Gary R., List:
I am rapidly becoming quite enamored with Peirce's blackboard discussion,
as I think that it sheds considerable light on his cosmological
speculations. No doubt the fact that he called it "a sort of diagram" is a
big part of its appeal to me, given my research into diagrammatic reasoning
and my thesis that it is the key to the "logic of ingenuity" that is
routinely employed by engineers. For Peirce, this means that it is an icon
that embodies the significant relations among the parts of the object that
But that raises the question--which parts and which relations? At first
glance, the only parts are the blackboard and the chalk mark; and the only
relations are the discontinuity of the boundary between black and white,
and how the continuity of the chalk mark depends on that of the underlying
blackboard. Maybe this really is all that there is to it initially. Of
course, additional chalk marks entail additional relations among the
multiple chalk marks themselves--or at least, those that acquire the habit
After further contemplation, though, it occurs to me that chalk marks do
not spontaneously *appear *on a blackboard--especially not in specified
patterns such as the "new curve" that emerges when they "multiply
themselves under the habit of being tangent to the envelope" (CP 6.206).
Instead, as I hinted in my original post, someone has to *draw *them; and
furthermore, must do so by means of a piece of chalk. Should we treat
either or both of these as parts of the diagram, as well? If so, what (or
Whom) do they represent, and what are the significant relations that
Or am I overthinking this now? Typically diagrammatic reasoning--at least
when theorematic, rather than merely corollarial--requires "drawing"
features that are not included in the original construction, but are
necessary in order to "see" relations that are not evident initially. The
one doing both the "drawing" and the "seeing" is the *reasoner*, who is *not
*part of the diagram itself; and neither is the instrument (if any) that is
used to do the "drawing." In this case, Peirce seems to limit the diagram
to the geometrical continuity (generality) of the blackboard, which
represents potentiality (also generality).
CSP: Let the clean blackboard be a sort of diagram of the original vague
potentiality, or at any rate of some early stage of its determination.
This is something more than a figure of speech; for after all continuity is
generality ... Now the clue, that I mentioned, consists in making our
thought diagrammatic and mathematical, by treating generality from the
point of view of geometrical continuity, and by experimenting upon the
diagram. (CP 6.203-204; 1898)
However, is Peirce--the one who presumably drew the chalk marks while
delivering the lecture--the reasoner who does the "experimenting upon the
diagram"? Or is each audience member or reader the reasoner, such that
Peirce--perhaps along with his piece of chalk--*is *part of the diagram
itself? Or even more radically, is the whole point that *God *is the
reasoner, such that all of Creation is a diagram upon which *He *
CSP: ... the universe is a vast representamen, a great symbol of God's
purpose, working out its conclusions in living realities. Now every symbol
must have, organically attached to it, its Indices of Reactions and its
Icons of Qualities; and such part as these reactions and these qualities
play in an argument that, they of course, play in the universe--that
Universe being precisely an argument. The Universe as an argument is
necessarily a great work of art, a great poem--for every fine argument is a
poem and a symphony--just as every true poem is a sound argument. (CP
As for "the Mind of God," Peirce associated the popular use of that very
expression not with potentiality or (ur-)continuity, but with the kind of
reaction and existence that qualities have when they spring up from it. If
I am relating the following passage properly to the diagram that comes up a
few paragraphs later, then this is represented not by the blackboard, but
by the ideas of *possible *chalk marks and their interactions, which are
being contemplated by the one who considers drawing them.
CSP: Yet we must not assume that the qualities arose separate and came
into relation afterward. It was just the reverse. The general indefinite
potentiality became limited and heterogeneous. Those who express the idea
to themselves by saying that the Divine Creator determined so and so may be
incautiously clothing the idea in a garb that is open to criticism, but it
is, after all, substantially the only philosophical answer to the problem.
Namely, they represent the ideas as springing into a preliminary stage of
being by their own inherent firstness. But so springing up, they do not
spring up isolated; for if they did, nothing could unite them. They spring
up in reaction upon one another, and thus into a kind of existence. This
reaction and this existence these persons call the mind of God. I really
think there is no objection to this except that it is wrapped up in figures
of speech, instead of having the explicitness that we desire in science.
Perhaps "by saying that the Divine Creator determined" the chalk
marks--i.e., that God *deliberately chose* which possible marks to
actualize, rather than that they somehow came about on their own--I am
"incautiously clothing the idea in a garb that is open to criticism." I
can live with that, since my own cosmology is basically the one described
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was
without form and void [*tohu bohu*], and darkness was over the face of the
deep [clean blackboard]. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face
of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light
[white chalk mark]. And God saw that the light was good [habit of
persistence]. And God separated [discontinuity] the light [whiteness] from
the darkness [blackness]. God called the light Day, and the darkness he
called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day
[time]. (Genesis 1:1-5)
Jon Alan Schmidt - Olathe, Kansas, USA
Professional Engineer, Amateur Philosopher, Lutheran Layman
www.LinkedIn.com/in/JonAlanSchmidt - twitter.com/JonAlanSchmidt
On Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 3:58 PM, Gary Richmond <gary.richm...@gmail.com>
> Jon, Gary F, List,
> Gary F wrote:
> *[GF: ] *But I think you will agree that *possibility* is the logical
> equivalent of Firstness, not Thirdness. Peirce at this stage in his
> thinking often identified continuity with generality, and he wrote c.1905
> that “The generality of the possible” is “the only true generality” (CP
> 5.533). So I don’t think continuity is confined to Thirdness; and I think
> Gary Richmond has argued that the ur-continuum or *tohu bohu* represented
> by the blackboard in Peirce’s famous cosmology lecture is the first
> Universe, which comprises “vague possibilities.”
