The Tetrast
Sketcher of various interrelated fourfolds.

Appendix: Mats Bergman's June 1 2004 peirce-l post

August 25, 1991.
(Tetrast posting dated backward in time in order to keep it from appearing on Tetrast homepage)

This is from the Lyris archive and is reproduced below, in the format in which it appeared before a recent Lyris software upgrade, which allows (at last) a direct link to the post

Date:Tue, 1 Jun 2004 15:31:48 +0300
Author: "Mats Bergman" mats.bergman at
Subject: Re: Mats Bergman's paper

Ben, Bernard, Gary, list,

I noticed, somewhat to my surprise, that you are discussing two of my papers
on the list. To be honest, I had forgotten that the Collateral Experience
paper is on the net; it was a presentation at a local research seminar, and
in many respects not polished enough for worldwide distribution. The
listeners were not Peirceans, which explains some of the simplifications as
well. But I am not trying to avoid your criticism by such feeble excuses;
the main substance of the paper (and of the older Communication one) found
its way into my dissertation, which as it happens I defended publicly about
ten days ago.

The issues you have raised in your critical comments are quite substantial,
but perhaps too extensive to be handled in a single mail or even a series of
mails. But I want to thank you for paying this much attention to my papers,
and will try to address some of your questions and criticisms. I will pick
out these from your mails, paste them below, and try to reply in between.

...what bothers me with Mats account is that he is using it [emergence of
the concept of "collateral experience"] as some trace in favour of the
thesis of a change in Peirce's semiotics:
-----------------------Quote Mats--------------------------- "Given that
Peirce emphasis the role of collateral experience in his later philosophy,
one might surmise that he discards his earlier view of the omnipresence of
interpretation. Though the distinction between the immediate and the
dynamical object, Peirce seems to signal that at least one ASPECT (my
emphasis) of the object is of a non-representational nature"
(Concluding remarks in the Collateral Experience paper).
There would have to question the de facto equivalence that is stated between
interpretation and representation here but I let it aside. This statement is
akin to the position of Christopher Hookway in his book Truth, Rationality,
and Pragmatism (2000). The idea is that the "late" Peirce is turning more
toward reference, indexicality of signs by means of the dynamic object
concept. But it seems to me to be a too rough shortcut that tends a) to
interpret the dynamical object into a very narrow sense, b) escapes the
nature of the relationship between immediate and dynamical object, and c)
escapes accounting for the "real" object.

You are right in bringing up Hookway in this context; I do tend to
sympathise with his account. In my opinion, there is little doubt that
certain significant changes occur in Peirce's semiotic thought, and that it
is meaningful to speak (roughly) of an earlier and a later period in his
theory of signs. I realise that this idea of two periods may be
controversial. I may also have over-emphasised the referential function in
the Collateral Experience paper; but it was not meant to be a full account
of Peirce's object, nor of the immediate-dynamical relation. (I have tried
to address these issues somewhat more fully in my dissertation.)
My principal aim in the paper was to show that the concept of
collateral experience allows Peirce to escape the semiotic hermeticism that
seems to plague some of his early statements ("all is representative", 1865;
but also the later "sign under sign endlessly", 1905). This requires the
recognition that there is something in experience that is not of the nature
of a sign. We find several indications that Peirce came to see the matter in
this way in his later semiotic thought: "the outward clash", the criticism
of the Hegelians, the emphasis on the brute duality of secundan experiences,
the developed theory of indexicality, etc. However, after writing the
Collateral Experience paper I think I found the most important sign (no pun
intended) of change in Peirce's recognition that the percept is _not_ a
sign; it is the object of the perceptual judgment. This is most clearly
argued in "Telepathy" from 1903 (in CP 7). I further think that there is a
relevant parallel between the immediate object and the percipuum, but that
is of less importance here. At the same time, I must concede that there are
texts in which Peirce seems to treat of the percept as a sign; my solution
has been to follow Richard Bernstein, and hold that Peirce is in these cases
speaking carelessly, using "percept" where "percipuum" would be preferable.
To render this interpretation of mine plausible, it is necessary to
recognise that Peirce uses "experience" in a narrow and a broad sense. In
the narrow sense, an experience is brute and singular - pure secondness
(could be called "singular experience"). In the broad sense, experience is
the "cognitive resultant" of our lives, which is never free from the
interpretative element - and in that sense of the character of thirdness. In
both cases, "experience" retains a strong flavour of secondness as something
that is forced upon cognition whether we want it to or not, but singular
experiences differ from experiences in the broad sense by being what Peirce
in some contexts calls "ultimate realities" (an easily misunderstood
concept) - it is the reality of the here and now, "the blow to one's face",
rather than the reality of the permanent, continuous, or intelligible.

