“Peirce characteristically begins not with the classification of signs as promised—Icon, Index, and Symbol—but with his cenopythagorean categories which, in Quaker style, he had named Firstness, Secondness, Thirdness. They were the modes of being [Latour], ways that both ideas and things exist in the world, and though the analysis of just how they are related involves Peirce in noting degrees and reciprocities which must be named and adjusted, he manages to proclaim more than once that for his ideoscopy, it is Thirdness which is all-important, chiefly because it allows him to define a sign: ‘A Third is something which brings a First into relation to a second…A sign is a sort of Third…A sign is something by knowing which, we know something more (S. and S., p. 31)'” (59). **The third is the mediator/mediation/relationality. It is relationality emerging/formationing into being.
“Just as he resisted the conflation of interpeter and interpretant, so Peirce devised ruse after ruse to avoid suggesting that his semeiotic was dependent upon the concept of mind (which he intermittently thought of as a woolly German mammoth); he considered psychological description a bar to careful logical representation, a way to sneak nominalist attitudes into what he wanted to be a thoroughly realist architecture of ideas” (59).
“Peirce generally characterizes his categories as a set: if Firstness is a quality or feeling, then Secondness is an event or action and Thirdness is effect or conduct.” (59). **The danger in this is the sense of cause-effect it might be interpreted as describing, a series of ‘steps’… which is not how it goes, right?
“If Secondness is compulsion or limitation, Firstness is freedom and Thirdness is law. If Secondness is the fate that snips, Thirdness is the thread of life and Firstness is indeterminacy. Thirdness is mediation, representation, transmission; it bridges [thinking ANT here]” (59-60). **”fate that snips” Interestingly put. “fated” because “is” (There are no ‘shoulds’; just what is and what you want there to be…)
“Mediation is necessarily a process, which explains the emphasis on semiosis, on making, finding, interpreting signs. We learn from experience—we take habits and break them, too—by seeing significances, thus learning and changing, growing: that ‘sense of learning’ is Thirdness” (60). ***But what *is” the sense of learning?
“To appreciate Thirdness is to recognize that because all knowledge is mediated, all knowledge is interpretation” (60).
“‘…our understanding is always a matter of degree (1.541). This point has been thoroughly muddled by radical skeptics of the day who conflate the idea of partiality and the idea of error. All knowledge is partial, but that is not to say that all knowledge is error-ridden; nor does the process of interpreting our interpretations mean that we cannot know or that we cannot represent our partial knowledge” (60). ***I wonder how closely “error” here speaks to notions of “failure”?
“Derrida wants to marshal Peirce for his obsessive campaign against ‘presence,’ which entails a skepticism about the possibility of representation. But representation is the term Peirce used before he hit upon Thirdness: The Representamen is dialectically related to the Interpretent, a conception which Derrida seems not to grasp: for all his censure of Suassure, his semiotics remains thoroughly dyadic” (60-61).
“Taking Thirdness seriously requires apprehending ‘the revolutionary doctrine of the Interpretant’ and that, in turn, requires an understanding of the relationship of the sign and indeterminacy” (61).
“For Peirce, however, indeterminacy is another name for vagueness, which is not the same as ambiguity. Because signification entails generality, which is dependent on future, unknown semiotic acts, indeterminacy is a necessary condition of semiosis. Ambiguity, on the other hand, has to do with appropriate reference: ‘A sign is ambiguous if it is doubtful what it is applicable to and what it is inapplicable to…” (61).
“We confront ambiguity as we interpret our interpretations and we can eliminate it, if we can develop the appropriate contexts. But indeterminacy, like mediation, is entailed in signification” (61). **”entailed in” but not limited to; an aspect of the sign is ‘un-determined’ but the sign as a whole is not ‘indeterminate’?
“Like partiality, indeterminacy is a necessary condition of semiosis” (61). ***This is a statement on the nature of Truth as we can know it. Knowledge is by nature partial.
“In triadic terms, indeterminacy does not mean that we can’t know what we’re talking about or that we can’t represent our interpretations or that there is nothing but a play of signifiers. Peirce was profoundly aware of the role of chance, but he saw it in dialectic with continuity and his aim was order” (61). OK! Here we are. Time. Order=Sense… Continuity
“We must cultivate fallibilism because it is practical, because it makes a difference in our logic. We need to keep things tentative by continually hypothesizing by the method Peirce called abduction (or retroduction), a means of representing our meanings so that we can draw out implications, amplifying inferences as a way of exploring the possible consequences of one or another formulation. Abduction is the logic of pragmaticism: If we put it this way, what difference would it make to our understanding? to our practice?” (61).
