fragment is realizing that we are like waves carried along the surface of the ocean of Thought. [next]
In the end is the beginning. Along the way, though, we have to acknowledge the difference between real occurrences and real facts, as Peirce says (Chapter 15). An Occurrence is necessarily real but never completely known; a Fact, being a sign, is not necessarily real, but is necessarily incomplete, since it cannot represent the ‘swarm of circumstances’ inseparable from whatever reality it has. A Fact is ‘supposed to be an element of the very universe itself’ (EP2:304), and this ‘supposing,’ though fallible, is necessary to any inquiry which hopes to arrive at even a partial truth. [next]
The point is that the physical environment is one thing, the world as a particular organism is aware of it is something quite—not entirely, yet quite—different. The former is the subjective or physical world, the world where things exist whether or not they are cognized. The latter is the objective world, the world as it is apprehended and organized within apprehension.The Innenwelt or ‘cognitive map’ of the Umwelt or ‘objective world’— Deely (2001, 5-6)
is ‘subjective’ in just the way that all physical features of things are subjective: it belongs to and exists within some distinct entity within the world of physical things.— Deely (2001, 6)
Your Innenwelt can be called (by a virtual observer) a model of the world, but from the inside it cannot be seen as a model, because it is your habitual way of seeing and feeling whatever you see and feel: it is your world as you know it. [next]
objective: I. a. 1. As perceived or thought; intentional; ideal; representative; phenomenal: opposed to subjective or formal – that is, as in its own nature. [This, the original meaning which the Latin word received from Duns Scotus, about 1300, almost the precise contrary of that now most usual, continued the only one till the middle of the seventeenth century, and was the most familiar in English until the latter part of the eighteenth.][next]Natural phenomena are only natural appearances. They are, therefore, such as we see and perceive them. Their real and objective natures are therefore the same. —Berkeley.The faculty of the imagination, for example, and its acts were said to have a subjective existence in the mind; while its several images or representations had, qua images or objects of consciousness, only an objective. Again, a material thing, say a horse, qua existing, was said to have a subjective being out of the mind; qua conceived or known, it was said to have an objective being in the mind. —Sir W. Hamilton, in Reid's Supplementary Dissertations, note B., § 1.Where or when should we be ever able to search out all the vast treasuries of objective knowledge that layes within the compass of the universe? —Sir M. Hale, Orig. of Mankind, p. 156.[By objective knowledge was meant the propositions known, opposed to formal or subjective knowledge, the act or habit of knowing. Such expressions probably led to the change of meaning of the word.]
2. Pertaining or due to the real object of cognition; real: opposed to subjective (pertaining or due to the subject of cognition, namely, the mind). [This meaning of the word nearly reverses the original usage; yet if such passages as that from Sir M. Hale, above, on the one hand, and that from Watts, below, on the other, be compared, the transition will be seen to have been easy. Kant makes the objects of experience to be at once real and phenomenal; and what he generally means by the objective character of a proposition is the force which it derives from the thing itself compelling the mind, after examination, to accept it. But occasionally Kant uses objective to imply a reference to the unknowable thing-in-itself to which the compelling force of phenomena is due.]Objective certainty is when the proposition is certainly true in itself; and subjective when we are certain of the truth of it. The one is in things, the other is in our minds. —Watts, Logic, ii. 2. § 8.
[Thus, there is an objective certainty in things that any given man will die; and a subjective certainty in his mind of that objective certainty.]Objective means that which belongs to, or proceeds from, the object known, and not from the subject knowing, and thus denotes what is real, in opposition to what is ideal – what exists in nature, in contrast to what exists merely in the thought of the individual. —Sir W. Hamilton, Metaph., ix.
The term “logic” is unscientifically by me employed in two distinct senses. In its narrower sense, it is the science of the necessary conditions of the attainment of truth. In its broader sense, it is the science of the necessary laws of thought, or, still better (thought always taking place by means of signs), it is general semeiotic, treating not merely of truth, but also of the general conditions of signs being signs (which Duns Scotus called grammatica speculativa), also of the laws of the evolution of thought, which since it coincides with the study of the necessary conditions of the transmission of meaning by signs from mind to mind, and from one state of mind to another, ought, for the sake of taking advantage of an old association of terms, be called rhetorica speculativa, but which I content myself with inaccurately calling objective logic, because that conveys the correct idea that it is like Hegel's logic. The present inquiry is a logical one in the broad sense.— CP 1.444 (c. 1896)
The logic of our inquiry, then, tries to rise to the level of nature's logic.