Somebody - Ben, I think - already raised the question of what you mean by
the "real object". I am also puzzled about how you see the matter; is it
something distinct from the dynamical object?

Mats is interested into the communicative function of signs, something which
is not very developed by Peirce I think. I do think too that it is our
specific job today in order to make actual the peircian semiotic system. But
this agenda ought to be placed in conformity with the whole system (or its
precise critic) as well as its possible continuations.
However, in his Communication paper Mats makes to my sense a complete
misinterpretation of the famous text about the bricks falling one after the
other in attributing to Peirce a conception of the sign as a communication
vehicle. An attentive reading of the passage shows that, while Peirce is
speaking of a movement's energy passing from a brick to its following, he
isn't making communication a matter of dyadic relation. On the contrary the
so-called energy isn't mechanical but is a formal cause, a capacity or
potential, that is to say an "operation of mind" as he calls it. I think
that this point has to be cleared up before going further.

I will just briefly say that I have tried to take certain steps the
direction you suggested at the beginning of this passage in my dissertation
by discussing how Peirce in 1907 "derived" the sign relation from an
ordinary dialogical situation. This has been noted before, but I think I
managed to unearth some new material of interest and establish at least some
suggestive connections.
As to the bricks example, I must say I was not aware that this was a
widely discussed passage. I would be very interested in seeing what others
have made of it, if you have the references.
Your criticism seems to focus on the idea of a formal cause; now, it
is true that a certain kind of potential is transferred in the bricks
example. But let us look at it a bit more carefully. To make this clear to
people that do not have the text in question (I do not have it in front of
me right now, either, so I hope I get this right), the idea is roughly this:
some bricks are lined up so that if one is knocked over in a certain
direction, it causes a chain reaction, tipping over the others. Let us say
that there are three bricks, A, B, C. A is accidentally tipped over so that
B subsequently knocks C down. The question is: is this a full sign relation,
a primitive kind of semiosis (triadic action)? In this context, Peirce seems
to view the matter thus (the mediating brick B being a sign of the action of
the first brick A for the third brick C), and if I understand you correctly
Bernard, you would agree. I tend to disagree for the following reasons:
(1) Obviously, the bricks are potential signs (as anything whatever is). But
they are not actualised (active) as such before they are so interpreted.
(2) Of course, this is a triadic relation. However, it is degenerate. Not
all triadic relations are signs.
(3) If we were to accede that the chain reaction is semiosis, then there
would be no meaningful distinction between dyadic and triadic action (the
latter being usually characterised by something acting as a means for
something). Anything caused by something second thereby causing something
third would be an instance of semiosis. But then, everything happening would
be semiosis and the concept would lose whatever explanatory and analytical
power it may have.
(4) The notion of a "formal cause" seems to be quite foreign to Peirce (not
entirely, however). I know he has been criticised - by John Deely, for
instance - for employing a too limited arsenal of causes, rather than the
full Aristotelian set. However, if my argument 3 is on the right track, then
the notion of formal cause must be problematic in the context of sign
action. Are we prepared to say that the presence of a formal cause is
sufficient to render an event an instance of semiosis? Or of mind? This is
of course a question of how to draw the borders of the domain of signs and
mind. I suppose I should confess colour here; I tend to view attempts to
extend semiosis into the inorganic world as highly problematic (I am aware
of the fact that Peirce sees the operation of mind in the function of
crystals). In the words of T. L. Short, "what's the use"? Perhaps you can
enlighten me.
Having said this, I think Peirce's c. 1906 example of the bricks
could be made compatible with some of his other statements of the period, if
we do not see brick B as a sign but rather as a medium (the sign being only
one kind of medium of communication, itself a species of medium, which is a
species of third - EP 2:390). The brick would be a medium of communication
according to Peirce's definition (see EP 2:391), but not necessarily a sign
(like a mosquito transmitting a disease). The difficulty I have with this is
simply that I would prefer to use "communication" for a more developed form
of triadic action; in the case of the bricks, there is a transmission of an
effect, but when the event is over, the energies have been exhausted (for
that relation). Brick B's capacity to act as a mediator is rather limited;
it transfers the effect, and that is it. A sign functions differently - or
so I am inclined to see the matter.

