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Re: [xmca] Consciousness "only a part of the material quality of the man-sign"

Thank you Tony. I love Peirce. America's Hegel.
Pity Hegel didn't have friends like James and Dewey to help communicate his ideas.


Tony Whitson wrote:
I have previously sent later notebook fragments that echo the text below; but this section from CSP’s 1868 published article “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities” seems so squarely on point with this discussion that I think I now should send this entire 8-paragraph section. So here goes:

§4. MAN, A SIGN [footnotes omitted]

5.310. We come now to the consideration of the last of the four principles whose consequences we were to trace; namely, that the absolutely incognizable is absolutely inconceivable. That upon Cartesian principles the very realities of things can never be known in the least, most competent persons must long ago have been convinced. Hence the breaking forth of idealism, which is essentially anti-Cartesian, in every direction, whether among empiricists (Berkeley, Hume), or among noologists (Hegel, Fichte). The principle now brought under discussion is directly idealistic; for, since the meaning of a word is the conception it conveys, the absolutely incognizable has no meaning because no conception attaches to it. It is, therefore, a meaningless word; and, consequently, whatever is meant by any term as "the real" is cognizable in some degree, and so is of the nature of a cognition, in the objective sense of that term.

5.311. At any moment we are in possession of certain information, that is, of cognitions which have been logically derived by induction and hypothesis from previous cognitions which are less general, less distinct, and of which we have a less lively consciousness. These in their turn have been derived from others still less general, less distinct, and less vivid; and so on back to the ideal first, which is quite singular, and quite out of consciousness. This ideal first is the particular thing-in-itself. It does not exist /as such/. That is, there is no thing which is in-itself in the sense of not being relative to the mind, though things which are relative to the mind doubtless are, apart from that relation. The cognitions which thus reach us by this infinite series of inductions and hypotheses (which though infinite /a parte ante logice/, is yet as one continuous process not without a beginning /in time/) are of two kinds, the true and the untrue, or cognitions whose objects are /real/ and those whose objects are /unreal/. And what do we mean by the real? It is a conception which we must first have had when we discovered that there was an unreal, an illusion; that is, when we first corrected ourselves. Now the distinction for which alone this fact logically called, was between an /ens/ relative to private inward determinations, to the negations belonging to idiosyncrasy, and an /ens/ such as would stand in the long run. The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase of knowledge. And so those two series of cognition -- the real and the unreal -- consist of those which, at a time sufficiently future, the community will always continue to re-affirm; and of those which, under the same conditions, will ever after be denied. Now, a proposition whose falsity can never be discovered, and the error of which therefore is absolutely incognizable, contains, upon our principle, absolutely no error. Consequently, that which is thought in these cognitions is the real, as it really is. There is nothing, then, to prevent our knowing outward things as they really are, and it is most likely that we do thus know them in numberless cases, although we can never be absolutely certain of doing so in any special case.

5.312. But it follows that since no cognition of ours is absolutely determinate, generals must have a real existence. Now this scholastic realism is usually set down as a belief in metaphysical fictions. But, in fact, a realist is simply one who knows no more recondite reality than that which is represented in a true representation. Since, therefore, the word "man" is true of something, that which "man" means is real. The nominalist must admit that man is truly applicable to something; but he believes that there is beneath this a thing in itself, an incognizable reality. His is the metaphysical figment. Modern nominalists are mostly superficial men, who do not know, as the more thorough Roscellinus and Occam did, that a reality which has no representation is one which has no relation and no quality. The great argument for nominalism is that there is no man unless there is some particular man. That, however, does not affect the realism of Scotus; for although there is no man of whom all further determination can be denied, yet there is a man, abstraction being made of all further determination. There is a real difference between man irrespective of what the other determinations may be, and man with this or that particular series of determinations, although undoubtedly this difference is only relative to the mind and not /in re/. Such is the position of Scotus. Occam's great objection is, there can be no real distinction which is not /in re/, in the thing-in-itself; but this begs the question for it is itself based only on the notion that reality is something independent of representative relation.

