11 Jul 2016

Peirce (CP1.325) Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vol1/Bk3/Ch2/B/§3, "The Varieties of 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

B: Secondness

§3: The Varieties of Secondness [1.325]

Brief summary:
There are many examples of secondness. In all these cases the situation is reducible to two essential components. Causality has cause and effect; static force has a pair of forces; memory has the past and future; reality involves the opposition between exterior otherness and our inner ego; and to will and sense both involve the subject and the world that the subject interacts with (that is, again, between the ego and the non-ego), but in acts of will the subject is active and in acts of sense (perception) the subject is passive and is thus a patient.


[Secondness involves irreducible pairings of terms often in oppositional relations, like cause and effect, and so on.]

[Peirce mentions some types of secondness. They seem to be ideas, but perhaps they are also components or aspects of our phenomenal experience. In some cases they clearly are, as with willing and perceiving. The example he begins with is causation, which involves a cause and effect and thus two elements. Statical forces (perhaps static forces) involve pairs of forces or physical objects. Constraint is also a secondness, because there is the constrained thing, force, or motion and the constraining one. Memory seems to be a secondness, because here the past acts upon the future. However, the future only acts upon the past by means of thirds. I am not sure what he means by that. Perhaps he explains what he means in some other section. For sense and will, we have secondness in the reactions between one’s ego and some non-ego.  Peirce then distinguishes the nature of the secondness in will and sense. In acts of will, we are the agents rather than the patients, and the events leading up to the act of will are internal. Perhaps he means something like us building resolve to act, which gathered as we went through a series of deliberations and the like. In sense, however, the events leading up to the sense act are not internal, perhaps because we have sensations when there are external stimuli. So this is one reason that we say that in sense we are patients rather than agents. Another reason is that while our nerves are acted upon and modified by external stimuli when we have a perception, those external things are not thereby affected by our perception of them. Now consider what we think reality to be. We say that reality is what would exist independently of our consciousness of it. And by calling the real the actual, we acknowledge that it is active. I do not follow his final point but he seems to be saying that for some reason when we say there is some law that explains an observable phenomenon, we are thinking in dualistic terms and thus it is an instance of secondness. I am not sure however, what the dualism is in these cases. Perhaps it is the dualism between the laws that govern the real world and that world itself. But that is just a wild guess. The relevant quote for this idea comes at the end.]
The idea of second is predominant in the ideas of causation and of statical force. For cause and effect are two; and statical forces always occur between pairs. Constraint is a Secondness. In the flow of time in the mind, the past appears to act directly upon the future, its effect being called memory, while the future only acts upon the past through the medium of thirds. Phenomena of this sort in the outward world shall be considered below. In sense and will, there are reactions of Secondness between the ego and the non-ego (which non-ego may be an object of direct consciousness). In will, the events leading up to the act are internal, and we say that we are agents more than patients. In sense, the antecedent events are not within us; and besides, the object of which we form a perception (though not that which immediately acts upon the nerves) remains unaffected. Consequently, we say that we are patients, not agents. In the idea of reality, Secondness is predominant; for the real is that which insists upon forcing its way to recognition as something other than the mind’s creation. (Remember that before the French word, second, was adopted into our language, other was merely the ordinal numeral corresponding to two.) The real is active; we acknowledge it, in calling it the actual. (This word is due to Aristotle's use of {energeia}, action, to mean existence, as opposed to a mere germinal state.) Again, the kind of thought of those dualistic philosophers who are fond of laying down propositions as if there were only two alternatives, and no gradual shading off between them, as when they say that in trying to find a law in a phenomenon I commit myself to the proposition that law bears absolute sway in nature, such thought is marked by Secondness.
(pp.??? CP1.325; print page numbers are forthcoming, as pages 162-163 are missing from my copies)

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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