Jon, Gary R et al.,
I’ve been away for a couple of days and haven’t yet caught up with the
discussion. However I’ve done a bit of searching through Peirce’s late texts to
see whether I could confirm your suggestion that Peirce “seems to have shifted
toward discussing "Universes" rather than "categories.” I found a couple of
extended discussions of the difference between “Categories” and “Universes,”
one in the “Prologemena” of 1906. But I also found two other places where
Peirce writes of “the three Universes”: the long letter to Welby of Dec. 1908
(EP2:478 ff.) and a 1909 letter to James (EP2:497). He doesn’t refer to
Categories in these letters, so that would seem to support your suggestion. I
found very little that uses either term from 1909 on.
I see that Gary R. has corrected me on my reference to the ‘ur-continuity’, and
I’ll leave any further comments on that until I catch up with the thread.
From: Jon Alan Schmidt [mailto:jonalanschm...@gmail.com]
Sent: 11-Oct-16 15:08
To: Gary Fuhrman <g...@gnusystems.ca>
Subject: Re: [PEIRCE-L] Peirce's Cosmology
Gary F., List:
GF: I think it would be less of a stretch to identify the contents of those
Universes as Firsts, Seconds and Thirds, i.e. as subjects or objects in which
Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness (respectively) inhere.
I have generally been reluctant to talk about Firsts/Seconds/Thirds, rather
than Firstness/Secondness/Thirdness. I am not sure that the former terminology
is completely appropriate and consistent with Peirce's usage, especially late
in his life, although I am open to being convinced otherwise. In fact, he
seems to have shifted toward discussing "Universes" rather than "categories,"
perhaps in order to emphasize that they are objective constituents of reality,
not mere labels that we apply to organize our experience.
GF: This leaves open the possibility of identifying one of the categories as
Creator of all three Universes.
Peirce's statement was not that one of the categories created all three
Universes, but that all three Universes--or at any rate, two of the three--have
a Creator who is independent of them. I take this to mean that the Creator
might not be entirely independent of one of the three Universes. Of course, my
basic argument is that Peirce unambiguously described God as "pure mind" and
the Universe that corresponds to Thirdness as that of "Mind," so the alignment
seems pretty clear.
GF: To me it seems logical enough to regard this insubstantial Being, this
capacity, as the Creator of all three Universes.
Again, it is not that the Creator is identified with one Universe or its
contents, it is that He might not be entirely independent of one Universe. And
"mere capacity for getting fully represented" does not strike me as equivalent
to "capacity for creation," especially of other Universes. In "A Neglected
Argument," the only description of a Universe that mentions the other two is
that of the third.
GF: This would be somewhat analogous to regarding abduction as Creator of the
hypothesis which, my means of deduction, creates a theory which through
inductive testing becomes more and more substantial. As we all know, abduction
is the only source of new ideas; perhaps Firstness is the only source of Ideas.
Likewise we might regard the dreamer as Creator of the dream and of the fact of
the dream and of whatever might be predicated of it (i.e. of its meaning, if it
But abduction is not the creator of the hypothesis, it is the reasoning process
by which a person creates the hypothesis. Reasoning is thought, which is
Thirdness. Peirce characterized a person as a symbol or as a continuum, both
of which are Thirdness. Likewise, the dreamer who creates the dream, the fact
of it, and whatever might be predicated of it is a person (again, Thirdness).
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 ...
This brings up one of the great puzzles for me in Peirce's writings. He
steadfastly associated possibility with Firstness and continuity/generality
with Thirdness, but his mathematical definition of a continuum evolved toward
the notion of an infinite range of indefinite possibilities. Is a continuum of
possibilities more properly considered to be an example of Thirdness (as a
continuum) or Firstness (as possibility)? Should we perhaps distinguish
possibility as Firstness from potentiality as Thirdness? If so, on what basis?
GF: ... 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.”
>From browsing through the List archives, I took Gary R. to be suggesting that
>the blackboard or "ur-continuum" is Thirdness, consistent with my initial post
>in this thread. Perhaps he can weigh in on this himself.
Jon Alan Schmidt - Olathe, Kansas, USA
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