Every attempt to understand anything – every research – supposes, or at least hopes, that the very objects of study themselves are subject to a logic more or less identical with that which we employ.[next]That the logic of the universe is more rudimentary than our subjective logic is a hypothesis which may be worth examination in some stage of culture, but it is too violently at war with all the lessons which this age has learned for any man nowadays to embrace it with that ardor with which a man must embrace the theory which he is to devote his best powers to developing and bringing to the test of experience. Whatever else may be said for or against that hypothesis, that which we of these times ought to try is rather the hypothesis that the logic of the universe is one to which our own aspires, rather than attains.Peirce, CP 6.189 (1898)
Another comment by Peirce on his use of these terms:
The acquiring [of] a habit is nothing but an objective generalization taking place in time. It is the fundamental logical law in course of realization. When I call it objective, I do not mean to say that there really is any difference between the objective and the subjective, except that the subjective is less developed and as yet less generalized. It is only a false word which I insert because after all we cannot make ourselves understood if we merely say what we mean.— ‘Abstract of 8 lectures’ (NEM IV, 140)
Elsewhere, however, Peirce did use these terms without disparagement – as for instance in the following excerpt from his article ‘What Pragmatism Is’ (published 1905), on existence, reality and generality:
Whatever exists, ex-sists, that is, really acts upon other existents, so obtains a self-identity, and is definitely individual. As to the general, it will be a help to thought to notice that there are two ways of being general. A statue of a soldier on some village monument, in his overcoat and with his musket, is for each of a hundred families the image of its uncle, its sacrifice to the union. That statue, then, though it is itself single, represents any one man of whom a certain predicate may be true. It is objectively general. The word “soldier,” whether spoken or written, is general in the same way; while the name “George Washington” is not so. But each of these two terms remains one and the same noun, whether it be spoken or written, and whenever and wherever it be spoken or written. This noun is not an existent thing: it is a type, or form, to which objects, both those that are externally existent and those which are imagined, may conform, but which none of them can exactly be. This is subjective generality. The pragmaticistic purport is general in both ways.[next]As to reality, one finds it defined in various ways; but if that principle of terminological ethics that was proposed be accepted, the equivocal language will soon disappear. For realis and realitas are not ancient words. They were invented to be terms of philosophy in the thirteenth century, and the meaning they were intended to express is perfectly clear. That is real which has such and such characters, whether anybody thinks it to have those characters or not. At any rate, that is the sense in which the pragmaticist uses the word. Now, just as conduct controlled by ethical reason tends toward fixing certain habits of conduct, the nature of which (as to illustrate the meaning, peaceable habits and not quarrelsome habits) does not depend upon any accidental circumstances, and in that sense, may be said to be destined; so, thought, controlled by a rational experimental logic, tends to the fixation of certain opinions, equally destined, the nature of which will be the same in the end, however the perversity of thought of whole generations may cause the postponement of the ultimate fixation. If this be so, as every man of us virtually assumes that it is, in regard to each matter the truth of which he seriously discusses, then, according to the adopted definition of “real,” the state of things which will be believed in that ultimate opinion is real. But, for the most part, such opinions will be general. Consequently, some general objects are real. (Of course, nobody ever thought that all generals were real; but the scholastics used to assume that generals were real when they had hardly any, or quite no, experiential evidence to support their assumption; and their fault lay just there, and not in holding that generals could be real.) One is struck with the inexactitude of thought even of analysts of power, when they touch upon modes of being. One will meet, for example, the virtual assumption that what is relative to thought cannot be real. But why not, exactly? Red is relative to sight, but the fact that this or that is in that relation to vision that we call being red is not itself relative to sight; it is a real fact.EP2:342-3
For the purpose of this inquiry a Sign may be defined as a Medium for the communication of a Form. It is not logically necessary that anything possessing consciousness, that is, feeling of the peculiar common quality of all our feeling, should be concerned. But it is necessary that there should be two, if not three, quasi-minds, meaning things capable of varied determination as to forms of the kind communicated.[next]As a medium, the Sign is essentially in a triadic relation, to its Object which determines it, and to its Interpretant which it determines. In its relation to the Object, the Sign is passive; that is to say, its correspondence to the Object is brought about by an effect upon the Sign, the Object remaining unaffected. On the other hand, in its relation to the Interpretant the Sign is active, determining the Interpretant without being itself thereby affected.But at this point certain distinctions are called for. That which is communicated from the Object through the Sign to the Interpretant is a Form. It is not a singular thing; for if a singular thing were first in the Object and afterward in the Interpretant outside the Object, it must thereby cease to be in the Object. The Form that is communicated does not necessarily cease to be in one thing when it comes to be in a different thing, because its being is a being of the predicate. The Being of a Form consists in the truth of a conditional proposition. Under given circumstances, something would be true. The Form is in the Object, entitatively we may say, meaning that that conditional relation, or following of consequent upon reason, which constitutes the Form, is literally true of the Object. In the Sign the Form may or may not be embodied entitatively, but it must be embodied representatively, that is, in respect to the Form communicated, the Sign produces upon the Interpretant an effect similar to that which the Object itself would under favorable circumstances.EP2:544
You can't perceive your perception, but you can investigate your perceptual process by making inferences from what you do perceive. Investigation, being dialogic, has a social context: you can and do assume that others perceive the same world you do, and that other perceptions of that same world differ from yours – for each individual perceiver is unique in some respect. And on top of that, polyversity virtually guarantees that perceptual differences may be either masked or exaggerated by the idiosyncratic use of common symbol systems to report those perceptions. [next]
The genuine sign must represent something else, i.e. there must be a difference between object and sign. The object is thrown against your project, or your project is thrown against (‘projected onto’) the object – either way, each collides with the other in being Second to it. But entering into triadic relation transforms collision into collusion.