“Such pragmatic maxims have reference not to an individual asking a metaphysical question but to the process of semiosis which takes place in a community of those concerned to know: Peirce is hard to read unless we know how he thought of community” (62). ***Partiality: we need community to expand the reach of our meanings, to enrich the possibilities of our meanings.
“Peirce over and over demonstrated that the relationship of the individual to others is a matter of logic. He saw the individual and the public each as encompassing the other: the particular and the universal are representated in one another because ‘absolute individuality in representation as merely ideal'” (62). ***What are the implications of this for public writing pedagogies?
“The dialectic of man and society is like that holding for the representamen, its object and interpretant; indeed, it is the same because Man is a Sign” (62). Wait a minute… wha? Okay… That’s geist-ial. “Representation can not function without context, purpose, mediation which, for the Man-Sign is other signs, other human beings.”
“Man is sign because insofar as he is more than animal, he is spirit and spirit is analogous to meaning: it reaches out; it recognizes itself in its representations” (63). **GEist!
“One of Peirce’s editors, Arthur W. Burks, has written candidly of the difficulty he has in reading Peirce when he writes in this analogical vein. Burks undertakes a rhetorical analysis to get at what Peirce is really saying, but since for him rheotric is decoration or glitter, the task of analysis is a matter of reduction: ‘When we strip the Emersonian-like rhetoric from Peirce’s writing…we will find an intelligible and interesting doctrine'” (63). ***When women employ the “Emersonian” they get dismissed not reduced? Both bad.
“Burks then proceeds to re-clothe the doctrine he has discovered, in fancy dress: Man is an information-processor; man is not a symbol but an algorithm” (63). ***Just discussed this idea in class with students via an analogy between the robotic vacuum and humans.
“This interpretive paraphrase misses the point of Peirce’s analogy, insofar as semiosis entails consciousness. All information processing proceeds by means of binary opposition: there is neither room nor need for Thirdness in information processing. Human information processing is a contradiction in terms…) (63).
“…the eccentric notions Peirce developed about the relationship of one mind to another or, rather, one individual to others, have great heuristic power: if we are alert to their thinking about the relationship of personal knowledge to the social construction of knowledge” (64). **Zeitgeist? “He held that ‘man’s circle of society…is a sort of loosely compacted person’ (5.421).”
Peirce: “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…I pointed out that a person is nothing but a symbol involving a general idea; but my views were, then, too nominalistc to enable me to see that every general idea has the unified feeling of a person. (6.270).” ***FEELING … how does Firstness inform this?
“And he goes on to cite the Christian communities as exemplary of this idea that ‘every general idea has the unified living feeling of a person.’ Such statements provide important correctives to Habermas’ misapprehensions of Peirce’s realism” (64). ***Metaphysical not mystical. Geistial.
“When they deign to consider Peirce at all, the new pragmatists ignore the architecture of his ideas” (64). ***Great. Can’t trust the labels…. Richard Rorty, the “new pragmatist”…
A list of “the architecture”: from page 65
- fallibilism and abduction
- mediation and the instrumentality of thought
- a dialogic sense of the individual and the community
- a profoundly dialectical sense of the intersubjectivity of knowledge
“What is least understood is Peirce’s idea of representation: given the radical skepticism of much contemporary criticism [postmodernism], perhaps representation should also be hailed as a revolutionary doctrine” (65).
“But then so should semiosis: Peirce’s emphasis on the process whereby one sign requires another for its interpretation leads to his very powerful idea of Synechism—the continuity of all things [the all-in-each?], including the ideas of man” (65). ***Allatonceness…
“I will allude to Chance, Love and Logic in briefly discussing parables of Firstness and Secondness before turning to the recurrent image of Thirdness, Man’s ‘glassy essence'” (65).
Peirce’s gunpowder explosion metaphor (65):
Nature herself often supplies the place of the intention of a rational agent in making a Thirdness genuine and not merely accidental; as when a spark, as third, falling into a barrel of gunpowder, as first, causes an explosion, as second. (1.366)
“The gunpowder metaphor lets us understand how Thirdness is the condition of Secondness without actually coming before it” (66). ****A state of allatonceness.