> In some comments on cosmic origins in "One, Two, Three" (1886) Peirce
> ". . . we must suppose that there is an original, element
> al, tendency of things to acquire determinate properties, to take habits.
> This is the Third or mediating element between chance, which brings forth
> First and original events, and law which produces sequences or
> " (
> would emphasize "original" and "elem
> ental" in such passages. But
> I have tended to base my argumentation regarding this topic on the later
> cosmological lecture
> of the 1898 Cambridge
> series. In the final
> lecture Peirce offers his famous blackboard analog
> For those on the list not familiar with it, I'll briefly rehearse it here.
> begins by placing
> a chalk mark on the board, a bit of spontaneity (1ns) which doesn't last
> (it is "indifferent as to continuity"
> he writes
> ). "It tends itself readily to generalization but is not in itself
> general. The limit betwee
> the whiteness and the blackness is essentiall
> discontinuous, antigeneral" (RLT:282).
> But note: "The original potentiality
> [represented by the blackboard]
> is essentially continuous, or general."
> However, nothing can
> until the mark has some staying power, that is, begins to take on habits.
> "Once the line will stay a lit
> le after it is marked, another line may be drawn beside it. Very soon our
> eye persuades us there is a
> *new* line, the envelope of those others."
> He goes on at some length to describe this proto-universe. But it is,
> again, a* proto*-universe.
> It is *not* *this* universe.
> "At the same time all this, be it remembered, is not of the order of the
> existing universe, but is merely a Platonic world" of which there are many
> and it is out of these one is "differentiated" in an "actual universe of
> existence" (RLT:283)
> And, ". . .if we suppose the laws of nature to have been formed under the
> influence of a universal tendency of things to take habits, there are
> certain characters that those laws will necessarily possess" (RLT:283).
> For prime example, these laws
> themselves evolve
> , involving the introduction of chance elements (1ns)
> , although I don't recall
> he discusses that
> in this lecture.
> He will later discuss two continuities of this,* our*, universe, that of
> Time and that of Space.
> For me, that
> discussion is one of the high points of a lecture which in my opinion is
> as anything he produced (the whole series is
> , imo
> But moving
> past Time (as fascinating as his discussion is in RLT)
> to Space since
> haven't discussed 2ns
> at all yet
> , he remarks that while Space is a continuity "and, therefore, a
> Thirdness, the whole nature and function of space refers to Secondness. It
> is the theatre of the reactions of particles."
> I should add as an aside that Peirce sometimes speaks of 3ns as lawfulness
> and 2ns as the embodiment of laws in actuality.
> As for the application of vectors here, Peirce at one points remarks that
> his various musings on early cosmology are pre-scientific (or something
> like that). So, while he'll say in some places re: this early cosmology,
> 1ns -> 3ns -> 2ns, in my thinking you cannot factor out the original
> or there would be no theater
> in which
> these proto-events
> might occur., and that is exactly where he commences in the 1898
> blackboard analogy.
> Note, finally, this passage on Synchecism which one finds immediately
> preceding the blackboard metaphor in RLT.
> 1898 | Cambridge Lectures on Reasoning and the Logic of Things: The Logic
> of Continuity | RLT 261; CP 6.202
> … the characteristic of my doctrine, namely, that I chiefly insist upon
> continuity, or Thirdness, and, in order to secure to thirdness its really
> commanding function, I [find it indispensable] that it is a third, and that
> Firstness, or chance, and Secondness, or Brute reaction, are other
> elements, without the independence of which Thirdness would not have
> anything upon which to operate. Accordingly, I like to call my theory
> because it rests on the study of continuity.
> So, one sees here that Peirce does indeed in 1898 associate these
> "elements" (chance, brute reaction, and continutiy) with the categories,
> that they must have their own independent characters, but that 3ns has a
> "commanding function."
> On the other hand, to repeat: Peirce considers his cosmological musing
> prescientific. So it's OK to refer to synechism as a scientific theory
> once this universe has evolved from a vast spectrum of
> possibilities (there's also a multi-universe theory implied here, btw), but
> if one wants to consider the Peircean equivalent to the question "What
> preceded the Big Bang," you have to go to this ur-continuity (which I've
> sometimes personally thought of as the Mind of God, not the God of this
> universe, but of all possible universes).
> Gary R
> [image: Gary Richmond]
> *Gary Richmond*
> *Philosophy and Critical Thinking*
> *Communication Studies*
> *LaGuardia College of the City University of New York*
> *C 745*
> *718 482-5690 <718%20482-5690>*
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