In the Second or dyadic mode of being, things exist by virtue of being other than other things. Their way of existing depends on reactions or interactions with other things. Living things, acting individually or collectively as a species, ‘crowd out a place for themselves’ energetically by taking for themselves resources that could otherwise be used by others. In our Anthropocene epoch, the human species has taken this ‘crowding out’ to a new level:
We’ve displaced most everything else: if you weigh the earth’s terrestrial vertebrates, humans account for 30 percent of their total mass, and our farm animals for another 67 percent, meaning wild animals (all the moose and cheetahs and wombats combined) total just 3 percent.This is not good news for humans, any more than it is for the other earthlings. Everything that continues to exist (by living its time) is interdependent with everything else.— McKibben 2019
For example, an ear of corn must be born from a corn seed. But that seed (and the resulting cornstalk) is as dependent on water, air, earth, and the totality of the universe for its life as it is upon the seed. In this way, the corn is beholden to all of existence for its appearance. Myriad events are necessary for a life. From this view, how can we distinguish one cause separately from all causes or one time separated from all time?[next]— Roberts 2018
Language is at one and the same time helping and retarding us in our exploration of experience, and the details of these processes of help and hindrance are deposited in the subtler meanings of different cultures.[next]— Edward Sapir (1949, 8)
We can improve our conceptual scheme, our philosophy, bit by bit while continuing to depend on it for support; but we cannot detach ourselves from it and compare it objectively with an unconceptualized reality. Hence it is meaningless, I suggest, to inquire into the absolute correctness of a conceptual scheme as a mirror of reality. Our standard for appraising basic changes of conceptual scheme must be, not a realistic standard of correspondence to reality, but a pragmatic standard. Concepts are language, and the purpose of concepts and of language is efficacy in communication and in prediction. Such is the ultimate duty of language, science and philosophy, and it is in relation to that duty that a conceptual scheme has finally to be appraised.[next]— W.V.O. Quine (1961, 79)
Every pebble dreams of itself
Every leaf has a scheme— Leonard Cohen (Stranger Music, 399)
My schemes into obeyance for[next]
This time has had to fall— Finnegans Wake, 73
Only semiosis can inform anyone, and ‘every sign,—or, at any rate, nearly every one,— is a determination of something of the general nature of a mind, which we may call the “quasi-mind”’ (Peirce, EP2:389).
This quasi-mind is an object which from whatever standpoint it be examined, must evidently have, like anything else, its special qualities of susceptibility to determination. Moreover, the determinations come as events each one once for all and never again. Furthermore, it must have its rules or laws, the more special ones variable, others invariable.These ‘rules or laws’ are what we call the habits of the system, the bodymind. As for the sign, it is determined by the actual situation in and by which the system is informed, which we call the object of the sign. The signEP2:545
is determined by the object, but in no other respect than goes to enable it to act upon the interpreting quasi-mind; and the more perfectly it fulfills its function as a sign, the less effect it has upon that quasi-mind other than that of determining it as if the object itself had acted upon it.In another idiom, the more perfectly functional aspect of the sign is called signal, while its effects on the quasi-mind ‘other than that of determining it as if the object itself had acted upon it’ are attributed to noise. The informable system, in order to experience either signal or noise, must embody some indeterminacy, or variable state space. The sign which conveys information determines its interpretant by virtually selecting among the possible variations which constitute the state space of the system. This enables a sentient being to orient itself with respect to the state of its Umwelt (that part of the world with which it can interact). Of course, the mental system does not need to be conscious of doing this, but it does have to perceive the relevant part of its world as the subject of a perceptual judgment which is a quasi-proposition or dicisign.EP2:391
Is the percept itself a sign? It depends …
The percept is … whole and undivided. It has parts, in the sense that in thought it can be separated; but it does not represent itself to have parts. In its mode of being as a percept it is one single and undivided whole.This is the origin of facts as used in reasoning.
The percept is not the only thing that we ordinarily say we “perceive”; and when I professed to believe only what I perceived, of course I did not mean percepts, since percepts are not subjects of belief or disbelief. I meant perceptual judgments. Given a percept, this percept does not describe itself; for description involves analysis, while the percept is whole and undivided. But once having a percept, I may contemplate it, and say to myself, ‘That appears to be a yellow chair’; and our usual language is that we “perceive” it to be a yellow chair, although this is not a percept, but a judgement about a present percept.CP 7.625-6 (1903?)
