1 Jul 2016

Peirce (CP1.305) Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol1/Bk3/Ch2/A/§5, “Feeling as Independent of Mind and Change"

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
§5: Feeling as Independent of Mind and Change [1.305]

Brief summary:
Pure feelings can be conceived as being timeless and independent of any other thing. We might object that such a conception is impossible. For, we cannot conceive this feeling without also conceiving  of {1} a mind having that feeling, {2} the physical or physiological vibrations that physically constitute that feeling or experience, {3} a flow of time during which the feeling occurs, {4} certain quantitative and qualitative determinations, like it having particular distinguishing features or intensities [and thus we would be conceiving it in comparative relation to other feelings rather than conceiving it purely in itself], and {5} of a physical substrate that is physically responsible for causing that feeling. However, all these other things are not immanently a part of the feeling itself. Instead, they are experienced along side it or assumed to be tied to it. Thus we should have no difficulty conceiving pure feelings as timeless and independent from other factors.

[It might seem impossible to understand a pure feeling independently of other factors that seem always to go along with it, but it can be, as these other factors are not inherent to the feeling but are rather just experienced along with it.]
[Peirce will try to establish that a pure feeling can be conceived independently from other notions, including certain assumptions like there being modulations in that feeling over a duration of flowing time, like a mind that is aware of that feeling, or a substantial world that somehow is physically responsible for that feeling. Peirce’s point is that although we might be inclined to think that the pure feeling is inconceivable without these other things, in fact it is. For, these other factors are not found in the actual experience of the feeling itself. In other words, were we to feel redness somehow, the red thing that is giving us its redness is not in that feeling itself, but is rather grapsed as being different than that feeling. So even though all our feelings are felt in a flow of time, that does not mean those feelings cannot be understood independently of that flow.]
Suppose I begin by inquiring of you, Reader, in what particulars a feeling of redness or of purple without beginning, end, or change; or an eternally sounding and unvarying railway whistle; or a sempiterne thrill of joyous delight – or rather, such as would afford us delight, but supposed to be in that respect quite neutral – that should constitute the entire universe, would differ from a substance? I suppose you will tell me that no such thing could be alone in the universe because, firstly, it would require a mind to feel it, which would not be the feeling itself; secondly, the color or sound and probably also the thrill of delight would consist of vibrations; thirdly, none of them could last forever without a flow of time; fourthly, each would have a quality, which would be a determination in several respects, the color in hue, luminosity, chroma, and vividness; the sound in pitch, timbre (itself highly complex), loudness, and vividness; the delight more or less sensual, more or less emotional, more or less elevated, etc.; and fifthly, each would require a physical substratum altogether disparate to the feeling itself. But I point | out to you that these things are only known to us by extraneous experience; none of them are either seen in the color, heard in the sound, or felt in the visceral sensation. Consequently, there can be no logical difficulty in supposing them to be absent, and for my part, I encounter not the slightest psychological difficulty in doing so, either. To suppose, for example, that there is a flow of time, or any degree of vividness, be it high or low, seems to me quite as uncalled for as to suppose that there is freedom of the press or a magnetic field.
(Peirce 151)
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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