A Modest Proposal

James Piat piat1 at bellsouth.net
Fri May 3 17:34:26 EDT 2002

Dear Nikki, Folks--

Ah, that's a good suggestion I've been struggling with for a few days now.  I think I've got a playful one that at least I kinda like ---

Newton's laws of motion    --things in motion tend to stay in motion  --for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Those refer to dyadic relations.  Actions and re-actions.   On the other hand learning  --such as S-R operant conditions described by Skinner or classical conditioning describe by Pavlov  --those are triadic relations involving three indispensable and conjoined elements  --a stimulus, a response and a consequence  

Some folks seem to have a knee jerk aversion to scientific psychology so I think this is a good example of where the Peirce-Percy triadic-dyadic distinction makes a difference.  Or maybe not --   I doubt that folks are going to agree with me on that one  --but, yes or no, I think you've asked a good pragmatic question Nikki and one I'm still thinking about and looking forward to other's responses.

Well here's another try folks might find more canonical --  the difference between dyadic and triadic relations is the difference between mere events and meaningful events.  All mere "reactions" (regardless of the number of elements involved) can be reduced to a series of if/then sequences.  But the "meaning" or significance of events is an irreducible triadic relation that can only be expressed in terms of three analogously joined elements.  The word "book'" means the object book to someone.  There is no direct if/then relation between the word and the object which it stands for.  There must be an interpretant of this relationship which stand in the same relationship to the object as does the word.  

Still one may ask  --so what?  Here I would say the so what is, for instance, that any attempt to philosophically build a meaningful universe out of Newtonian mechanics alone is not going to be successful. Meaning (purpose or cognizance) lies outside the laws of physics.  Of course to many folks (let's call them religious folks) this has always been obvious  but to some, such as me,  this has not been the case.  So I have expanded my notion of the physical sciences to include meaning as something essential for the conduct of physics but external to subject matter. 

I think I'll call psychology the science of meaningful systems  --the meaningful investigation of systems in which meaning is an integral aspect of the system itself.  

Nikki  --have you written up your remembrances of Percy?   How about you Marcus Smith?   Times at the Waffle House, BS-ing about books and movie's.  These accounts would be much appreciated by fans of Percy.

Anyway  --best to all.

Jim Piat

Anent the matters we've been discussing lately, I have a modest proposal to suggest. In trying to talk to others about the whole triadic-dyadic distinction, there comes an inevitable point in the conversation when ones' interloquitur says something like: BUT WHAT'S IT ALL GOOD FOR?

Let me suggest that each of us try to come up with a very concrete example from the real world that illustrates for our friend just what the usefulness of all this discussion truly is.

Nikki --
An archive of all list discussion is available at <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail>. 
Visit the Walker Percy Project at <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>. 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/attachments/20020503/d7eae0ed/attachment.html>

More information about the Percy-L mailing list