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.EP2:155 (1903); likewise EP2:191
I am thoroughly accustomed to think of percepts or rather of perceptual judgments as the data of all knowledge, and as such having a certain imperfect reality. They exist,—the percepts themselves do. But developed reality only belongs to signs of a certain description. Percepts are signs for psychology; but they are not so for phenomenology.For phenomenology, or phaneroscopy, percepts are not signs: they are phenomena, directly present to the mind without regard to whether they are present mediately or immediately. Perceptual judgments, on the other hand, being assertions in propositional form, are signs professing to inform perceivers about objects. The psychologist, looking into the perceptual process from outside of it, sees the percept as a sign of the object perceived; but to the perceiver of that object, it's the object of the sign expressing his judgment about what kind of object it is. This sign is a kind of quasi-proposition, a ‘genuine or informational index’ (EP2:172).CP 8.300 (1904)
A proposition is a symbol which like the informational index has a special part to represent the representamen, while the whole or another special part represents the object. The part which represents the representamen and which excites an icon in the imagination, is the Predicate. The part which indicates the object or set of objects of the representamen is called the Subject or Subjects … How much shall be embraced in the predicate and how many subjects shall be recognized depends, for the ordinary analyses of logic, upon what mode of analysis will answer the purpose in hand.EP2:172
… the perceptual judgment does not represent the percept logically. In what intelligible manner, then, does it represent the percept? It cannot be a copy of it; for, as will presently appear, it does not resemble the percept at all. There remains but one way in which it can represent the percept; namely, as an index, or true symptom, just as a weather-cock indicates the direction of the wind or a thermometer the temperature. There is no warrant for saying that the perceptual judgment actually is such an index of the percept, other than the ipse dixit of the perceptual judgment itself. And even if it be so, what is an index, or true symptom? It is something which, without any rational necessitation, is forced by blind fact to correspond to its object. To say, then, that the perceptual judgment is an infallible symptom of the character of the percept means only that in some unaccountable manner we find ourselves impotent to refuse our assent to it in the presence of the percept, and that there is no appeal from it.CP 7.628 (1903?)
In place of the percept, which, although not the first impression of sense, is a construction with which my will has had nothing to do, and may, therefore, properly be called the “evidence of my senses,” the only thing I carry away with me is the perceptual facts, or the intellect's description of the evidence of the senses, made by my endeavor. These perceptual facts are wholly unlike the percept, at best; and they may be downright untrue to the percept. But I have no means whatever of criticizing, correcting or recomparing them, except that I can collect new perceptual facts relating to new percepts, and on that basis may infer that there must have been some error in the former reports, or on the other hand I may in this way persuade myself that the former reports were true. The perceptual facts are a very imperfect report of the percepts; but I cannot go behind that record.That last sentence explains why percepts are not signs for phenomenology, or for logic. But the perceptual judgment is the starting point of all cognition, which is always semiosic: “every concept and every thought beyond immediate perception is a sign” (EP2:402).
The data from which inference sets out and upon which all reasoning depends are the perceptual facts, which are the intellect's fallible record of the percepts, or “evidence of the senses.” It is these percepts alone upon which we can absolutely rely, and that not as representative of any underlying reality other than themselves.CP 2.141-3 (1902)
Is the object of a sign “whole and undivided” as the percept is for phaneroscopy? If the sign is symbolic, the singularity or plurality of its object(s) depends on the point of view:
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.Thus ‘Every sign has a single object, though this single object may be a single set or a single continuum of objects’ (EP2:393, 1906). Genuine cognition is the development of these signs (which are also ourselves, according to Peirce) toward the complete continuum which would be the whole truth. This development proceeds by generalization underwritten by perception.CP 2.230 (1910)
… if there be any perceptual judgment, or proposition directly expressive of and resulting from the quality of a present percept, or sense-image, that judgment must involve generality in its predicate.
That which is not general is singular; and the singular is that which reacts. The being of a singular may consist in the being of other singulars which are its parts. Thus heaven and earth is a singular; and its being consists in the being of heaven and the being of earth, each of which reacts and is therefore a singular, forming a part of heaven and earth. If I had denied that every perceptual judgment refers, as to its subject, to a singular, and that singular actually reacting upon the mind in forming the judgment, actually reacting too upon the mind in interpreting the judgment, I should have uttered an absurdity. For every proposition whatsoever refers as to its subject to a singular actually reacting upon the utterer of it and actually reacting upon the interpreter of it. All propositions relate to the same ever-reacting singular; namely, to the totality of all real objects.EP2:208-9
Organisms capable of uttering or interpreting propositions are in the same boat with all living organisms in this respect: we must maintain our internal continuity, our integrity, in order to engage in semiosis at all. In order to cope with our situations, we must discover some continuities in the external world as well. We do this by perceiving objects and generalizing about the relations in which they (and we) are involved. Interaction with our current situation requires semiotic mediation, but not necessarily attention to semiosis, or to signs as such. The more attention given to semiosis, so that signs become objects of attention, the more deliberate interpretation and practice become. But attention to perceived objects is the bedrock on which all cognition is built. [next]
In his third Harvard Lecture of 1903, Peirce explained the relations between the subject of a proposition and the object of a sign in a way that shows why a genuine proposition cannot refer to itself. He begins by referring to the principle of excluded middle, which in classical logic says that a proposition must be either true or false – any option in between those two is excluded. He points out that this principle applies only when the subject of the proposition specifies an individual, and not when it is general.
