Peirce and Triadomania
A Walk in the Semiotic Wilderness

Mouton de Gruyter 1991

40 Evolutionary Cosmology
Peirce sees the categories as an evolutionary model in which, although one may present firstness as a first of potentially or present secondness as a second of actuality, the real joining, or perhaps one should say „originary“ point, will be through the third of thought and sign.

What has happened is that one has followed a trail of prescissive reasoning on which „it turns out that the study of each conception in all its features brings a clear conception that precisely a given conception is called for“(1.490).
And even though the trail head is a triangular benchmark, Peirce still seeks to demonstrate experimentally through the graphs, and his analysis that
there is a „triadic clause of the laws logic that recognises three elements in truth, the idea, or predicate, the fact or subject, and the thought which originally put them together and recognises they are together(1.485).

Thus, one must start from the position of
Thirdness, and although the strands of the weave may be prescinded from one another, ultimately the fabric of thought is whole cloth. Throughout the logical critique in the Algebra of Logic and the Logic of Relatives, the triadic structure of relation is being explored even when he seems to be most concerned with dyadic relations, for what is of interest to him is that all structures above triadic can be explained in terms of triads and that, by prescission, monads and dyads also can be explained in terms of triads. The triple relative is the seed of logic, for „Every dual relative may be regarded as equivalent to a triple relative, just as every absolute term as equivalent to a dual relative“(3.317).

The triadic categories form
an evolutionary cosmology“ (6.102), and from the tensions between the absolute first of tychism, or pure chance, and the absolute last of anancasm, Peirce is able to reach his synechism by arguing that „a triadic relationship cannot be built up from dyadic relationships. Whoever thinks it can be so composed has overlooked the fact that composition is itself a triadic relationship, between two (or more) components and the composite whole“ (6.321.

Anancasm:(Wicki) Peirce held the view, which he called objective idealism, that "matter is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws".[120] Peirce asserted the reality of
(1) chance (his tychist view),
(2) mechanical necessity (anancist view), and
(3) that which he called the law of love (agapist view), echoing his categories Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness, respectively.
He held that fortuitous variation (which he also called "sporting"), mechanical necessity, and creative love are the three modes of evolution (modes called "tychasm", "anancasm", and "agapasm") of the cosmos and its parts. He found his conception of agapasm embodied in Lamarckian evolution; the overall idea in any case is that of
evolution tending toward an end or goal, and it could also be the evolution of a mind or a society; it is the kind of evolution which manifests workings of mind in some general sense. He said that overall he was a synechist, holding with reality of continuity, especially of space, time, and law.

Anancasm, Anancastic Evolution
(see also Anancasticism, Anancism, Tychasm, Agapasm )
"Three modes of evolution have thus been brought before us: evolution by fortuitous variation, evolution by mechanical necessity, and evolution by creative love.We may term them tychastic evolution, or tychasm, anancastic evolution, or anancasm, and agapastic evolution, or agapasm. The doctrines which represent these as severally of principal importance we may term tychasticism, anancasticism, and agapasticism. On the other hand the mere propositions that absolute chance, mechanical necessity, and the law of love are severally operative in the cosmos may receive the names of tychism, anancism, and agapism. All three modes of evolution are composed of the same general elements. Agapasm exhibits them the most clearly. [---] Just so, tychasm and anancasm are degenerate forms of agapasm." ('Evolutionary Love', CP 6.302-303, 1893)

Thus, the emblem of evolutionary love (6.287) is the triad, the ----< , the forked stick, really is „an emblem of fertility in comparison with which the holy phallus of religion’s youth is a poor stick indeed“(4.310), and the categories really do form a whole cloth even if we „see that it is impossible to deal with a triad without being forced to recognise the triad of which one member is positive but ineffective, another is the opponent of that, and a third intermediate between these two, is all potent. The ideas of our three categories could not be better stated in so few words“ (4.317).

