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Friday, June 26, 2009

Don't look now, but

Arisbe has been growing. Joseph Ransdell has been adding numerous texts of manuscripts by Peirce. Joe has been tracing the development of Peirce's pragmatic conception of truth back through Peirce's draft texts on logic.

From from Joe's June 17, 2009 peirce-l post:

...for those especially interested in this topic, let me list the manuscripts especially relevant to this, all of which are available from the website ARISBE, with a brief indication of what to look for in them. I list them more or less in the order I will be dealing with them (a number of them being quite short, by the way):
Joe then lists a number of manuscript texts. Here they are in the same order but also with their names (not necessarily assigned by Peirce) and online locations, plus links. Seasons and months of the year are mostly from Joe's peirce-l post. Annotations are Joe's from Arisbe.

  • MS 164 Winter 1869-70: Lessons in Practical Logic. PEP.
  • MS 165a Winter 1869-70: A Practical Treatise on Logic and Methodology. PEP.
  • MS 165b Winter 1869-70: Rules for Investigation. PEP.
    Introductory paragraphs for a logic text based on idea that the aim of reasoning is to arrive at a settled opinion.
  • MS 165c Winter 1869-70: Practical Logic. PEP.
    First formulation of inquiry as settlement of opinion with choice of methods, with only two methods recognized.
  • MS 166 Winter 1869-70: Chapter 2. PEP.
  • MS 171 Spring 1870: Notes for Lectures on Logic to be given 1st term 1870-71. Arisbe.
    Logic described as based on concept of a sign.
  • MS 179 Winter-Spring 1872: Logic, Truth, and the Settlement of Opinion. Arisbe.
    First statement of four methods model
  • MS 189 May-June 1872: Chapter 4: Four Methods of Settling Opinion.
  • MS 209 April 1872: [I can't an MS either 209 or April 1872 at Arisbe.]
  • MS 200 Fall 1872: Of Reality. Arisbe.
  • MS 204 Fall 1872: Chapter IV. Of Reality. Arisbe.
  • MS 208 March 10th, 1873: [I can't find this at Arisbe. Maybe Joe means MS 218? Joe comments on MS 218 below. Anyway, here's the MS 218 title and annotation at Arisbe: MS 218 (March 1873) Chap. 6th.
    Chiefly conncerned with causal connection between sign and object, thought and the thing to which it relates; the hardness of the diamond as what will happen under certan conditions.]
  • MS 233 Spring 1873: Chap. XI. On Logical Breadth and Depth. Arisbe.
Joe then continues:

When I get back, I will be replacing some of these with more legible versions which Jerry Dozoretz and I have been working on, intermittently, in the past year or so; but these will do for the moment. Discussion can be deferred altogether until I get back, but in case anybody wants to go ahead and get into it before then, I will just try to indicate what to look for in them. I suggest that even the early and apparently least informative of these fragments should be read very carefully with a eye to noticing the way in which Peirce initially announces that logic is concerned with the investigation of truth, while at the same time showing much hesitation about the wisdom of thinking of it that way and actually going ahead at first to describe the aim of logic in such a way as to make no use of the concept of truth at all and describing logic instead as being the general theory of inference, sometimes stating more specifically that it is the theory of the syllogism, sometimes that it is the theory of consequences (which was a way of doing logic developed in the 13th Century), which he regarded as an alternatively equivalent way of representing inference. Then when he does first introduce the idea of inquiry as originating in doubt and the insistent need to escape it by a "settlement of opinion", which is where the conception of truth first becomes operative in his account of logic, notice that he at first talks as if treating the aim of inquiry as settlement of opinion is not actually the same as regarding it as pursuit of truth but is to be regarded rather as a substitute for doing so, enabling us to avoid getting lost in the usual philosophical wrangling over what truth is. But this reticence doesn't last, as you will see.

MS 218 is the most extensively developed account of the pragmatic conception of truth in these manuscripts, but I suggest that to get the hang of his thinking you bear down instead very closely on what he is saying in the first few items in the list above, for it is in doing this that you can see his thought in the process of development from a quite crude and implausible initial statement to an increasingly careful one as he reformulates the conception again and again.