That is, to say that the principle of excluded middle applies to S is no more than to say that S, the subject of the proposition, is an individual. But how can that be? We know very well that universal propositions have general subjects of which the principle of excluded middle is [not] true. That is, it is not true that “all men are either tall or not tall.” The logic of relatives furnishes the solution, by showing that propositions usually have several subjects, that one of these subjects is the so-called Universe of Discourse, that as a general rule a proposition refers to several Universes of Discourse, the chief of which are Singulars, and that all propositions whatsoever refer to one common universe,—the Universal Universe or aggregate of all Singulars, which in ordinary language we denominate the Truth. The analysis of the logic of relations shows that such is the fact, and by the aid of the categories we can easily see why it should be so. A proposition is a symbol which separately INDICATES its object, and the representation in the proposition of that object is called the subject of the proposition. Now to INDICATE is to represent in the manner in which an index represents. But an index is a representamen which is such by virtue of standing in a genuine reaction with its object; while a singular is nothing but a genuinely reacting object. It does not follow that the subject of a proposition must literally be an index, although it indicates the object of the representamen in a manner like the representation of an index. It may be a precept by following which a singular could be found. Take for example the proposition:A semiotic process involving self-reference, when it takes the form of a proposition, takes its already-determined past (and not its living presence or semiotic functioning) as its object to determine its future as its interpretant. In the same way, a self-referential function in mathematics takes the result of its previous iteration to produce the result of the current iteration, which will in turn be used to produce the next result, and so on. [next]Some woman is adored by every Catholic.This means that a well-disposed person with sufficient means could find an index whose object should be a woman such that allowing an ill-disposed person to select an index whose object would be a Catholic, that Catholic would adore that woman.Thus the subject of a proposition if not an index is a precept prescribing the conditions under which an object is to be had.Consequently, though the subject need not be individual, the object to which the subject of a proposition applies must be the object of a possible index and as such it must be such as it is independently of any representamen or other Third. That is to say it must be real.Consequently, it is impossible that a proposition should relate to itself as its object, since as long as it has not yet been enunciated it possesses characters which are not independent of how they may be represented to be.EP2:168-9
The Object of the sentence “Hamlet was insane” is the Universe of Shakespeare's Creation so far as it is determined by Hamlet being a part of it. The Object of the Command “Ground arms!” is the immediately subsequent action of the soldiers so far as it is affected by the molition expressed in the command. It cannot be understood unless collateral observation shows the speaker's relation to the rank of soldiers. You may say, if you like, that the Object is in the Universe of things desired by the Commanding Captain at that moment. Or since the obedience is fully expected, it is in the Universe of his expectation. At any rate, it determines the Sign although it is to be created by the Sign by the circumstance that its Universe is relative to the momentary state of mind of the officer.In that last sentence, ‘created’ is equivalent to ‘brought into existence,’ i.e. brought from the Universe of ideas or Firstness into the Universe of actualities or Secondness. The Command is a Sign whose dynamic interpretant is the action of the soldiers, which is determined by ‘the molition expressed in the command.’ Molition is Peirce's term for ‘volition minus all desire and purpose, the mere consciousness of exertion of any kind’ (CP 8.303, 1909). The officer was conscious of the exertion which he expected, and it was the object of his attention which determined what sign he would utter in order to bring that object into the Universe of actuality. In this case, then, we might say that the form of the dynamic interpretant (the action of the soldiers) is the same as the form of the dynamic object, although they differ in their mode of being. [next]EP2:493
Theories are nets cast to catch what we call ‘the world’: to rationalize, to explain, and to master it. We endeavour to make the mesh ever finer and finer.Say you make the mesh of a fishing net so fine that not even water, not even air will pass through. Can you catch anything with it then? No, you can only catch everything. What use is that?— Popper (1934/1959, 37-8)
All theories are general, though some are more specific than others. [next]
The striving for objectivity is thus understood, phenomenologically, as a striving to achieve greater consensus, greater agreement or consonance among a plurality of subjects, rather than as an attempt to avoid subjectivity altogether.— David Abram (1996, 38)
Scientific inquiry aims at a consensus constrained by experiment: we test a hypothesis by drawing predictions from it, i.e. deducing what would happen in a specified situation if it were true, then observing what actually happens in that situation. If the experiment is well designed and produces an observation contrary to the prediction, the hypothesis is refuted or ‘falsified’; a positive result, though not conclusive, tends to confirm the hypothesis.