If Peirce's arguments are correct, and I think they are, then „Reality is an affair of Thirdness as Thirdness, that is, in its mediation between Secondness and Firstness“(5.121). It is the medium or connecting bond between the absolute first and last.

However, one also needs to remember that Peirce points out that „there is no absolute third, for the third is of its own nature relative; and this is what we are always thinking, even when we aim at the first or the second. The starting point of the universe, God the Creator, is the Absolute First; the terminus of the universe, God completely revealed, ist the Absolute Second; every state of the universe at a measurable point of time is the third (1.362).

This explanation of Thirdness may grate on our modern agnostic ears, and if we have to ask if Peirce is deifying the sign here, or is he signifying the Deity? Is the triad really a disguised form of the Trinity? Is what Peirce developed simply a pragmatic version of Anselm‘s ontological argument that if we must conceive of God, we must conceive of Him as existing? I do not think so, for Peirce is much too careful in his assertions about existence.
He makes a clear and prescissive distinction between existence and reality, and existence is only „a special mode of being of which things that are real are what ever they really are, independently of any assertion about them“(6.349).

When Peirce addresses the question of the existence of God (6.494), he is very careful to couch the question in terms of the reality of God and to say that any errors in belief are from precision of the concept rather than prescission (6.496). He is careful to say that the thought about the Real, implying God, of course, even if he feathers the term to „Supreme Being“, still leaves „the real character absolutely untouched“ (6.495).

Thus, Peirce makes it clear that
the Reality of God must always be a prescissive abstraction into the sign, not the hypostatic abstraction into existence. Although the godhead may be prescinded from all this, Peirce would apparently not abstract it into existence. All he will do is be insistent that the Universe, or God, is a third, a signed thought.

The central boundary
So if we are in a universe of thirds, either by logical analysis or semiosis, how does one construct the categories, and the answer is through prescission.

Peirce prescissively constructs degrees of degeneracy with of each of the categories, none for Firstness, one for secondness, and two for Thirdness, not as some logico-mathematical add-on, but as necessary elements because of „
the inadequacy of secondness to cover all that is in our minds“(8.331). The world of secondness may be prolific, but it is muted in its relations, and to understand it, in any relational sense, one needs Thirdness.

Perhaps after all,
the „mental element“ in Thirdness is exactly that, Mind, and it creates the categories because they are prescissively necessary to avoid the idiocies of random chance, and to make chance a „fortuitious distribution“ that gives rise to the concept of continuity and eventually to growth.

Boe: Mind - the mental - Thirdness, the problem of Life, growth - becoming - purpose - will (volition)?

Still, Peirce is always honest enough to search for the „genuine“ even as he finds the degenerate, and in his „Notes on Metaphysics“ written in 1909, he gives one of the more astounding analysis of Thirdness in his work, for it suggests that the problem of the categories is the problem of Life.

43 Peirce argues that the laws of dynamics are not sufficient to produce the living principle, for it would be „degenerate“, that is, a world of only secondness is necessarily degenerate, and the world of only firstness would have no reality. Apparently for Peirce, the problem of the categories is a problem of the Mind and how the Mind comes from what is apparently un-minded matter.

So he concludes this discussion of search for genuine triadic relations by saying:

„In short, the problem of how a genuine triadic relationships first arose in the world is a better, because more definite, formulation of the problem of how life first came about; and no explanation has ever been offered except that of pure chance, which we must suspect to be no explanation, owing to the suspicion that pure chance may be itself a vital phenomenon. In that case, life in the physical sense would be due to life in the metaphysical sense. Of course, the fact that a given individual has been persuaded of the truth of a proposition is the very slenderest possible argument for its truth; nevertheless, the fact that I, a person of the strongest possible physicistic prejudices, should, as a result of forty years of questionings, have been brought to the deep conviction that there is some essentially and irreducibly other element in the universe than pure dynamism may have sufficient interests to excuse my devoting a single sentence to its expression. For you may be sure that I had reasons that withstood several, not to say hostile criticism, and if I live to do it, I shall embody them in a volume“ (6.322)

44 Although Peirce never completes the „Notes on Metaphysics“, I have quoted this passage for a specific reason. In my discussion of Thirdness I have made little reference to
that most obvious of thirds, the sign. That is not an oversight. I take that the sign relation is, as Peirce said, the easiest of third to examine (1.338), and that is what this whole study attempts to do; so I will have more to say about the sign in later chapters.