though Bergman characterize semiotic determination as "delimitation" --
presumably he means delimitation in a different sense; indeed he goes on to
say "Put differently, the dynamical object does not determine the sign
absolutely, so as to always produce a given interpretant or set of
interpretants," which sounds on surer ground to me.

Just a quick comment on this. I would say that the minimal requirement for a
dynamical object is delimitation; it guides us toward certain
interpretations rather than others. Sometimes this is achieved merely by
negation, i.e., closing certain paths of interpretation. Usually, however,
the dynamical object will also play a more substantial role. Characterising
the minimal requirement for a dynamical object as delimitation is - as far
as I can see - the only way to argue that all signs have dynamical (or real)
objects. The important thing is that the dynamical object is in intention or
pretension _not_ created by the sign; it is in that sense "real" _as far as
the action of the sign is concerned_. I cannot resist pasting this quote
from Peirce here, as I think it will be of interest but is not widely known:

"...the phrase "the real Object of a Sign" does not imply that the Sign is
altogether veracious. The word "witch" is a sign having a "real Object" in
the sense in which this phrase is used, namely to mean a supposedly real
Object, not the Sign, and in intention or pretension not created by the
Sign, and consequently professedly real as far as the action of the Sign is
concerned. It is real in the sense in which a dream is a real appearance to
a person in sleep, although it be not an appearance of objects that are
Real." (MS 634:26 [1909])

I would be particularly interested to read Bernard's take on this.

For Peirce, a collateral experience is a kind of index. (Quotation later in
post.) I find it difficult to reconcile this with Peirce's emphatic idea
that signs do not convey acquaintance, when we have here a collateral
experience, a collateral acquaintance, which, as such, is supposed to be a
kind of index which, for all its indexicality, is still a sign. (Of course,
a collateral experience, like any singular thing, may determine an index,
e.g., a memory, which points back to it.) Furthermore, Peirce can't reduce
collateral experience to index without leaving its collateral aspect
unaccounted for. And indeed we find it continually necessary to distinguish
collateral experience from all three of the roles in the semiotic triad of
object, sign, interpretant. I just point out that it appears that neither
he nor anybody else has reduced support-by-collateral-experience to
interpretant, sign, or object within a same given triad even though
interpretant, sign, & object convey nothing without collateral experience &
though checking, balancing, & supporting by collateral experience give
science much of its character.