The failures as well as the successes of the predictions must be honestly noted. The whole proceeding must be fair and unbiased.This in a nutshell is the objectivity proper to science – that is, to all honest argument. It amounts to respecting the reality of the object observed rather than looking only for confirmation of a theory we want to believe. In other words, it relies crucially on inductive logic.Some persons fancy that bias and counter-bias are favorable to the extraction of truth—that hot and partisan debate is the way to investigate. This is the theory of our atrocious legal procedure. But Logic puts its heel upon this suggestion. It irrefragably demonstrates that knowledge can only be furthered by the real desire for it, and that the methods of obstinacy, of authority, and every mode of trying to reach a foregone conclusion, are absolutely of no value.Peirce, W3:331 (1878)
It is of the essence of induction that the consequence of the theory should be drawn first in regard to the unknown, or virtually unknown, result of experiment; and that this should virtually be only ascertained afterward. For if we look over the phenomena to find agreements with the theory, it is a mere question of ingenuity and industry how many we shall find.[next]Peirce, BD ‘Reasoning’
In CD 2974, Peirce described objective idealism as ‘the doctrine of F.W.J. von Schelling, that the relation between the subject and object of thought is one of absolute identity. It supposes that all things exist in the absolute reason, that matter is extinct mind, and that the laws of physics are the same as those of mental representations.’ In a draft of his 1893 ‘Reply to the Necessitarians,’ Peirce made the following confession (R 958: 203): ‘I frankly pigeon-hole myself as a modified Schellingian, or New England transcendentalist.’— W8:391-2 (Annotations)
‘Objective idealism,’ ‘modified’ or not, is mainly a metaphysical theory. Peirce's logical/semiotic theory is better described as a form of pragmatism. Referring to his contemporary F.C.S. Schiller, he argued
that the objectivity of truth really consists in the fact that, in the end, every sincere inquirer will be led to embrace it—and if he be not sincere, the irresistible effect of inquiry in the light of experience will be to make him so. This doctrine appears to me, after one subtraction, to be a corollary of pragmatism. I set it in a strong light in my original presentation of the method. I call my form of it “conditional idealism.” That is to say, I hold that truth's independence of individual opinions is due (so far as there is any “truth”) to its being the predestined result to which sufficient inquiry would ultimately lead. I only object that, as Mr. Schiller himself seems sometimes to say, there is not the smallest scintilla of logical justification for any assertion that a given sort of result will, as a matter of fact, either always or never come to pass; and consequently we cannot know that there is any truth concerning any given question; and this, I believe, agrees with the opinion of M. Henri Poincaré, except that he seems to insist upon the non-existence of any absolute truth for all questions, which is simply to fall into the very same error on the opposite side. But practically, we know that questions do generally get settled in time, when they come to be scientifically investigated; and that is practically and pragmatically enough.[next]EP2:419-20
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 adds a footnote: ‘By an ideal, I mean the limit which the possible cannot attain.’ We are asked here to imagine tracing a continuous process of inference backwards to its beginning, but given that the traces of past cognition “fade out” as we follow them further back, we can never actually reach a first cognition. So we can only imagine what the end of this tracing process (i.e. the beginning of the cognitive process) would be.
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.Here we are assuming, as Peirce stated earlier in the argument, that every ‘thought is determined by a previous thought of the same object’ (EP1:39), and that ‘All determination is by negation; we can first recognize any character only by putting an object which possesses it into comparison with an object which possesses it not’ (EP1:45). The ultimate cognition that would be reached at the end of this process of progressive determination would be indistinguishable from reality, just as one's absolutely first cognition would be indistinguishable from the real object of one's attention. Both are ideal limits of continuous processes.
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 an indefinite increase of knowledge. And so those two series of cognitions—the real and the unreal—consist of those which, at a time sufficiently future, the community will always continue to reaffirm; 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.[next]— EP1:52
are in themselves simple, or more so than the sensations which give rise to them. Accordingly, a sensation is a simple predicate taken in place of a complex predicate; in other words, it fulfills the function of an hypothesis.Cognition then is a continuous inferential (i.e. semiotic) process whose products range all the way from involuntary perceptual judgments to complex theoretical contructs. These products include sensations and feelings which may be recognized as qualities of the objects perceived or imagined.EP1:42
Some are inclined to doubt that these qualities have any reality beyond our awareness of them. In the fourth of his 1903 Harvard Lectures, Peirce argued by analogy that ‘qualities of feeling’ – the qualities we recognize in our perceptual judgments, as when we perceive a blue color – are elements of the real universe. They are real because they are beyond our control, i.e. not subject to logical criticism.