For now but I want to stress is
the prescinded nature of Thirdness and the related problem of the merging of the real and the actual, because the confusion that Peirce struggles with in his semiotic system is the confused separation, the hypostatic abstraction, of the two, which assumes that the sign is a transparent entity of no real effect in the two worlds, but as Peirce will argue later, the sign is „the principle of growth of principles“ (8.585).

Obviously, one of Peirce's main points in his Semeiotic is that
the ensignedness of our discussions, our philosophies, our mentalities, our realities, or our religions is an inescapable condition of Thirdness.
But he always, of course, identifies the sign as a third; he always sees it in terms of its generality, its rule, and its law. So it should be, but understanding how systematic Peirce is in relating all of this together is more important than simply repeating the triadic definition of sign. And I can think of no more forceful way of underscoring that very systematicity than by stressing what Peirce himself saw -
the evolutionary infinitude of the sign.

A Secondness is prescinded from Thirdness, and a Firstness is prescinded from a secondness just as the arbitrary is prescinded from the purposive, and quality of feeling is prescinded from the resistance of the arbitrary, for „
the universe is a vast representamen, a great symbol of God‘s purpose, working out its conclusion in living realities“ (5.119).

Boe: the universe is a vast representamen - the universe observes itself - Spencer Brown

45 The
problem with boundaries: can they be trichotomized?
Peirce makes it clear that there is no „absolute third“ (1.367), only an „absolute first and last“ (1.337), because a third is always relative.

Whether one talks of „zeroness“ as I have, or pure zero as Peirce does,
there is a boundary to the semiotic that is absolute and unattainable, for infinite potentiality is infinite, and it can be divided, or actualised, for ever.

Moreover, our lived experience teaches us that secondness is the first boundary to the semiotic, for in its individual, particularised resistances, there is only a single here and now forever.

boundaries, conceived as either pure being and incarnate substance or first and Last, are, of course, the generative problems of metaphysics either Platonic, Cartesian, Kantian, Hegelian, or Peircean, but Peirce's synthesis of them lives in the medium of the connecting bond“ (1.337) of the relative third.

The semeiotic actually forms the territory between the two absolutes. It is the centre, in perception, existence, or cognition, of the known and knowing universe, and it too forms a boundary of sorts.

Boe: Medium Sinn - medium of the connecting bond - the relative third

The danger, perceived or real, about scholasticism or nominalism is that they would make all mere, empty words unconnected with reality, but Peirce articulated, defined, and defended a Scholastic Realism as a synthesis which would allow both the arbitrariness of sign and the realism of reference.

Boe: vgl. Peter Fuchs Die Verwaltung der vagen Dinge:
68 Begriff der Referenz: Dieser Begriff wird oft nur als einfaches Wort aufgefasst, als ein Fremdwort dafür, dass jemand sich auf etwas bezieht, auf es „referiert“. Aber man kann ahnen, dass das Wort in eine Theorie wie dieser begrifflich gefasst werden muss, und sei es nur, weil andere Begriffe mit ihm ganz wichtige Komposita bilden: basale Selbstreferenz, Fremdreferenz, Systemreferenz. Referieren als Begriff siedelt an der Unterscheidung zwischen Unterscheidungen und Bezeichnungen. Sobald referiert wird, ist eine Unterscheidung im Spiel. Die Markierung oder die Bezeichnung von irgendetwas macht einen Unterschied, aber (und das unterscheidet diesen Begriff von Beobachtung): es kommt nicht drauf an, den Unterschied oder die darauf beziehbare Unterscheidung mitzusehen, mitzuthematisieren. Die je zu Grunde liegende Unterscheidung wird nicht selbst explizit. Sie wird nicht als Unterscheidung zu weiterer Informationsverarbeitung eingesetzt.
69 Die Sache ist die, dass dieses ganze Geschehen einfachhin geschieht. Und genau das verstehe ich unter der Operation des Referierens, die Inanspruchnahme von Bezeichnungen, deren zu Grunde liegende Unterscheidungen nicht zu weiteren Informationsverarbeitung benötigt werden.