Thank you very much for this comment and the quote, Ben. I had noticed your
"tetradic" point of view before, but had not grasped how pertinent it is to
this issue.
The passage you quote is curious, for there Peirce does indeed state
that collateral observation = index. However, it seems to me that the
passage is somewhat anomalous, for instance by making icons and indices to
be thought-signs (very 1860s...). One question that arises is whether we
should not distinguish collateral observation from collateral experience.
Peirce does not seem to put forth such a distinction. Instead, Peirce
distinguishes three kinds of indicatively effective signs, and mostly holds
all of these separate from the relation s that form collateral experience. I
think I will be just lazy here, and paste a bit from my dissertation with a
longish quote from Peirce:
What, then, are these indices? They are primarily of two kinds:
designations, which force the attention of the interpreter to certain
existents, and reagents, which are purer indications.
"An index represents an object by virtue of its connection with it.
It makes no difference whether the connection is natural, or artificial, or
merely mental. There is, however, an important distinction between two
classes of indices. Namely, some merely stand for things or individual
quasi-things with which the interpreting mind is already acquainted, while
others may be used to ascertain facts. Of the former class, which may be
termed designations, personal, demonstrative, and relative pronouns, proper
names, the letters attached to a geometrical figure, and the ordinary
letters of algebra are examples. They act to force the attention to the
thing intended. Designations are absolutely indispensable both to
communication and to thought. No assertion has any meaning unless there is
some designation to show whether the universe of reality or what universe of
fiction is referred to. The other class of indices may be called reagents.
Thus water placed in a vessel with a shaving of camphor thrown upon it will
show whether the vessel is clean or not. If I say that I live two and a half
miles from Milford, I mean that a rigid bar that would just reach from one
line to another upon a certain bar in Westminster, might be successively
laid down on the road from my house to Milford, 13200 times, and so laid
down on my reader's road would give him a knowledge of the distance between
my house and Milford. Thus, the expression "two miles and a half" is, not
exactly a reagent, but a description of a reagent. A scream for help is not
only intended to force upon the mind the knowledge that help is wanted, but
also to force the will to accord it. It is, therefore, a reagent used
rhetorically. Just as a designation can denote nothing unless the
interpreting mind is already acquainted with the thing it denotes, so a
reagent can indicate nothing unless the mind is already acquainted with its
connection with the phenomenon it indicates." (CP 8.368 n. 23; cf. MS
1135:7-8 [c. 1897])
Reagents are proper indices, and as such outside of the domain of
symbols, although, as Peirce notes, they may be described using symbolic
signs. Designations are characteristically indexical signs, but not pure
indices. In the 1903 Syllabus, Peirce states that every subject of a
proposition is one of three kinds (EP 2:286), namely
1. an index, such as the environment of the interlocutors, or something
attracting attention in that environment, for instance a pointing finger;
2. a subindex, such as a proper name or a pronoun; or
3. a precept, a symbolic legisign that describes to the interpreter
what is to be done (by the interpreter of somebody else) in order to obtain
an index of the individual (whether a unit or a single set of units) and
that assigns a designation to that individual.
Subindices or designations do not constitute collateral
acquaintance, but they force the attention to the relevant experience. In
contrast, indices or reagents are closely connected to the situation and
context of occurrence, and cannot be properly expressed by words. In the
communicative situation, they are whatever in the circumstances of the
communication, apart from the verbal utterance itself, enables the
identification of the object."
I would formulate the relationship between a reagent and collateral
experience as follows: a reagent is a bit of collateral experience
(environment, for instance) employed semiotically as an index, but typically
based on previous experiences. This is not elegantly put, but I hope it is
possible to catch my idea.


As signs, indices, like icons & symbols, are Thirds, but indices are
"secundan" Thirds. As you point out, Bergman seems to have treated a
semeiotic relation as a dyadic relation. Bergman has done it in this case
by saying that collateral experience is of the nature of Secondness, rather
than saying that it is of the nature of indices in particular.

This I do not quite see. What _semiotic_ relation have I treated as dyadic?
The index? Where precisely?
I indeed hold that collateral experience is primarily of the
character of secondness, a position that seems to clash with the passage you
quoted but not necessarily with the one I quoted above ("a reagent can
indicate nothing unless the mind is already acquainted with its connection
with the phenomenon it indicates"). I do agree that it may be wise not to
overemphasise the gap between the index and collateral experience; I may
have been careless with in this respect. I would say that the index is
precisely a sign that is capable of bringing collateral experience within
the semiotic sphere. But - and this is my concern - this does _not_ mean
that the brute secondness of the experience would thereby be subsumed into
the world of thirdness. I think this is precisely Peirces' criticism of the
Hegelians and their tendency to "aufhoben" less complex forms of experience,
but a trap into which he himself seems to have fallen by asserting that "all
is representative" or by the unqualified statements to the effect that the
object is always also a sign. Ironically, that path led him occasionally to
embrace certain nominalistic views about the object as a "dark underlying
something" - a "representationist" stance that he in effect abandoned in
some of his writings on perception - or so I would argue. But that is
another story...


I know I have not by a long shot answered your questions and criticisms, but
I think I will stop here for now (need to get some work done on an article).
I look forward to your responses.


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