the distinction of logical goodness and badness must begin where control of the processes of cognition begins; and any object that antecedes the distinction, if it has to be named either good or bad, must be named good. For since no fault can be found with it, it must be taken at its own valuation. Goodness is a colorless quality, a mere absence of badness. Before our parents had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of course, they were innocent.There is no way to find fault with a percept, and perceptual judgments are likewise innocent. Any criticism of it ‘would be limited to performing it again and seeing whether with closer attention we get the same result’ – but strictly speaking, it can't be performed again on the same percept, for as Heraclitus put it, one cannot step twice into the same river. Its flow is the essence of the stream of consciousness.— EP2:191
In short, the Immediate (and therefore in itself unsusceptible of mediation—the Unanalyzable, the Inexplicable, the Unintellectual) runs in a continuous stream through our lives; it is the sum total of consciousness, whose mediation, which is the continuity of it, is brought about by a real effective force behind consciousness.These are essentially the same three elements that Peirce would later call Thirdness, Secondness and Firstness respectively. By 1903, Peirce was ready to affirm the reality of all three: being the elements of thought and reasoning, they are also really elements of any cognizable universe; ‘every scientific explanation of a natural phenomenon is a hypothesis that there is something in nature to which the human reason is analogous’ (EP2:193). The immediacy and spontaneity of Firstness has its part to play in hypothetical models of nature just as forces and regularities do. Therefore, says Peirce,Thus, we have in thought three elements: first, the representative function which makes it a representation; second, the pure denotative application, or real connection, which brings one thought into relation with another; and third, the material quality, or how it feels, which gives thought its quality.EP1:42
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.So although ‘what is first for us is not first in nature,’ the ‘Immediate’ and ‘Inexplicable’ which ‘runs in a continuous stream through our lives’ shares a Firstness with ‘the independent uncaused elements of facts that go to make up the variety of nature.’ [next]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.EP2:193-4
Everything is connected, but some things are more connected than others.[next]— Herbert Simon (Pattee 1973, 23)
If you want to know the meaning of buddha-nature, you should observe times and seasons, causes and conditions.— Blue Cliff Record, Case 39 (Cleary and Cleary 1977, 240)
It is essential to your practice of observation that you be aware of its limitations. As Dogen put it in his ‘Genjokoan’:
Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach.According to the glossary of this translation (Tanahashi 2010), ‘beyond conditions’ is ‘格 外 [kakugai], literally, outside frameworks.’ A psychologist might say “beyond conditioning”; in Turning Signs we may say beyond the cognitive bubble. Or we might say that Dogen's point is the flip side of Peircean pragmatism. [next]
It is easy to see the fault of others, hard to see one's own. One sifts the faults of others like chaff, but covers up one's own, as a crafty cheater covers up a losing throw.The Gospel of Thomas has its parallel in Logion 26. Also very similar to Matthew 7:3-5 is Luke 6:41-2: ‘cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.’ All of these texts (including the Greek version of Thomas, P. Oxy. 1) use διαβλέψεις (‘you will see clearly’). The word translated as ‘beam,’ δοκὸν, commonly refers to the bar of a gate or door – something solid and hard to break.
In one who watches out for the faults of others, always ready to blame, compulsions increase; such a one is far from extinction of compulsion.— Dhammapada, 18:18-19 (Cleary 1994, 58)
The English beam originally referred more broadly to a tree or post; use of the word in reference to a living, growing tree later dropped out of the language, and now it generally refers to a heavy timber used in construction, or a steel I-beam (named after the shape of its cross section, not after the first-person pronoun). We usually picture the biblical ‘beam in the eye’ as something like a log, in contrast to the ‘mote’ in another's eye. But there's another kind of eye-beam.
In a development called ‘remarkable’ by the OED, the original English sense of beam was transferred to a sunbeam (such as the ray of light visible in the distance when it breaks through heavy clouds), and thus to any beam of light. Sometimes this light beam was turned outside in, as it were, referring to a beam that comes through one's eye from the internal rather than the external world – a metaphor for one's power of attention. A further metaphorical shift produced a verb for shedding light upon the world by one's expression, i.e. beaming. Emerson, in his essay ‘Friendship’, used the term ‘eye-beams’ in this social context.
How many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom, though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! Read the language of these wandering eye-beams. The heart knoweth.Emerson also brought an eyebeam into his poem on ‘The Sphinx’ (first published in 1841). C.S. Peirce quoted lines from this poem in a variety of contexts. Here's an example from one of his manuscripts on phaneroscopy:
… although the entire consciousness at any one instant is nothing but a feeling, yet psychology can teach us nothing of the nature of feeling, nor can we gain knowledge of any feeling by introspection, the feeling being completely veiled from introspection, for the very reason that it is our immediate consciousness. Possibly this curious truth was what Emerson was trying to grasp — but if so, pretty unsuccessfully — when he wrote the lines,The point here is that our immediate awareness cannot be an object of our immediate awareness. But Peirce was already quoting Emerson's poem to make this point 40 years earlier, in his Lowell Lectures of 1866. He incorporated the eyebeam into his argument that a person is a sign, because he means something, yet is unaware of his own meaning. Like a symbol, he both denotes and connotes, i.e. has both breadth and depth (see Chapter 10):The old Sphinx bit her thick lip —But whatever he may have meant, it is plain enough that all that is immediately present to a man is what is in his mind in the present instant. His whole life is in the present. But when he asks what is the content of the present instant, his question always comes too late. The present has gone by, and what remains of it is greatly metamorphosed.
