10 Jul 2016

Peirce (CP1.317-1.321) Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol1/Bk3/Ch2/A/§10, "The Transition to Secondness", summary


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


§10: The Transition to Secondness [1.317-1.321]



Brief summary:

Our consciousness is made-up fundamentally of qualities of feeling, just like how space is made up fundamentally of points. So if we contemplate anything whatsoever, and we attend to the whole while bracketing out the parts, we would see that fundamentally consciousness is constituted entirely by singular and whole qualities of feeling that admit of no parts nor of any comparison with anything else whatsoever. However, even though consciousness is made entirely of qualities of feeling does not mean that secondness and thirdness cannot also be phenomenal. Secondness for example is the experience of something external to us that is evident in the effort we put forth to counteract its resistance to our very efforts. This external opposition is not something originating in our internal qualities of feeling, although those qualities can reflect our experiences of effort against external resistance. So whenever we summon an effort in response to some external resistance, like when we struggle to open a jammed door, we are experiencing secondness in addition to the firstness of our qualities of feeling. As we experience both the firstness of our inner world and the secondness of the world around us, we live in two realms, namely, the realm of fancy and the realm of fact. We have dominion over our imagination, so we come to think of the realm of fancy as being internal to us, while the realm of fact, over which we have much less control, we consider to be external to us. The external world can still influence our thinking and insert ideas from without, and in response we often try to protect our inner world of fancy from intrusion.






[Our consciousness is at its basis entirely constituted by qualities of feeling.]


[Peirce’s first idea seems to be that at its basis, our conscious states are made up fundamentally of qualities of feeling. It could be that he is saying that our consciousness is nothing over and above that. But he uses the metaphor of space being made of points or time of instants. The fact that space is made of points does not preclude the possibility that it can have shapes, objects, or whatever else occupying it to. But I will quote so you can judge:]

The whole content of consciousness is made up of qualities of feeling, as truly as the whole of space is made up of points or the whole of time of instants.

(Peirce 159)




[If we contemplate anything, attending to the whole while bracketing out the parts, we would see that fundamentally consciousness is constituted entirely by singular and whole qualities of feeling that admit of no parts nor of comparison with anything else whatsoever.]


[Peirce has us try to contemplate anything whatsoever, but to contemplate it just by itself. I am not sure what a good example would be, but apparently anything would do. We might notice that when we are contemplating something, let us say the dinner we most recently ate, that there are parts to that contemplation itself and to the thing we are contemplating. There were different moments of the meal, different senses at work, and so on. And also in our contemplation itself there are different parts, maybe the images and concepts and physical reactions and so on. But Peirce tells us to contemplate this by attending to the whole and putting aside the parts. This might seem somehow to be like a Husserlian reduction of some sort, in a loose way. We contemplate something, and we bracket the parts of that contemplation or thing contemplated. In the case of the meal, if we attend to the contemplation merely as a whole, then in the first place there would be nothing we are attending to that is partial. Secondly, as a whole, it would seem somehow to not be conceptual, but I am not sure why. Perhaps because in order to conceive it, we need to introduce more conceptual material than what is given. For example, to define it, we would need to compare it in order to know what it is not. At any rate, for one reason or another, to contemplate our last dinner for example with absolutely no heeding to experiential parts leaves us somehow with just something like the feeling itself of satisfaction. Now recall from CP1.295 that a priman is an indecomposable logical relation in which the part is what it is regardless of reference to other things. Likewise this quality of feeling cannot enter into any comparisons and thus cannot even be said to resemble anything else. And there could only be this quality of feeling and nothing else in consciousness.]

Contemplate anything by itself – anything whatever that can be so contemplated. Attend to the whole and drop the parts out of attention altogether. One can approximate nearly enough to the accomplishment of that to see that the result of its perfect accomplishment would be that one would have in his consciousness at the moment nothing but a quality of feeling. This quality of feeling would in itself, as so contemplated, have no parts. It would be unlike any other such quality of feeling. In itself, it would not even resemble any other; for resemblance has its being only in comparison. It would be a pure priman. Since this is true of whatever we contemplate, however complex may be the object, it follows that there is nothing else in immediate consciousness. To be conscious is nothing else than to feel.





[But even though consciousness is made entirely of qualities of feeling does not mean that secondness and thirdness cannot also be phenomenal.]


[So if consciousness is constituted entirely of qualities of feeling, then how can there be the other sorts of phenomena, particularly, secondness and thirdness? To explain how it is possible, Peirce continues with the metaphor of points in space. He coins a term for the aspect by which space can be said to be constituted entirely by points, and that term is “protoidal”. But he also says that no matter how many points space may have, it is not enough to constitute space. I cannot figure out the difference and how this applies to secondness, but in the next paragraphs he says more on how this can be.]

