Dear Benjamin Udell, 
Gary Moore: Although John Harvey’s reply was extremely good and very thought 
provoking, this is the best argued and most informative and just downright 
practically effective letter I have ever received on a philosophy thread on the 
internet in twelve years! I appreciate the distinction made in paragraph 2] 
very much. I did have trouble trying to find any sort of definition for 
precisely the terminological combination “prime necessity” which, though it 
combines two well known terms, is not at all self-explicative together as 
obviously Peirce wants them to be together. You are perfectly right in saying 
Peirce is just using it as an example. ¶
[Addendum] Gary Moore: To explain my interest I need to show an ongoing 
conflict with S. J. McGrath over another such combination term with a violent 
and variegated history: the analogia entis which he says is the primary concept 
of Thomas Aquinas. He says it is absolutely necessary to all thinking as such 
as well as to any meaningful theology. He obviously treats it as a form of 
logical argument. But it is not. It is a literary trope. Now, that does not 
diminish its importance because literary explication always goes with using 
language. Literary explication shows that psychology, explicit and implicit, 
governs all our expression. Yet in logic and philosophy it is only rarely 
acknowledged, and then only as a minor concern when it fact it is the 
overwhelming concern of the whole of language. Its formation of language comes 
long before logic and philosophy. Deely demonstrates that the analogia entis is 
NOTa logical argument but does show the analysis of
 the word “God”, which Aquinas definitively says we can never really say 
anything ‘real’ about, acts as I see it as a black whole around which theology, 
philosophy, and psychology revolve around and . . . The term analogia entis 
McGrath is so hot and bothered about does not even occur in Aquinas anywhere. 
Gary Moore: But your further analysis, as well as the Peirce you quote [3], 
have been vastly rewarding! You quote “Necessity de omni is that of a predicate 
which belongs to its whole subject at all times.” I take this to refer to 
“Firstness”. In turn, I take these to refer to John Deely’s use of Aquinas’ ens 
ut primum cogitum which is literally the first ‘thing’ you know and gives you 
the ability to know everything else. This is the key to all of Deely’s 
thinking. I searched for ens ut primum cogitum at Arisbe and found absolutely 
nothing which is probably my fault. Is the identification accurate? ¶
[Addendum] Gary Moore: In A Thief of Peirce: The Letters of Kenneth Laine 
Ketner and Walker Percy, Percy makes the strange statement [page 6] that “To 
tell the truth, I’ve never seen much use in CSP’s “Firstness”, except to make 
the system more elegant.”]
 Gary Moore: At paragraph 8], you say, “ordinary discourse itself can evolve 
and become less vague and more specialized”. This is true. That this evolution 
occurs is undeniable. But this indicates the nature of language itself which I 
am always ‘within’ and yet is the only viewpoint I have of it. This is why I 
disagree with Deely about his blanket condemnation of solipsism which, like 
Kant’s categories for the same reason, he is forced to do an about face. FOUR 
AGES OF UNDERSTANDING, page 588, ““But this is not sufficient for the 
preclusion of solipsism for the species anthropos, and hence for each 
individual within it; for whatever may be the mechanism of representative 
consciousness, that does not change the basic situation admitted on all hands: 
nothing directly experienced has as such an existence also apart from our 
experiencing of it. This view is the hallmark of modernity. But the moderns 
never succeeded in figuring out why they
 were speculatively driven, over and over again, into a solipsistic corner from 
which, as Bertrand Russell summarized the modern dilemma in the historical 
twilight of its dominance in philosophy, there seems no way out. For only the 
sign in its proper being can effect the needed passage. And ideas as 
representations are emphatically not signs, but the mere vehicles and 
foundations through which the action of signs works to achieve, over and above 
individual subjectivity, the interweave of mind and nature that we call 
Gary Moore: And on page 645, Deely grudgingly gives Kant credit for influencing 
Peirce: “The second great scheme of categories was that of Kant. We passed over 
Kant’s categories without any discussion of their detail, except to point out 
that, in the nature of the case, they could provide no more than the essential 
categories of mind-dependent being insofar as it enters into discourse since, 
according to Kant, all phenomena are wholly the mind’s own construct. 
Nonetheless, do not be deceived by this fact into thinking that the Kantian 
scheme is not worth studying. It is filled with triads, which Peirce found very 
suggestive in finally arriving at his own categories, even though Peirce’s are 
categories of experience in precisely the sense that Kant tried to rule out and 
foreclose upon for all future philosophy.Ӧ
Gary Moore: The point is that, though solipsism must be ruled out as an overall 
system such as Berkeley’s, nonetheless it is based on one’s own and irrevocable 
experience. The problem is, how then does one then reconcile that one’s 
knowledge of language came from ‘elsewhere’ than one’s own creation in oneself 
as the only possible point of experience at all? Obviously, then, the ‘other’ 
truly and necessary exists but can only be interpreted from one’s absolutely 
unique vantage point. If all knowledge as known in the acting of knowing is 
wholly mine, then how do I come about having a language that is given to me 
somehow? The evolution of language, then, is inexplicable, paradoxical, and yet 
a fact. It truly comes from a process of learning which, from completely within 
one’s own experience, must acknowledge a source of experience from ‘elsewhere’ 
completely unmediated by myself. ¶
Gary Moore: Therefore “ordinary discourse” I only partially share in and 
partially change, and, being out of my control per se, is “the final cause of 
all intellectual endeavors.” That it becomes, as you say, “less vague and more 
specialized” shows an existential interface between myself and the ‘other’ to 
and for whom I write and speak. Therefore this is not an offhand observation of 
yours but an observation of the aporia of existence itself. The fundamental 
real problem is not ‘fixing’ terminology but of aligning myself with others to 
communicate on the same plain of actual existence. 