Said, “Who taught thee me to name?
I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow,
Of thine eye I am eyebeam.
Thou art the unanswered question;
Couldst see thy proper eye,
Always it asketh, asketh;
And each answer is a lie.”— CP 1.310 (1906)
A man denotes whatever is the object of his attention at the moment; he connotes whatever he knows or feels of this object, and is the incarnation of this form or intelligible species; his interpretant is the future memory of this cognition, his future self, or another person he addresses, or a sentence he writes, or a child he gets. In what does the identity of man consist and where is the seat of the soul? It seems to me that these questions usually receive a very narrow answer. Why, we used to read that the soul resides in a little organ of the brain no bigger than a pin's head. Most anthropologists now more rationally say that the soul is either spread over the whole body or is all in all and all in every part. But are we shut up in a box of flesh and blood? When I communicate my thought and my sentiments to a friend with whom I am in full sympathy, so that my feelings pass into him and I am conscious of what he feels, do I not live in his brain as well as in my own—most literally? True, my animal life is not there; but my soul, my feeling, thought, attention are. If this be not so, a man is not a word, it is true, but is something much poorer. There is a miserable material and barbarian notion according to which a man cannot be in two places at once; as though he were a thing! A word may be in several places at once, six six, because its essence is spiritual; and I believe that a man is no whit inferior to the word in this respect. Each man has an identity which far transcends the mere animal;—an essence, a meaning subtile as it may be. He cannot know his own essential significance; of his eye it is eyebeam. But that he truly has this outreaching identity—such as a word has—is the true and exact expression of the fact of sympathy, fellow feeling—together with all unselfish interests,—and all that makes us feel that he has an absolute worth.The eyebeam also recurs in Peirce's later works on logic, in connection with the ineffability of immediate consciousness and the inaccuracy of introspection:W1:498
… we shall have to assume that, practically speaking, there is a flow of ideas through the mind, that is, of objects, of which we have the barest glimpse while they are with us, but which are reported by memory after they have been associated together and considerably transformed; and this report, though not very accurate, is substantially acceptable as correct.When we do think or talk about thoughts, we are forced to use symbols, perhaps recognizing that symbols grow by being “repurposed,” but blissfully unaware of the repurposing we are doing at the very moment when we take them to simply mean what they mean. And likewise, Peirce observes that logicians, who profess to be experts on forms and methods of reasoning, have for ages neglected the most important and commonly used forms of it.
… The point to remember is, that whatever we say of ideas as they are in consciousness is said of something unknowable in its immediacy. The only thought that is really present to us is a thought we can neither think about nor talk about. “Of thine eye I am eyebeam,” says the Sphinx. We have no reason to deny the dicta of introspection; but we have to remember that they are all results of association, are all theoretical, bits of instinctive psychology. We accept them, but not as literally true; only as expressive of the impression which has naturally been made upon our understandings.CP 7.424-5, c.1893
But it should surprise nobody that the most characteristic form of demonstrative reasoning of those ages is left unnoticed in their logical treatises. The best of such works, at all epochs, though they reflect in some measure contemporary modes of thought, have always been considerably behind their times. For the methods of thinking that are living activities in men are not objects of reflective consciousness. They baffle the student, because they are a part of himself.This brings us round again to the eyebeams of the Gospels, Peirce applying the ethical message to his fellow philosophers. Does it also apply to his own writings?“Of thine eye I am eye-beam,"says Emerson's sphynx. The methods of thinking men consciously admire are different from, and often, in some respects, inferior to those they actually employ. Besides, it is apparent enough, even to one who only knows the works of the modern logicians, that their predecessors can have been little given to seeing out of their own eyes, since, had they been so, their sequacious successors would have been religiously bound to follow suit.
One has to confess that writers of logic-books have been, themselves, with rare exceptions, but shambling reasoners. How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? I fear it has to be said of philosophers at large, both small and great, that their reasoning is so loose and fallacious, that the like in mathematics, in political economy, or in physical science, would be received in derision or simple scorn.— CP 3.404-5 (1892)
We are all attending to all sorts of objects, but never to our own attention. We are all signs, but we never know what we mean at the moment of meaning. [next]
God, O Arjuna, dwells in the heart of every being and to His delusive mystery whirls them all, as the clay on the potter's wheel.— Bhagavad-Gita 18:61 (Gandhi 1926, 233)
Next rePatch: Complicity →
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
|Turning Signs Contents||References||SourceNet||Obverse (Chapter 12·)|