Jon, Ben et al. –

Bypassing the triad theme for a moment – I think Peirce makes a crucial point 
that classical mechanics had a problem with acceleration.
Modern physics is based in the new 'acceleration paradigm' – but this is far 
from being unproblematic.

If one starts with the Cartesian notion of a sort of billiard ball universe 
with inelastic collisions (viz no deceleration/acceleration as atoms bounce off 
each other), then it is rather surprising that we have phenomena of 
deceleration/acceleration. This and the calculus enter with Galileo and Kepler, 
then Huygens points out inertial when you go around a corner, and Newton 
proposes 'gravity' to account for the circular motions of planets etc.

For Pragmatism, what is crucial is that deceleration/acceleration requires 
'work' to be performed. Enter the language of forces.
The transition Peirce is pointing to is from the classical Mechanical 
Philosophy – where causes are just prior states that 'naturally change' into 
subsequent effects-states – to a Pragmatic Universe where change requires the 
performance of work (deceleration/acceleration).

Much of modern physics – in my opinion – accepts this and then tries to make 
sense of it while still remaining in the Mechanical Philosophy.
You see this particularly in the presumptions about 'isolated systems' and 
conservation laws – both closely linked to Symmetry presumptions.

In the Mechanical universe things just 'happen' whereas in the Pragmatist's 
developmental model the universe arises and evolves from 'doings'  – the 
performance of work. Work here might be understood along the lines of what 
engineers do.

In the Mechanical Philosophy's universes there is 'no net work.' Whatever 
'happens' is energetically balanced by an equal and opposite 'happening' – net 
change is always zero always retaining symmetry (cf John Barrow's The Book of 


On Mar 22, 2012, at 3:06 PM, Benjamin Udell wrote:

Jon, Terry, list,

I've seen it suggested in a thread somewhere on the Web that the reason that 
the position-velocity-acceleration trichotomy is a good one is that that there 
are universal laws of acceleration and velocity (and position?) but not of the 
third or higher derivatives. (The third derivative of position is informally 
known as jerk, also, jolt, surge, and lurch.) I don't know why there shouldn't 
be a universal law of jerk, becoming very salient when two strongly gravitating 
masses drift toward each other. But I'm no physicist. In fact, a two-ton truck 
does put on a few pounds as it moves from mountain top to sea level. The weight 
difference wouldn't make it fall faster, but I think that the difference in the 
strength of the gravitational field would. Otherwise one should be falling 
earthward at 32ft per sec. per sec. no matter how far from Earth one is. Also 
toward everything else in the universe. Then they'd all cancel each other out 
and there'd be no gravitation. I'd better stop before I drift too far out into 
space myself.

Best, Ben

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jon Awbrey" <>
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 4:56 PM
Subject: Re: [peirce-l] C.S. Peirce • A Guess at the Riddle

TB = Terry Bristol

TB: I like it up to this statement that I find obscure.

CSP: Now an acceleration, instead of being like a velocity a relation between 
two successive positions,
     is a relation between three;  so that the new doctrine has consisted in 
the suitable introduction
     of the conception of Threeness.  On this idea, the whole of modern physics 
is built.

TB: I very much look forward to your comments on the overall passage.


This just says that we estimate the velocity of a particle moving through a 
space by taking
two points on its trajectory and dividing the distance traveled between them by 
the time it
takes to do so.  To get the instantaneous velocity at a point on the trajectory 
we take the
limit of this quotient as pairs of points are chosen ever closer to the point 
of interest.

We estimate acceleration by taking three points, taking the velocity between 
the first two,
taking the velocity between the last two, then taking the rate of change in the 
as an estimate of the acceleration.  We get the instantaneous acceleration by 
choosing the
three points ever closer and taking the limit.

By the way ...

This is probably a good time to mention an objection that is bound to arise in 
regard to Peirce's
use of the series of quantities, Position, Velocity, Acceleration, to 
illustrate his 3 categories.
There is nothing about that series, which can of course be extended 
indefinitely, to suggest that
the categories of monadic, dyadic, and triadic relations are universal, 
necessary, and sufficient.
Not so far as I can see, not right off, at least.  So making that case for 
Peirce's Triple Threat
will probably have to be mounted at a different level of abstraction.




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