5.313. Such being the nature of reality in general, in what does the reality of the mind consist? We have seen that the content of consciousness, the entire phenomenal manifestation of mind, is a sign resulting from inference. Upon our principle, therefore, that the absolutely incognizable does not exist, so that the phenomenal manifestation of a substance is the substance, we must conclude that the mind is a sign developing according to the laws of inference. What distinguishes a man from a word? There is a distinction doubtless. The material qualities, the forces which constitute the pure denotative application, and the meaning of the human sign, are all exceedingly complicated in comparison with those of the word. But these differences are only relative. What other is there? It may be said that man is conscious, while a word is not. But consciousness is a very vague term. It may mean that emotion which accompanies the reflection that we have animal life. This is a consciousness which is dimmed when animal life is at its ebb in old age, or sleep, but which is not dimmed when the spiritual life is at its ebb; which is the more lively the better /animal/ a man is, but which is not so, the better /man/ he is. We do not attribute this sensation to words, because we have reason to believe that it is dependent upon the possession of an animal body. But this consciousness, being a mere sensation, is only a part of the /material quality/ of the man-sign. Again, consciousness is sometimes used to signify the /I think/, or unity in thought; but the unity is nothing but consistency, or the recognition of it. Consistency belongs to every sign, so far as it is a sign; and therefore every sign, since it signifies primarily that it is a sign, signifies its own consistency. The man-sign acquires information, and comes to mean more than he did before. But so do words. Does not electricity mean more now than it did in the days of Franklin? Man makes the word, and the word means nothing which the man has not made it mean, and that only to some man. But since man can think only by means of words or other external symbols, these might turn round and say: "You mean nothing which we have not taught you, and then only so far as you address some word as the interpretant of your thought." In fact, therefore, men and words reciprocally educate each other; each increase of a man's information involves and is involved by, a corresponding increase of a word's information.

5.314. Without fatiguing the reader by stretching this parallelism too far, it is sufficient to say that there is no element whatever of man's consciousness which has not something corresponding to it in the word; and the reason is obvious. It is that the word or sign which man uses is the man himself. For, as the fact that every thought is a sign, taken in conjunction with the fact that life is a train of thought, proves that man is a sign; so, that every thought is an /external/ sign, proves that man is an external sign. That is to say, the man and the external sign are identical, in the same sense in which the words /homo/ and /man/ are identical. Thus my language is the sum total of myself; for the man is the thought.

5.315. It is hard for man to understand this, because he persists in identifying himself with his will, his power over the animal organism, with brute force. Now the organism is only an instrument of thought. But the identity of a man consists in the consistency of what he does and thinks, and /consistency/ is the intellectual character of a thing; that is, is its expressing something.

5.316. Finally, as what anything really is, is what it may finally come to be known to be in the ideal state of complete information, so that reality depends on the ultimate decision of the community; so thought is what it is, only by virtue of its addressing a future thought which is in its value as thought identical with it, though more developed. In this way, the existence of thought now depends on what is to be hereafter; so that it has only a potential existence, dependent on the future thought of the community.

5.317. The individual man, since his separate existence is manifested only by ignorance and error, so far as he is anything apart from his fellows, and from what he and they are to be, is only a negation. This is man,

                ". . . proud man,

                Most ignorant of what he's most assured,

                His glassy essence."

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009 1:44 PM
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Consciousness


There certainly is a distinction between the President and your thought of the President, and between the taler in your pocket and your thought of this taler. But again you are siding with Kant, and against Marx. The difference is not that one is mental and the other is material. What makes the dollar bill real is not its material character, but the practices, customs, laws of a community. Your thought of the dollar is different, but not because it is in your consciousness. You could write on a piece of paper the statement: "There is a dollar in my pocket," and we would have a material object (writing on paper), but the same conundrum: does it correspond to the reality? The same *impossible* conundrum, because how can a linguistic statement ever be said to correspond, or not correspond, to a material object? Only (again) because of the practices, customs, of a
community. They are both equally material - or equally imaginary.

Ilyenkov cited Marx making the same point. Ilyenkov writes:

"[Marx] went on: “'Real talers have the same existence that the
imagined gods have. Has a real taler

any existence except in the imagination, if only in the general or rather common imagination of man? Bring paper money into a country where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your
subjective imagination.'"


On Sep 23, 2009, at 8:35 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> But Vera, all the complexity and nuances of the idea of > consciousness and its relation to the material world (both its > substratum in the body and in culture and in its relation to its > objects) do not obliterate the categorical difference between the > President and my thought of the President. And reflecting on this > overnight, I am now convinced that this is an *important* as well as
 > a "bleeding obvious" difference.

> >

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Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov $20 ea

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