What room, then, is there for secundans and tertians? Was there some mistake in our demonstration that they must also have their places in the phaneron? No, there was no mistake. I said that the phaneron is made up entirely of qualities of feeling as truly as space is entirely made up of points. There is a certain protoidal aspect – I coin the word for the need – under which space is truly made up of nothing but points. Yet it is certain that no collection of points – using the word collection to mean merely a plural, without the idea of the objects being brought together – no collection of points, no matter how abnumerable its multitude, can in itself constitute space. . . .





[We experience secondness whenever we summon an effort in response to some external resistance, like when trying to open a jammed door. The secondness originates in those forces resisting us, which are phenomenally given but not internal to the quality of feeling of our states of consciousness.]


[To explain how the phaneron has a secundans or secondness, he illustrates with a sort of experience. His point will be that something can come to our awareness, which will be purely made up of a quality of feeling, and yet it will not actually be an element of our awareness. He has us imagine that we are having trouble opening a door. We even gather our forces and press strongly on it with our shoulder. We must do this, because we encounter such resistance. The forces acting against our efforts are not in our consciousness, even though its quality of feeling will be bound up with that experience. He says that effort always arises whenever one feeling abuts upon another in time. This I am not sure I follow. Is he saying that when we are experiencing a transition from one feeling to the next that some effort will arise?]

The phaneron does contain genuine secundans. Standing on the outside of a door that is slightly ajar, you put your hand upon the knob to open and enter it. You experience an unseen, silent resistance. You put your shoulder against the door and, gathering your forces, put forth a tremendous effort. Effort supposes resistance. Where there is no effort there is no resistance, where there is no resistance there is no effort either | in this world or any of the worlds of possibility. It follows that an effort is not a feeling nor anything priman or protoidal. There are feelings connected with it: they are the sum of consciousness during the effort. But it is conceivable that a man should have it in his power directly to summon up all those feelings, or any feelings. He could not, in any world, be endowed with the power of summoning up an effort to which there did not happen to be a resistance all ready to exist. For it is an absurdity to suppose that a man could directly will to oppose that very will. A very little thinking will show that this is what it comes to. According to such psychological analysis as I can make, effort is a phenomenon which only arises when one feeling abuts upon another in time, and which then always arises. But my psychological pretensions are little, if they exist at all, and I only mention my theory in order that contrast should impress the reader with the irrelevancy of psychology to our present problem, which is to say of what sort that is which is in our minds when we make an effort and which constitutes it an effort.





[We live in two worlds, namely, the realm of the fancy and the realm of facts. We can control the ideas we have in our imagination. But the external world we do not have this dominion over. Our fancy, as it is under our power, we think is internal to us, while the realm of fact, which is outside our dominion, we think is external to us. Although we have control over our inner realm of fancy, the external world can impinge upon it and influence our thinking and introduce ideas. We try to protect ourselves from this external influence.]


[Peirce says that we live in two worlds, namely, the world of fact and the world of fancy. And we think that we are in control over the realm of fancy. All we need to do is imagine something, and then it exists in our imagination. What is important here is that we think that this imagining of things into existence requires no effort. Peirce seems to then say that it is because of this relative amount of effortlessness of the imagination that we consider the realm of fancy to be the internal world and the realm of fact to be the external world. I am not exactly sure why, but the idea seems to be that because we have dominion over the realm of fancy, it somehow belongs just to us, and therefore is internal. In contrast, the realm of fact we cannot wish one way or another, and so it is outside our dominion and thus external to us. Peirce then uses the metaphor of wearing a “garment” of contentment and of habituation to protect our sense of the full dominion we have over our realm of fancy. Nevertheless, the external world of fact often holds sway over our inner world, when we have experiences of the brute facts of the world, which modify our ways of thinking and introduce ideas from the outside. I do not follow the next idea, but Peirce might be saying that when experience imposes ideas into our inner world, we then try to immunize ourselves from future incursions by removing from our inner world ideas that are vulnerable to exterior influence. And then, we provoke the external world to try to influence our inner world only in those situations where we know it cannot have any effect. I am not sure what he means here. Let me quote.]

We live in two worlds, a world of fact and a world of fancy. Each of us is accustomed to think that he is the creator of his world of fancy; that he has but to pronounce his fiat, and the thing exists, with no resistance and no effort; and although this is so far from the truth that I doubt not that much the greater part of the reader's labor is expended on the world of fancy, yet it is near enough the truth for a first approximation. For this reason we call the world of fancy the internal world, the world of fact the external world. In this latter we are masters, each of us, of his own voluntary muscles, and of nothing more. But man is sly, and contrives to make this little more than he needs. Beyond that, he defends himself from the angles of hard fact by clothing himself with a garment of contentment and of habituation. Were it not for this garment, he would every now and then find his internal world rudely disturbed and his fiats set at naught by brutal inroads of ideas from without. I call such forcible modification of our ways of thinking the influence of the world of fact or experience. But he patches up his garment by guessing what those inroads are likely to be and carefully excluding from his internal world every idea which is likely to be so disturbed. Instead of wait- | ing for experience to come at untoward times, he provokes it when it can do no harm and changes the government of his internal world accordingly.






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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