“…Firstness is Quality, Secondness is Event, while Thirdness is Mediation. A chance event is somehow between Firstness and Secondness; lacking Thirdness, it lacks even a genuine Secondness” (66). **So, logically, the gunpowder and the explosion is mediated by the spark. Without the spark, there is no explosion; the spark “is a condition of” the explosion. The explosion entails the spark, logically, in relation to the gunpowder. It’s not spark then explosion; it’s spark-as-aspect of explosion.
“False, not because language or any other sign is inadequate to it [the description of Adam’s first eye-opening], but because the act of description presupposes an object or an event or an idea—a representation of some sort; and Firstness has no such character” (66). ***All knowledge is partial. But knowledge is not “Firstness.” Firstness is being/ontological, but that being can be epistemic (vygotsky’s unit of meaning?)
“Firstness remains mysterious. Secondness, on the other hand, is ‘brute action’ which, though it is not explanable in itself, is certainly describable” (67). **Event not explainable in itself meaning needs an interpretant.
Peirce on page 67:
“The idea of second must be reckoned as an easy one to comprehend. That of the first is so tender that you cannot touch it without spoiling it; but that of second is eminently hard and tangible. It is very familiar, too; it is forced upon us daily; and is the main lesson of life. In youth the world is fresh and we seem free; but limitation, conflict, constraint and secondness generally make up the teaching of experience…”
“Chance, like Firstness in its indeterminacy, is at once the release from necessity and the condition under which the tendency to habits eventuates in the establishment of laws” (67). **What’s the relationship between habit and continuity?
Ah… “Both chance and habit-taking entail process, which Peirce often calls continuity or synechism; and process is always identified with the idea of generality” (67). **So a matter of degree? or locale?
“The tendency of ideas to spread, to detach themselves from the particular, to be cultivated by the community of those who take them up: this spreading, this nurture and cultivation, Peirce called agapism, or evolutionary love, which advances ‘by virtue of positive sympathy among the created [i.e. the creations reproduced in this evolutionary development] springing from continuity of mind’ (6.304)” (67). What’s it’s opposing force? Self-l0ve? Greed? interesting exercise…
“The third of Moris Cohen’s terms, Logic, is most closely related to Thirdness: Peirce’s logic is a logic of relatives, which is precisely what Thirdness is intended to represent. Including intention means that the sign is dynamic; semiotic thus entails semiosis” (67). **Form entails Formation?
Rorty again… “Man’s Glassy Essence” communicates something about Thirdness, and for that we need Shakespeare. (68-69)
Enter: Richards (69):
“I. A. Richards, for whom this passage was especially resonant, perhaps because he understood its significance for Peirce, comments on it in explaining his choice of Complementarities as the title of his uncollected essays. He begins with a comment of Niels Bohr: ‘When new discoveries have led to the recognition of an essential limitation of concepts hitherto considered as indispensable, we are rewarded by a wider view and a greater power to correlate.’ Richards then continues:
Does there not seem a sort of poetic justice about this? That, when we have brought ourselves, somehow at last, to acknowledge an inadequacy in our conceiving we should be rewarded, not penalized; that the outcome should be a gain, not a loss of power… It is like Shakespeare to make ignorance and assurance thus vary together. And to hint that the last thing we may know is that whereby we know.
“Aided by that reflection, we can now ask how glass could symbolize that which enables by being a barrier.” **”The Mysterious Barricades”…
I can see why Berthoff loves Richards. His writing … compelling, lovely
“We are ignorant of our glassy essence because we cannot see ourselves looking; the activity of seeing can only be completed in representation. The reason we are assured of our glassy essence is that we are made in the image of our Creator [what does this mean?]. The seeming contradiction of assurance and ignorance is thus resolved; our mirroring serves as a lens” (71).
“But man can mediate chance and law by love; he can do so because he is Thirdness to the facts of the universe in their Firstness and Secondness: Man is a Sign. Salvation lies in agapism:…” ***HOW MUCH OF THIS IS CAROLYN????
“Thus the riddle of most ignorant of what is most assured can be answered in the light of Peirce’s ideas of the continuity of mind and evolutionary love. The agapastic process moves beyond individual man and out of our circle of society, that ‘loosely compacted person,’ into futurity: we are most assured that our ideas develop intersubjectively, but we remain ignorant of beginnings and ends” (71).
“We cannot grasp Firstness nor can we apprehend futurity: we cannot know the end of semiosis any more than we can know immediately, without representation” (71).