In fact, he so defends it that he begins to talk of the Man-Sign and the God-Sign as though they all were signs, and so it is, for the known and knowing world. But does not such contention simply prioritise the sign, making it the Absolute One uniting an apparent dualism of only „apparent“ absolutes?

Such a response would have been easy, but it would have been characteristic of thinking that Peirce would have called, at best, „unclear“. And he, although perhaps tempted, does not settle for that form of one absolute boundary which will resolve the problem of some prior „absolute“ boundaries.

Rather he stays with „relative“ position and keeps the semiotic view to confront the problem of approximation in the relationship between the Dynamic and Immediate Objects and an Ultimate Interpretant, the problems of embodiment in replicas, the tensions between assertion and signing, the limits of pure chance and growth, the trichotomizing of the categories.

Still, it seems to be in the nature of folk who want their Absolutes clear, and although Peirce tries very hard to avoid giving such a „Sop to Cerberus“, many will come away from Peirce thinking they have found the clear absolute. They will see one of the three category as the primary one, putting the other two in a dialectical synthesis of subordination. Either all is firstness and pure chance, or all is secondness and pure resistance, or all is thirdness and pure sign. Yet even though Peirce surely emphasises the sign and the necessity of Thirdness, he does not accept the third dialectical synthesis, rather he settles for the pragmatism of the semeiotic and tries to trichotomize the categories.

So how does one trichotomize two absolute boundaries and one relative boundary? As I will argue later - following Lotman‘s model of Culture and Non-Culture -, it is the nature of circles to have to peripheries: the external arc of the circumference and the internal centre. A dynamic circle is a vortex which turns the central boundary towards the external one and vice versa; it is not static but „processes“ the internal and external materials with some exchange between them.

Boe: circle - Möbiusband; vgl. Glanville; distinction - prescission; conditioned coproduction, vgl. Fuchs

Such is an old archetypal model characteristic of duality like the Chinese Yin and Yang: two interlocking teardrops, of opposing colours, inside a circle (which in some versions has a small dots in the opposite colour inside each teardrop).

The Yin -Yang represents the eternal duality of the universe, outside of whose boundaries is the ineffable Tao, such a rendering is probably a universe of firstness: a position Peirce identifies with the pessimistic view (1.362). But one can adapt the Yin-Yang to model the other dialectical syntheses as well. If Yin is seen as firstness and Yang as thirdness, then the external is secondness: a position that Peirce identifies with the Epicurean view (1. 362). Or if the Yin is seen as firstness, and the Yang is seen as secondness, then thirdness is the external: a position which could represent empty nominalism, except
Peirce identifies it with growth and evolution as an ever-changing set of interactive thirds.

Boe: interacive thirds - communication;
growth of evolutionary love: coproduction of cooperation and competition

It is because of the actions and interactions of interpretants that growth and development can take place. The two absolutes and the relative are trichotomized by their modalities of possibility, actuality, and necessity into the growth of evolutionary love.

What could have been only philosophical pessimism and/or idealism is now the potential modality of the Semeiotic; what could have been only actual and epicurean is now the actual and scientific modality of the semeiotic.

47 Rather than
an ineffable One speaking as a transcendental ego/Other, or an epicurean Two existing as transcendental object and transcended ego mysteriously locked in one perceiving mind, there is now the habituating growth of the Semeiotic: No consuming I, no solipsistic It, but a growing Thou - perhaps the other signers, perhaps the godhead, but certainly the sign waiting to grow some more in the light of evolutionary love.

