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The Development of Peirce's Philosophy by Murray G. Murphey Review by: W. H. F. Barnes The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 13, No.

53 (Oct., 1963), pp. 361-366 Published by: Wiley for The Philosophical Quarterly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2955531 . Accessed: 09/06/2013 10:41
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The Development of Peirce's Philosophy. By MURRAYG. MURPHEY. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. London: O.U.P. 1961. Pp. ix + 432. Price 60s). It must be over thirty years since the day when, as an undergraduate, I came across volume I of the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce in the college library. The name was familiar. There already existed a selection of Peirce's writings entitled Chance Love and Logic (edited by Morris Cohen), though I had not then read it. I can still recall the growing excitement with which I browsed through the pages of the first volume of papers. What an extraordinary range of mind! What assurance, not to say arrogance ! Yet how curiously ingratiating the arrogance, as if it served only as a disguise for a genuine modesty. Here were profound and hard truths about the universe stated persuasively and defended ingeniously. Here were the beliefs-or prejudices ?-of common sense, worked over with logic and science, till they burgeoned into philosophical truths of the highest degree of sophistication. Here was a mind that thought always in terms of a system of philosophy. And yet, alas, everything was so fragmentary that the system eluded one. Did it really exist ? In his new book on Peirce, The Development of Peirce's Philosophy, Mr. Murray G. Murphey attempts to answer this question. His book is a detailed, scholarly account of its subject. He has used not only the volumes of published papers but has also made extensive use of unpublished Peirce It is unmanuscripts in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. fortunately not an exciting book, which is a pity, since Peirce is an exciting philosopher. (Or is it that he was exciting when there were no books about him, before he was "sullied o'er with the pale cast " of other people's thought ?). Exciting or not, any one who is really interested to see how Peirce developed his ideas will have to read this book. What will he find in it ? In his Introduction, after saying that "even to-day there is little agreement as to the nature of his (C. S. Peirce's) philosophy ", the author continues : " I have therefore set myself the task of discovering the underlying principles upon which his work was based and of showing that those principles bring order to the mass of fragmentary manuscripts which remains to us " (p. 1). Any one familiar with the mass of manuscripts must regard this as a very considerable claim. Mr. Murphey is convinced that Peirce regarded himself " as a systematic philosopher " and he is at pains to refute what he considers to be a wrong impression created by a statement of Peirce with which the editors preface Volume II (The Elements of Logic) of his Collected Papers : " All that you can find in print of my work on logic is simply scattered out-croppings here and there of a rich vein which remains unpub-

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lished. Most of it I suppose has been written down; but no human being could ever put together the fragments. I could not myself do so " (p. xii). After admitting that this " suggests that Peirce was not systematic " (p. 1) Mr. Murphey gives us the context in which this remark was made, in a draft of the Lowell Lectures of 1903, when Peirce was 63. In it Peirce goes on to say that he could make a new presentation of the logic, given five or six years' hard work. Mr. Murphey concludes that " it is obvious that this is an appeal for money, not a considered judgment of his own work " (p. 1). I think it may well have been an appeal for support. Peirce more than once offered to produce a series of logical treatises-there was a Grand Logic, and a Minute Logic at different times-if only some one would finance them. He was certainly also inclined to claim, and no doubt to believe, that, given time and money, he could produce a systematic work on logic. But I see no evidence in the passage Mr. Murphey quotes to suggest that Peirce thought he had produced it. Mr. Murphey is concerned to play down the implication of this passage that Peirce was not a systematic philosopher with its corollary that any attempt to treat him systematically (of which his own book is an example) is ill-advised. After this opening the reader naturally expects to find an exposition of a Peircean system of philosophy. What he will actually find is different. Mr. Murphey sees there is no Peircean system but writes as if Peirce expounded in succession a number of different philosophical systems. But it is with having a philosophical system, as with giving up smoking : the more often it is done, the less it seems to have been done at all. Mr. Murphey goes some way towards recognizing this when he compares Peirce's philosophy to a house that is being continually rebuilt from within. Even this gives too favourable a picture of Peirce's " system ". It is a partly built house, whose plans exist only in the architect's mind. The entrance hall is always being reconstructed and each time occupies more of the floor space. The west wing has been several times rebuilt. The east wing has often been talked of but it does not as yet exist and it is difficult to see how it can possibly be fitted on to the main building. And, in fact, it cannot. The book is too detailed for a reviewer to discuss its particular theses. All I can do is to say something about its arrangement, drawing attention to particularly interesting discussions. It is divided into four parts, dealing more or less in temporal sequence with the succession and revision of In Part I Mr. Murphey gives an account of what he calls the first two systems, covering respectively the years 1859-1861 and 1862-1867. The " First System " is really an attempt by Peirce, on the basis of his early study of Kant, to devise a set of categories. (Mr.Murphey has used a number of unpublished papers to good effect here). It is interesting to see that at different points of one of these papers (1861) Peirce defined metaphysics as "the philosophy of primal truths " and " the analysis of conceptions ". Peirce was able to think of these as one and the same thing because he held that every cognition is a kind of inference and there must be some a priori
" systems ".

