8 Jun 2016

Peirce (CP1.304) Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol1/Bk3/Ch2/A/§4, “Qualities of Feeling"

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
§4: Qualities of Feeling [1.304]

Brief summary:
A pure quality of feeling is different from (a) the experience of that quality and from (b) a thing’s physical features that are thought to express that quality. An example is the color of magenta. The quality of feeling that is the color of magenta is different than how it feels when we see a magenta color and it is different than the magenta that is physically found somehow in the petals of a fuchsia flower. Although the quality of feeling is something perfectly distinct, it is not something concrete in the experiential or the physical sense. Rather, it exists as a “may-be” in the sense that it could be said to inhere in some object or be a part of some experience, but if it is not in either of these, it exists no less.

[A pure quality of feeling exists fully on its own and independently from experiences of it and from things it is said to inhere in.]
[Peirce will have us think of pure qualities of feeling. Conceptualizing them will be tricky. On the one hand, they are distinct and unmistakable. Peirce lists many distinct qualities of feeling, like “the odor of attar, the sound of a railway whistle.” But on the other hand, what they are is not as obvious as our experience of them is. In other words, it might be easy for us to think about what it is like to have the experience of hearing the train whistle. But the pure quality of feeling of hearing the train whistle is something that somehow is to be understood as existing apart of our experience of it. So they do not merely exist as being something concretely experienced in the present. Rather, they exist as “may-bes”, because in some way they are distinct from the concrete experiences that may or may not be experiences of these qualities. He seems to demonstrate this distinction with an odd example. He writes, “the word red means something when I say that the precession of the equinoxes is no more red than it is blue, and that it means just what it means when I say that aniline red is red.” But normally we think that qualities are qualities of one thing or another. But qualities of feeling are not to be thought of as inhering in anything. He contrasts qualities of feeling with things like laws. We cannot think of the law of gravity without also thinking that it would have to involve some physical objects with mass. In other words, how can the law of gravity exist if there were not things which could behave in accordance with it? However, we can think of pure qualities of feeling existing without them inhering in some object. He gives the example for this that we can imagine a person who for their whole life at every moment of their existence only were aware of the color violet or the stink of rotten cabbage. I am not sure how this example illustrates that concept however. Perhaps the idea is that if we only know one quality, we cannot attribute it to something else, because there are no other things we are aware of. But I am just guessing. The point is that quality of feeling is not a generality, because were it so, it would need something to which it applies, as with the law of gravity.]
... Among phanerons there are certain qualities of feeling, such as the color of magenta, the odor of attar, the sound of a railway whistle, the taste of quinine, the quality of the emotion upon contemplating a fine mathematical demonstration, the quality of feeling of love, etc. I do not mean the sense of actually experiencing these feelings, whether primarily or in any memory or imagination. That is something that involves these qualities as an element of it. But I mean the qualities themselves which, in themselves, are mere may-bes, not necessarily realized. The reader may be inclined to deny that. If so, he has not fully grasped the point that we are not considering what is true, not even what truly appears. I ask him to note that the word red means something when I say that the precession of the equinoxes is no more red than it is blue, and that it means just what it means when I say that aniline red is red. That mere quality, or suchness, is not in itself an occurrence, as seeing a red object is; it is a mere may-be. Its only being consists in the fact that there might be such a peculiar, positive, suchness in a phaneron. When I say it is a quality, I do not mean that it "inheres" in [a] subject. That is a phaneron peculiar to metaphysical thought, not involved in the sensation itself, and therefore not in the quality of feeling, which is entirely contained, or superseded, in the actual sensation. The Germans usually call these qualities feelings, feelings of pleasure or pain. To me this seems to be mere repetition of a tradition, never subjected to the test of observation. I can imagine a consciousness whose whole life, alike when wide awake and when drowsy or dreaming, should consist in nothing at all but a violet color or a stink of rotten cabbage. It is purely a question of what I can imagine and not of what psychological laws permit. The fact that I can imagine this, shows that such a feeling is not general, in the sense in which the law of gravitation is general. For nobody can imagine that law to have any being of any kind if it were impossible that there should exist any two masses of matter, or if there were no such things as motion. A true general cannot have any being unless there is to be some prospect of its sometime having occasion to be | embodied in a fact, which is itself not a law or anything like a law. A quality of feeling can be imagined to be without any occurrence, as it seems to me. Its mere may-being gets along without any realization at all.
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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