Evolution and the categories as a trichotomizing schema
Such spiritually aimed assertions on Peirce's part tend to make some semioticians uncomfortable, whether it is put in terms of Peirce's transcendentalism,, or his 19th-century progressivism, or his evolutionary model.

But I think such anxiety is more our difficulty than Peirce's. We tend to treat him somewhat like a rude child of a more naive age, perhaps taking his backwoodsman metaphor too much to heart, but Peirce is no soft-headed mystic playing with the good feelings of unity with the One. He remains always of „physicistic prejudices“, as he puts it, and he was not afraid to grapple with
the transcendental Sign as shown by the patches quoted above from the Notes on Metaphysics, for the seemingly simple direction of a spiral is, as Martin Gardner argues in The Ambidextrous Universe (1979), a fundamentally epistemological issue. In fact, it is at the very centre of the issues being raised by both Peirce and contemporary physics.

We do not yet understand the direction of the change in the universe, and perhaps we never will. We simply do not know how a world of apparent law springs from chance. We do not understand the processes of chaos. We do not know how „simple“ laws can produce such a complex universe as we living. We do not know how the viewers perceptions effect the observations, we simply know they do.

Perhaps, Peirce is right and
the universe is one big Sign, perhaps he is wrong, and perhaps that ideal will prescind differently than we believe it should.
Still, his categories, his semeiotic, his Logic of Relatives, and his existential graphs are devices for creating an
existential epistemology that faces the problems of feeling, resistance, and all with the honesty of inquiry.

Boe: the universe is one big Sign - information;
existential epistemology - Luhmann: operative epistemologie

Just because we have known the vastness of space, heard the Rolling Bones of entropy, felt the coldness of heat death, smelt the rot of life, seen the shift, and tasted the lie‘s mortality, that is no reason to assume we have found
the Final Interpretant. There is no such beastie in a pragmatic universe except hypothetically, and the godhead, if it is a sign, is infinitely regressive, and so are we all.

We inquire and tell our answers to the riddling sphinx and trust to the Community of Inquirers and our own logical capacity to keep us honest, and what binds the community and the logic is the thirdness of the semeiotic.

The Community of Inquirers is essential to Peirce‘s evolutionary concept of metaphysics and the categories, but it is not a church of hypostatic reasoning. Peirce was engaged in a „reconstruction“, his method of combining sign theory with reference was consistently followed, and as he progressed he began to realise that the early abstract theory of hierarchical categories required a telos to give it dynamism and vitality.

Boe: telos - purpose - volition

Thus, habit-breaking chance gave way to habit-taking order, Firstness to Thirdness, abstraction to living concepts, and belief fixing to pragmaticism. The categories, although developing and evolving concepts throughout Peirce‘s life, pretty well keep some consistent significance as an activating the power of is semeiotic. They form an evolutionary epistemology, which is based on the trichotomizing scheme of the prescinded categories for the purposes of critique.

As Esposito describes it::
„It is part of a complex set of hypotheses devised explain the workings of ordinary cognition. From a phenomenological point of view the operator of „firstization“ instructs that the subject or phenomenon be looked at „in itself“; the operator of „seconization“ instructs that the subject or phenomenon be compared with either internal or external characters or with its own environment; and the operator of „thirdization“ instructs that the subject or phenomenon be regarded as a totality of influences within a postulated unity. Then the result of any operation may itself, after hypostatic abstraction, be operated upon“ (Esposito 1980)

49 Thus, the evolutionary process of the categories is itself a critique done publicly for the Community of Inquirers and subject to the demands of logic and Habit, not as a blind allegiance to mechanical repetition or to a black-boxed faith, but as a living growing epistemology. „The evolutionary process is, therefore, not a mere evolution of the existing universe, but rather a process by which the very Platonic forms themselves have become or are becoming developed“ (6.194).