MS 171 is also worth special mention. It is not actually a part of the MS material for the projected logic book, but rather a page of lecture notes for a course he was to teach; but it is conceptually of a piece with the Logic book and in it he makes the peculiar (and mind-boggling) nature of his idealism clear when he concludes by saying:

"The real thing is the ultimate opinion about it. About IT, that is, about the ultimate opinion, but not involving the reflection that the opinion is itself that ultimate opinion and is the real thing."
Joe has also added a number of things by Peirce which he doesn't mention in the peirce-l post. If you haven't gone there lately, you might wish to take a look.

Update June 27, 2009: MS 165 contains an untranslated Latin quote from Summulae Logicales written circa the early 1230s by Petrus Hispanus (who became Pope John XXI):

Dialectica est ars artium scientia scientiarum, ad omnium methodorum principia viam habens. Sola enim dialectica probabiliter disputat de principiis omnium aliarum scientiarum.
The word summulae means "small sums." Hispanus intends by it "small summaries." Anyway here is my amateur translation of the passage, as close to word-for-word as I can make it (enim means "for indeed"):
Dialectic is [the] art of arts, science of sciences, having [the] way to all methods’ principles [or sources] . For alone indeed dialectic credibly argues about [or from] principles of all other sciences.
Update June 27, 2009, around 10pm ET: MS165b "Rules for Investigation" says
If a sufficiently long course of experience and reasoning will produce a settlement of opinion, this final opinion is the only legitimate aim of experience and reasoning. For this is all that experience and reasoning really tend to. If experience and reasoning will not lead to a final settlement of opinion, they lead to nothing, and can have no legitimate object. In any case, therefore, the only legitimate aim of experience and reasoning is to reach the final opinion, or in other words to ascertain what would be the ultimate result of sufficient experience and reasoning.
It makes you wonder what Peirce means by "experience." There are the definitions of Experience from the 1900s in the Commens Dictionary of Peirce's Terms. Then there is the definition of "Experience," also viewable at, in the Century Dictionary. It appears under "E" in PEP UQÀM's list of words whose definitions Peirce wrote or reviewed. Here are excerpts:
1. The state or fact of having made trial or proof, or of having acquired knowledge, wisdom, skill, etc., by actual trial or observation; also, the knowledge so acquired; personal and practical acquaintance with anything; experimental cognition or perception: as, he knows what suffering is by long experience; experience teaches even fools.

2. In philos., knowledge acquired through external or internal perception; also, the totality of the cognitions given by perception, taken in their connection; all that is perceived, understood, and remembered. Locke defines it as our observation, employed either about external sensible objects or about the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected upon by ourselves. The Latin experientia was used in its philosophical sense by Celsus and others, and in the middle ages by Roger Bacon. It translates the Greek empeiría of the Stoics. See empiric.

Specifically—3. That which has been learned, suffered, or done, considered as productive of practical judgment and skill; the sum of practical wisdom taught by all the events, vicissitudes, and observations of one's life, or by any particular class or division of them.

4. An individual or particular instance of trial or observation.

5 (Obs.). An experiment.

6. A fixed mental impression or emotion; specifically, a guiding or controlling religious feeling, as at the time of conversion or resulting from subsequent influences.

= Syn. Experience, Experiment, Observation.

Experience is strictly that which befalls a man, or which he goes through, while experiment is that which one actively undertakes. Observation is looking on, without necessarily having any connection with the matter: it is one thing to know of a man's goodness or of the horrors of war by observation, and quite another to know of it or them by experience. To know of a man's goodness by experiment would be to have put it to actual and intentional test. See practice.

Peirce in "Lectures on Pragmatism", CP 5.51, 1903 (see the Commens "Experience" link above), says of experience:

In all the works on pedagogy that ever I read — and they have been many, big, and heavy — I don't remember that any one has advocated a system of teaching by practical jokes, mostly cruel. That, however, describes the method of our great teacher, Experience. She says,
  Open your mouth and shut your eyes
  And I'll give you something to make you wise;
and thereupon she keeps her promise, and seems to take her pay in the fun of tormenting us." ('Harvard )
Reviewing the Century Dictionary and Commens Dictionary definitions, my sense of it is that Peirce uses the word "experience" with some variation in feeling, but still with a narrower sense than the word came to have during the 20th Century, such that it could easily refer to whatever a person is cognitively or affectively aware of undergoing, or to the raw subjective undergoing itself.