7 Jun 2016

Peirce (CP1.303) Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol1/Bk3/Ch2/A/§3, “The Monad"

by Corry Shores
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[The following is summary. Boldface and bracketed commentary are mine. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my typos.]

Summary of
Charles Sanders Peirce
Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce
Volume 1: Principles of Philosophy
Book 3: Phenomenology
Chapter 2: The Categories in Detail
A: Firstness
§3: The Monad [1.303]

Brief summary:
Peirce will try to characterize the idea of the monad. Since monads have Firstness, they cannot be constituted or conceived complexly. So they cannot be understood as an object, because the concept or status of object requires an exteriority to another object or subject, namely, we ourselves as that over against which the object stands. But we also cannot use the concept of self for the monad. A monad as something experienced would be like a vague pure sensation or feeling that we might have while in a semi-conscious state. Metaphysically speaking, a monad would be similar to a secondary quality.

[The concept of the monad cannot involve any additional conceptual material. A monad in experience would be like a simple and pure feeling or sensation that is had in a semi-conscious state. Metaphysically, a monad would be like a secondary quality.]

[Peirce is describing his basic categories of thought. The most basic is Firstness. In this section the issue becomes the monad, so it may be a slightly disorienting to suddenly shift back to this discussion of the monad, although on the other hand monad and First are nearly the same concept. The editorial note for this section says: ‘From “The List of Categories: A Second Essay,” c.1894. 303 follows 293 and is followed by 326 in the ms.’ I do not know how the Collected Papers were constructed and why this order is chosen. But if we look back at 1.293, we see that this paragraph is continuous with that discussion of monads, dyads, and triads. He says there that “the first step in the present inquiry is to ascertain what are the conceptions of the pure monad, free from all dyadic and triadic admixtures” (146). Perhaps the idea here is that to conceive the monad is to conceive of Firstness.] An object is something that stands over against us. That means that in order to conceive an object, we would need to conceive of a dyad, because we would need to think of the object in relation to us. Thus, to understand what a monad is, we should not think of it as an object. Then what about as a self? Peirce says that the notion of self is too complex for the concept of monad [but I do not know why it would be more complex]. He says in fact that the notion of monad is actually closer to that of object than to self. If our concept of monad is not specific enough, then we are thinking nothing at all. [Peirce then says that if our conception is too abstract that it will refer to a special suchness. But I do not understand how something that is made more abstract would have a more specified suchness.] Our conception of the monad has to have a suchness that is in a category all its own, because it needs to bear no conceptual relation to any other suchness. Peirce then tries to characterize what it would be like for us to have a monadic state of feeling. We would need to be in a semiconscious state, so that the feeling is vague enough and also not objectified or subjectified, and it could be a simple feeling of redness, a salt taste, an ache, grief, joy, or even a prolonged musical note. This so far is a psychological or a logical conception of the monad. But what about a metaphysical monad? It would have to have a pure nature and composition [so as to not be constituted by more than one element]. For this metaphysical concept, what are often called the “secondary” qualities are a close approximation to monads.
The pure idea of a monad is not that of an object. For an object is over against me. But it is much nearer an object than it is to a conception of self, which is still more complex. There must be some determination, or suchness, otherwise we shall think nothing at all. But it must not be an abstract suchness, for that has reference to a special suchness. It must be a special suchness with some degree of determination, not, however, thought as more or less. There is to be no comparison. So that it is a suchness sui generis. Imagine me to make and in a slumberous condition to have a vague, unobjectified, still less unsubjectified, sense of redness, or of salt taste, or of an ache, or of grief or joy, or of a prolonged musical note. That would be, as nearly as possible, a purely monadic state of feeling. Now in order to convert that psychological or logical conception into a metaphysical one, we must think of a metaphysical monad as a pure nature, or quality, in itself without parts or features, and without embodiment. Such is a pure monad. The meanings of names of "secondary" qualities are as good approximations to examples of monads as can be given.
Peirce, C.S. Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol 1: Principles of Philosophy.  In Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce [Two Volumes in One], Vols. 1 and 2. Edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1965 [1931].

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