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first principles not derived from experience in the mind to form the ultimate premises of knowledge. Peirce concluded that these primal truths must be accepted on faith, since he thought that there could be no other way than Kant's " transcendental " method of justifying them and that this method in fact was a failure. At the same time he held a form of uncritical realism to the effect that we do apprehend things in themselves. Metaphysics, then, is concerned with things in themselves: but it rests on faith and hence is limited to the analysis of concepts. (This comes pretty near to the position of those modern philosophers who are ready to analyse, for example, religious beliefs, though they regard them as based not on reason but on authority). In the earliest writings (as Mr. Murphey has revealed) Peirce laid down that there were three basic categories: and, in spite of many changes of opinion in later life about the nature of the fundamental categories, he never wavered in his belief that they were three in number. At one point he defended himself against a possible accusation of triadomany. As formulated at first the categories are said to be 'I ', ' Thou ' and 'It' (the world of abstractions, the world of mind and the world of sense). In his later writings these emerge, much transformed, as Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness. Mr. Murphey explains the somewhat tortuous processes by which Peirce claimed to derive his three categories from reflection upon Kant. Peirce was led to what Mr. Murphey calls his " second system " because he came to doubt the formal logic on which Kant based his doctrine of categories. And he turned to scholastic logic for light. Under the influence of Duns Scotus he aimed to derive the different propositional forms from the forms of inference-a procedure which reversed that of Kant. He came to the conclusion that the relation between subject and predicate is essentially the same as that between premiss and conclusion; and he assumed that the subject-predicate form was fundamental. Part II deals with the years 1867-1880. In the 1868 papers, which were directed ostensibly against Cartesianism, Peirce denied both intuition of external objects and introspection of internal facts. The internal, he argued, is inferred from the external : self-consciousness, and the notion of the self involved in it, is a hypothesis to explain ignorance and error. He also argued that all the natural transitions based on association of ideas are really inferences. The picture is of a continuous developing inference nowhere anchored to any unquestionable fact. In a review of Fraser's edition of Berkeley in 1870 Peirce introduced the notion that "generals" (as he calls universals) are present in the mind as habits. Henceforth the notion of habit was to remain a key concept for him. He was convinced-and the discovery of " pragmatism " in the seventies did nothing to alter his mindthat the controversy between scholastic realism and nominalism was no mere academic dispute but an issue determining one's whole outlook. Realism, he thought, was not only implied in science but also allowed religion the proper place which nominalism denied to it. These developments are well described by Mr. Murphey. In an important

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discussion (pp. 136-142) he points out a difference between these early views of Peirce and views he later came to hold on the way in which our thought refers to objects, a difference obscured by the use of the same terminology. In 1867 Peirce still believed that one could refer to an object only througha concept. Hence, although he used the term index he was not then using it to mean a term that directly indicates (or refers to) the object, as he did later. Consistently with this view, he also held that "the real " is what is thought in a true cognition, and since every cognition refers a quality to an object, there are real objects. Mr. Murphey concludes that by 1871 Peirce had failed to prove either the reality of objects or his realism of universals. In the years following, Peirce read widely in Aristotle and the scholastics, took up and developed the calculus of relations in De Morgan's work and, extending the notion that a general law was analogous to a habit, concluded that the essence of any object consisted in a number of general laws connecting the conditions of perception with the occurrence of certain sensible experiences. These general laws are not mere regularities but essential connexions manifested in the regularities (though Peirce had difficulties and wavered over this). Closely related to this doctrine is Peirce's account of belief. The laws governing the behaviour of objects act as rules for action, and when adopted, become habits. Such a habit is a belief. (I do not find that Mr. Murphey has altogether elucidated this strange doctrine). Peirce argues that, in spite of the relativity (to the percipient) of sensations, reasoning, if pursued long enough, will reveal how things really are. But he now recognized that the reality of things cannot be proved by any theory about the nature of thought. It consists in what would be thought if agreement were ultimately reached. This highly conditional view of reality is criticised by Mr. Murphey in an interesting passage (pp. 169-171). He points out that at times Peirce conceived all properties of objects as dispositional, and real even when not tested or manifested. But at other times he rejected, e.g. the notion that the hardness of a diamond that is formed and perishes without being manifested is real. He was attempting unsuccessfully to combine his original scholastic realism with his new-found phenomenalism. But, as Mr. Murphey sums the matter up: " Peirce appears to be on the horns of a true dilemma: if a possibility is not actualized, it cannot be cognized; if it is actualized it is no longer a mere possibility " (p. 169). The synthesis is supposedly effected by the doctrine of the infinite future. Through this the inexhaustibility of the possible and the limitations of the actual are combined. At the time when these views were being expressed in papers in the Popular Science Monthly Peirce was adapting his categories so that thirdness should be an analogue of relation (to which the logic of relations had given a new prominence) and also somehow do justice to continuity, a notion which grew increasingly prominent in his later thought. He also took a further step towards a synthesis, or at least a harmony, science and religion in laying more stress on the relationship between of mind and the community. Since only ignorance and error distinguish one man's mind from another, the elimination of these would mean the merging