From: Benjamin Udell <>
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2012 2:10 PM

Gary M., list,

In the passage that you quote from EP 2: 266, what Peirce says is,
[....] This scholastic terminology has passed into English speech more than 
into any other modern tongue, rendering it the most logically exact of any. 
This has been accomplished at the inconvenience that a considerable number of 
words and phrases have come to be used with a laxity quite astounding. Who, for 
example, among the dealers in Quincy Hall who talk of "articles of prime 
necessity," would be able to say what that phrase "prime necessity" strictly 
means? He could not have sought out a more technical phrase. There are dozens 
of other loose expressions of the same provenance. 
Peirce isn't praising the phrase "prime necessity" by calling it most 
technical. He's just pointing out that people use, without knowing their 
meanings, phrases that are supposed to be reserved for technical senses. That 
much seems clear enough from the context. Less obvious is that "prime 
necessity" was no doubt in Peirce's view a good example because he thought 
pretty much nobody really knew what it meant.
Still another threefold distinction, due to Aristotle (I Anal. post., iv), is 
between necessity de omni (tò katà pantós), per se (kath autó), and 
universaliter primum (kathólou prôton). The last of these, however, is 
unintelligible, and we may pass it by, merely remarking that the exaggerated 
application of the term has given us a phrase we hear daily in the streets, 
'articles of prime necessity.' Necessity de omni is that of a predicate which 
belongs to its whole subject at all times. Necessity per se is one belonging to 
the essence of the species, and is subdivided according to the senses of per 
se, especially into the first and second modes of per se. (Peirce, 1902, from 
his portion of "Necessity" in Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, James 
Mark Baldwin, editor, v. 2, p. 145 via Google Books and via Classics in the 
History of Psychology . 
I don't know what Latin word is being translated as "necessity" in that 
paragraph but, given the neuter adjective in universaliter primum (literally, 
"universally first"), if it's a word with the "necess-" element in it, then it 
is necesse (= necessum) or necessarium ("necessary", neuter adjectives) rather 
than necessitas or necessitudo ("necessity", feminine abstract nouns).