Boe: Denken3 - Denken des Denkens des Denkens

Esposito justly calls it "time's arrow of evolution" and says, "Indeed, the categories themselves require directionality: there can be no thirdness untill there is a secondness and no scondness untill there is firstness", but in Peirce directionality is as much prescission as it is in evolution. However, Esposito does go on to point out the problem in the evolutionary model by discussing the relationship between habit-breaking chance and habit-taking order. But this is not just a Peircean problem; it is one lying at the heart of the Western episteme.

As Ilya Prigigine has observed in Order out of Chaos, "A preoccupation with time runs through our century. Think of Einstein, Freud, Teilhard, Peirce, or Whitehead".
Our physical understandings and our semiotic processes create the arrow of time which frame the evolutionary issue, for as Prigogine says, "There is a competition between stabilisation through communication and instability through fluctuations. The outcome of this competition determines the threshold of stability".

Boe: stability - instability; chaos - order; entropy - negentropy

Thus, t
he focus of Peirce‘s habit-breaking chance and habit-taking order is the same as the problem in chaos and order, or the entropy and negentropy: how does a localised stability maintain itself in the face of apparent universal entropy? How does a ruled, embodied third exist in a universe of brute force apparently derived from pure chance?

The answer is the sign system of living order. For Prigogine, it is the interaction of a system with the outside world, its embedding in non-equilibrium conditions, which may become the starting point for the reformation of new dynamic states of matter, dissipative structures.
And for Peirce, “there is some essentially and irreducibly other element in the universe than pure dynamism“ (6.322).

As Esposito understands it, „It appears, then, that
when Peirce speaks of tychism he means to characterise an entropic factor and when he speaks of synechism he means the opposing negentropic factor.

Thus, he has an answer for linking habit and prescission. There is to seemingly contrary forms, like chance and order, are essentially structures of negentropy and entropy given a semiotic cast; that is, a logic of ratios and inverse ratios that tries to explain the existence of things, not to prove their existence. And by using the habit of prescission, Peirce is able to respect the approximation of our knowing while still sensing the necessity of growth: „this can only be
a principle of growth of principles, a tendency to generalisation“ (6.585). Peirce recognises that a dynamic and dead universe needs no explanation, but a dynamic and living one cannot escape it. So he makes his tendency to generalisation an unusual one - one that recognises the organisational effects of the abstract principle of both hypostasis and prescission.

In many ways, what Peirce has done is to
develop the categories as metaphysical, or prescissive, shifters, much like Martin Buber in I and Thou does with his I, It , and Thou. But rather than the shifters simply having grammatical and pragmatic reference; they become markers of states of prescissive existence. Of course, Peirce would probably not agree with Buber's contention that the „You is unmediated“, but he might very well agree with the essential recognition that „the world as experience belongs to the basic word I - It and that „the basic word I - You establishes the world of relation“.
I am sure Buber is too dualistic for Peirce because he never seems to examine the It - You relationship (which I assume Buber's theology takes as granted) that is exactly the evolutionary problem raised here. Still, using the linguistic shifters to generate a prescissive understanding of relation is what the Semeiotic is about, and the similarities between Peirce's aesthetic concerns and Bubers spiritual concerns are really ones of belief.

Firstness is a dreamy state, all potential and all wrapped up in feeling, sometimes aesthetic, sometimes spiritual, or sometimes scientific. Secondness is a universe of things - dyadic, dynamic, and did, but ultimately not giving the satisfaction the ensigned „I“ needs to survive.
But Thirdness introduces the „thou“ - the connective of speech and agapestic familiarity, the negentropy of a two sided consciousness and abstraction, and the synechism of understanding, tolerance, and love – „the onement of religion and science“ (7.578).And „onement“, if it is to exist will come through prescission, and not precision; it is the real semiotic force.

prescission - SpinksTriadomania 17
Beobachtung dritter Ordnung