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.]
Charles Sanders Peirce
Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce
Volume 1: Principles of Philosophy
Book 3: Phenomenology
Chapter 2: The Categories in Detail
§7: The Similarity of Feelings of Different Sensory Modes [1.312]
Thomas Read scoffed at the idea of a blind person wondering if scarlet red resembles the blare of a trumpet. Peirce in fact sees this as a sensible question, because really feelings from different sensory modes can resemble one another. And one possible reason for this is that on the physical level they bear some resemblance. For example, there may be something similar in terms of vibrations that would make the feeling of a trumpet’s blare resemble that of the color scarlet.
[The feelings from different sensory modes can resemble one another, despite their seeming incommensurability]
[In contrast to what other philosophers might think, Peirce claims that feelings from different sensory modes can resemble one another, as for example the color scarlet and the blare of a trumpet. He goes further to propose that there might be some physical likeness between the sources of these feelings, perhaps on the vibratory level as in cases of light and sound.]
One of the old Scotch psychologists, whether it was Dugald Stewart or Reid or which other matters naught, mentions, as strikingly exhibiting the disparateness of different senses, that a certain man blind from birth asked of a person of normal vision whether the color scarlet was not something like the blare of a trumpet; and the philosopher evidently expects his readers to laugh with him over the incongruity of the notion. But what he really illustrates much more strikingly is the dullness of apprehension of those who, like himself, had only the conventional education of the eighteenth century and remained wholly uncultivated in comparing ideas that in their matter | are very unlike. For everybody who has acquired the degree of susceptibility which is requisite in the more delicate branches of reasoning -- those kinds of reasoning which our Scotch psychologist would have labelled “Intuitions” with a strong suspicion that they were delusions -- will recognize at once so decided a likeness between a luminous and extremely chromatic scarlet, like that of the iodide of mercury as commonly sold under the name of scarlet [and the blare of a trumpet] that I would almost hazard a guess that the form of the chemical oscillations set up by this color in the observer will be found to resemble that of the acoustical waves of the trumpet's blare. I am only deterred from doing so by its being apparently true that our sense of hearing is entirely analytic; so that we are totally deaf to the wave of sound as it exists, and only hear the harmonic components regardless of the phases at which vibrations of commensurable lengths are combined.
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 .