Peirce can be terminologically demanding, but fortunately he defined many terms 
and phrases, in the Century Dictionary and in the Dictionary of Philosophy and 
Psychology. As for Peirce's own terminology, he defines some of it in those 
books, but the first place to look is the Commens Dictionary of Peirce's Terms 
, edited by Mats Bergman and Sami Paavola, U. of Helsinki, and containing 
Peirce's own definitions, often many per term across the decades.

Gary Fuhrman very helpfully took a list of Peirce entries at the DPP that I 
started in "Charles Sanders Peirce bibliography" in Wikipedia, and expanded it 
to include Peirce entries for letters P-W (which aren't at the Classics in the 
History of Psychology). . Where he 
has not also provided the text, he still provides the page number so that one 
can find it via Google Books' edition or via Internet Archive's edition .
The Century Dictionary is online for free; it's bigger and more encyclopedic 
than the OED. I recommend installing the DjVu reader rather than settling for 
jpg images of pages. A list of the entries written or supervised/approved by 
Peirce is at . Peirce's work on the 
Century Dictionary will be in Writings vol. 7, now scheduled for 2013. Online 
software for W 7 is now planned (Peirce Edition Project April 2012 Update ).

As regards ordinary discourse as the final cause of all intellectual endeavors, 
I'd say that ordinary discourse itself can evolve and become less vague and 
more specialized. Some ordinary discourse contains hundreds of ways to 
characterize snow; but not ordinary discourse in English, and most of us will 
not accumulate enough experience with snow to get what those characterizations 
are about. Yet for some those characterizations are very practical, often 
needful. Between highly developed ideas and ordinary ideas, there will usually 
be some struggle, it's a two-way street. 

