The three categories, the system´s “now” (17/8/23)
Firstness is anything that stands for itself, secondness means something second, reacting with the first, and thirdness is the mediation between the first two. Peirce also calls the categories “Quality, Reaction, Mediation”.
Now you legitimately may object: But there is nothing first, except maybe the big bang. Everything has got reasons, even spontaneity, and the quality something has. Reality is an entangled thing without beginning. A system too is an entangled thing.
Therefore it is helpful to distinguish between the system and the system´s “now”. All that is happening is happening in the present only. There is only one past, it is unchangeable, static. There will be only one future too. Though you can change it now, only one of many possibilities will manifest itself. The system´s “now” of a human may be called his/ her “I”, or “ego”, I think.
Seen from the present´s or the system´s now´s perspective, anything belongs to one of the categories. To firstness everything belongs, that shows up alone, that comes from the past, and appears in the present. This especially is the so- called sign. Its appearance is an event.
Secondness, from the “now´s” perspective, is a subject that becomes an object after the appearance of the sign. In the present, due to the sign, a subject suddenly becomes an object. This object is influenced by the sign, and remains for some time. It has got a certain permanence that reaches into the future. Such an object may be something immaterial too, e.g. something picked out of the memory.
Thirdness is that, what comes out of this reaction, the result. In our mind it is the idea (Peirce: “interpretant”), which we now, due to the sign, have about this object, and keep. In the nature it is a result, reaching into the future, and whose reason is from the past.
So now you may say: The first category combines past with present, the second present with future, and the third past with future. All that from the perspective of the system´s “now”:
1.: A sign appears from the past in the present,
2.: It suits a subject, which, due to this, becomes an object in the present, and remains as such in the near future too,
3.: The fact that sign and object suit each other has a reason (a causality) in the past, and delivers a result (causally too) that reaches into the future.
That what happens is the system´s “now”, and the system´s “now” is nothing else but that what happens. It is the sign process within a broader meaning, as in the non- organic nature too things happen. This “broader meaning” is called “pansemiotics”. As sign processes are actions of the mind, the non- organic nature has got a mind as well. Peirce called it “quasi- mind of the universe”, and the whole of all mind “phaneron”. For Peirce, matter too belongs to mind, it is “effete mind”, weakened, lethargic mind. So Peirce was not a matter- mind- dualist, but a mind- monist.
We just have become acquainted to the possibility to tell, from which category something is, by looking, between which two of the three tenses (past, present, future) it dwells. Now there is a second method too:
A firstness consists merely of itself, a secondness consists of two parts: Firstness of secondness (2.1.), and secondness of secondness (2.2.). A thirdness consists of three parts: (3.1.), (3.2.), (3.3.). But I can go into details later only, because we do not know yet, what “to consist of something” means. It is to speak about composition, a kind of system´s hierarchy, see next chapter.
Let us now leave the perspective of the system´s “now”, and turn towards the system. It consists of the components it has got, and has had during its history. Many of them, perhaps, have been called by the system´s “now” just a few times, only once, or never. Also in the “now” the whole system may be inactive, e.g. when we dreamlessly sleep, our mind. In this case you cannot really speak of a “now” at all.
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