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of all minds. Hence the progress of knowledge tends towards, and requires for its own furtherance, just those moral and quasi-religious disciplines which unite men into a community. (It is astonishing that Peirce should seem to have overlooked-or overridden-the obvious fact that minds, error and ignorance apart, " belong " to different persons or different bodies, and cannot, for this reason, be other than separate. This is one of many examples to show how Peirce's realism was nourished on the self-same hill from which idealism dominated the surrounding countryside). Part III deals with Peirce's adventures in mathematics-geometry and numbers. It is technical and the average reader, like myself, will find it hard going. Its conclusion about Peirce's view of mathematics is that while veering at times to the Intuitionist school, his sympathies and approach were fundamentally with the Logistic school. He emerged from his prolonged wrestling with mathematics with a conviction that continuity was the all-important concept in philosophy. In his later years he used the term 'synechism' for his philosophy as a whole so as to stress this fact. In Part IV Mr. Murphey concludes with an account of Peirce's last philosophical adventures after his dismissal from his post at Johns Hopkins University in 1887. From that date he philosophized on his own without the stimulus (which he did not need) and without the criticism (which he did not covet) of an academic community. In these later years the streak of extravagance, which even the most devoted admirers of Peirce (amongst whom I count myself) would not deny to their hero's thought-processes, became more marked. " The philosophy of continuity is peculiar in leading unequivocally to Christian sentiments " (quoted by Mr. Murphey, p. 295) is a fair example. But, although he laboured on this visionary metaphysics of what might be called " continuity and the Cross ", he made solid contributions at a more humble level. One of the fruitful developments of this late period is the recognition that some terms are not concepts but refer directly to the object, terms to which he gives the name 'index'. This marks the end of the doctrine that the real is what will ultimately be agreed upon in thought. But this particular change is, of course, part of a much greater development in the doctrine of the three basic categories-Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness. In these later writings the categories are presented as three sorts of logical relation-monadic, dyadic and triadic. Mr. Murphey gives an admirable account of this latest doctrine, arising out of the logic of relations, of which the chief features are: (1) genuine dyadic relations are irreducible to monadic and genuine triadic relations are irreducible to monadic or dyadic relations; (2) there are degenerate dyadic relations in which the relative properties derived from the relation can be possessed monadically, i.e. in the absence of the other term. A degenerate triad, similarly, is one in which the relative properties of the pair remain, if one of the three terms is removed; a doubly degenerate triad one in which the relative properties remain if any two terms are removed. The main philosophical interest of these classifications lies in their application by Peirce to the sign relation. The relation between sign and

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object requires a third term, the interpretant (as Peirce called it): the relation between the interpretant and the object is made by the sign: the relation between the sign and the interpretant exists only through the object. If the sign relation is doubly degenerate, the sign is an icon or picture sign: it signifies by means of characters it possesses in any case. If the sign relation is singly degenerate, it is an index or pointing sign: it signifies by virtue of a real (dyadic) relation to its object. If the sign relation is genuinely triadic, it is a symbol. In this stage of his philosophy, Peirce accepted the Kantian position that, while the logical form of knowledge could be known a priori, its content must come through sensory experience. Hence the categories have a formal aspect in which they concern only the logical classification of relations and a material aspect in which they deal with the classification of experience. Whereas in his earlier writings Firstness was quality conceived as an abstraction, now it is thought of as pure sensation-as the quality belonging to the single impression created by a percept which has not yet disclosed its structure and elements to the observer. To be known it must be experienced, and it cannot be analysed or explained. Similarly, Secondness suffers a sea change in these later writings. Earlier it had included the concepts of denotation and the object-but the object was not immediately known. ' This ' is now interpreted as a sign with the power to designate an individual object. Thisness, or haecceity, is experienced as shock or resistance. It is what gives existence to the object and is not a predicate. It is the material aspect of Secondness and involves a genuine dyadic relation. Thirdness is rationality. Meaning is wholly an affair of thirdness. In an interesting discussion (pp. 313-317) Mr. Murphey points out that the interpretant is not to be taken as the meaning of the sign of which it is the interpretant : it is another sign having the same meaning. The meaning of a statement is the habit which is implied by believing that statement. By applying the pragmatic principle we translate a statement into a conditional statement about what observable results would follow if certain actions were done. This conditional formula expresses the habit. I have no space to discuss Mr. Murphey's account of the synechistic philosophy which Peirce tried to build. It was to predict the general character which the future of the cosmos would possess, but like his previous attempts at system it failed. Mr. Murphey concludes his book with the sentence : " The magnificent synthesis which the theory of continuity seemed to promise somehow always eluded him, and the shining vision of the great system always remained a castle in the air " (p. 407). Mr. Murphey's book is handsomely produced, well-bound and wellprinted. I have noted only one misprint and that is on page 75 where, in the quotation from Peirce, the word 'term ' in line 5 should be 'termed'. The book has no bibliography. W. H. F. BARNES

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