Best, Ben

On 5/12/2012 12:25 PM, Gary Moore wrote:
Dear John Harvey,
>Gary Moore: Absolutely excellent! "Before a more precise term can be used by 
>more than one person, someone has to define and explain it in the less precise 
>(i.e. more ambiguous) vocabulary that is already understood by others. The 
>limited communication which ambiguity provides is a hermeneutic path toward 
>more understanding. In other words, ambiguity is a tool for achieving greater 
>precision." This is perfect! Ambiguity, established within a locating context, 
>is therefore necessary for communication per se. Establish the context 
>precisely and you sizably decrease, but never eliminate, the ambiguity. If 
>what you say is important enough, at some time you must enunciate your 
>thoughts to a wider, broader community. Peirce uses the term “prime necessity” 
>as if it were a very precise scholastic logical term. And yet an explanation 
>for “prime necessity” is not to be found anywhere in the Peirce sites nor in 
>any major philosophy resource like the
 Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy. If, on the other hand as I 
advocated, we had the literal Latin phrase he was referring to, I would have no 
problem locating at least a context in which it is used as “prime necessity”. 
Peirce praises it by saying, “He could not have sought out a more technical 
phrase” as it “strictly means”. And yet it is impossible to find except in this 
paragraph in “The Ethics of Terminology” (EP volume 2, page266). So it is 
hardly a model of intelligibility considering its lack of context and its near 
total lack of use.¶
>Gary Moore: I. A. Richards I am mainly familiar with as a literary critic, 
>obviously with a command of philosophy and logic. However one communicates in 
>English, one uses literary or, better, rhetorical tropes that, while not 
>necessarily being precisely logical (but not hindering it either), none the 
>less state the existential fact a human being who is in a certain situation is 
>making a statement. If done well, all parties, with their appropriate usage of 
>ambiguity, can more or less correctly understand each other. Abuse the 
>ambiguity as Peirce can do in a purely arbitrary fashion, people think, 
>because he has said something extremely obscure, that it is extremely 
>brilliant because either no one understands it or everyone is afraid of saying 
>“The emperor has no clothes on,” that the great ‘truths’ are merely very 
>ordinary pedestrian sideswipes.¶
>Gary Moore: “The x-ray example is a good illustration of a situation in which 
>"ambiguity" and "precision" both have economic, health, ethical and semeiotic 
>costs and benefits.” The doctor is now being legally forced to explain why an 
>x-ray is necessary and what it can and cannot do in common, though un-precise, 
>terms. Instead of what? Instead of just doing the x-ray to legally say he did 
>an x-ray to cover himself from legal suits without necessarily being of any 
>use to the patient even from the most outlandish of possibilities, while at 
>the same time economically harming the patient with a needless very expensive 
>charge. As Churchill said of politics, “America and England are divided by a 
>common language.”  Well, he had to break down and learn American context if he 
>was going to get American money and weapons, did he not? No one was going to 
>give those things to him simply because he wanted them.¶
>Gary Moore:  Herein perfectly fits the following, “The question isn't, "Is 
>there perfect precision?" Some of the questions are, "Is there enough 
>precision for the situation or context?" and when necessary, "How does further 
>inquiry increase the precision and clarity of our understanding?" “Further 
>inquiry”, though, can only proceed from ambiguity as what is at hand to any 
>possible precision.¶
>Gary Moore: “"In a concluding section, Professor Berthoff turns to the idea of 
>a "fall" into language by way of a discussion of Kleist's essays on marionette 
>theatre and the shaping of thought at the point of utterance." It has been a 
>while since I have dealt with Kleist’s essays on marionettes and Immanuel 
>Kant. Has a better format and treatment of his essays occurred I do not know 
>Gary Moore
>From: John Harvey <>
>To: Peirce-L <> 
>Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2012 10:28 AM
>Gary, Phyllis, list,
>The use of "ambiguity" and "precision" or "clarity" as antonyms is what I. A. 
>Richards might have called a "killer dichotomy"[1] which doesn't recognize 
>they are all on the continuum of discourse academic as well as ordinary. 
>Before a more precise term can be used by more than one person, someone has to 
>define and explain it in the less precise (i.e. more ambiguous) vocabulary 
>that is already understood by others. The limited communication which 
>ambiguity provides is a hermeneutic path toward more understanding. In other 
>words, ambiguity is a tool for achieving greater precision.
>The x-ray example is a good illustration of a situation in which "ambiguity" 
>and "precision" both have economic, health, ethical and semeiotic costs and 
>The question isn't, "Is there perfect precision?" Some of the questions are, 
>"Is there enough precision for the situation or context?" and when necessary, 
>"How does further inquiry increase the precision and clarity of our 
>Regards, John
>[1] Berthoff, Ann E., "The Mysterious Barricades: Language and Its Limits" 
>(1999), p. 15-17.
>"The Mysterious Barricades makes the case that escaping the enthrallment of 
>recent theory in literary criticism and the philosophy of language will be 
>impossible so long as the meaning relationship is conceived in dyadic terms. 
>Ann E. Berthoff examines certain "dyadic misunderstandings," including the 
>"gangster theories" fostered by Deconstruction and its successors, and offers 
>"triadic remedies," which are all informed by a Peircean understanding of 
>interpretation as the logical condition of signification."--BOOK JACKET.
>"The remedies come from a logician, the inventor of semiotics (Peirce); a 
>rhetorician who reclaimed practical criticism (I.A. Richards); a philologist 
>who became the first to develop a general theory of hermeneutics 
>(Schleiermacher); a linguist - some would say the greatest of the century 
>(Sapir); a philosophical anthropologist who sought to define what we need to 
>discover if we are to appreciate the role of symbols in building the human 
>world (Susanne K. Langer); and an amateur semiotician novelist, and religious 
>man who defined the capacity for symbolization as the power which sets the 
>human being apart from the rest of Creation (Kleist). All have seen that 
>pragmatism is the chief consequence of a triadic view of the sign. All have 
>seen that the powers of language are contingent on its limits, whether 
>linguistic or discursive. All recognize the heuristic power of limits, seeing 
>them as "mysterious barricades."
>"In a concluding section, Professor Berthoff turns to the idea of a "fall" 
>into language by way of a discussion of Kleist's essays on marionette theatre 
>and the shaping of thought at the point of utterance."
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