[percy-l] Peirce/Percy

Mike Frentz mfrentz at bbn.com
Tue Aug 19 21:21:20 EDT 2003

At 03:12 PM 8/19/2003 -0500, Ken wrote:

>However, to be thorough, it is proper to consider the other half of the 
>remark and ask just what is considered infallible within the Roman Church? 
>Are all Papal encyclicals infallible? all teachings? or just one or two 
>items? A friend once told me that the doctrine of the assumption of Mary 
>is the only infallible teaching so far since the doctrine of infallibility 
>was announced late in the nineteenth century (wasn't it Pius IX?). I don't 
>mean these as picky questions - I am inquiring to find out, since my 
>knowledge is weak in that area. It seems wise to find out the meaning and 
>scope of infallibility in this setting before thinking further about it.


Infallibility tends to be very poorly misunderstood (along with a lot of 
other doctrines, we're extremely poorly catechized today; I'm in major 
catchup mode).  Like virtually all of the doctrines, infallibility was 
implicit in early Church teaching, and only codified at a later point when 
there was a reason where it was necessary to explicitly call it out as 
official Church teaching.  The statement: "Rome has spoken; the case is 
concluded" is attributed to Augustine.

Per my handy Catholic Encyclopedia, there are two senses in which 
infallibility is attributed to the RCC, designated ordinary and 
extraordinary.  The ordinary way has to do with the collective (but not 
individual) infallibility of the bishops as the magisterium of the Church.

The extraordinary way can have two modes:  either by the bishops "assembled 
in an ecumenical council when acting as teachers and judges for the 
universal Church in matters of faith and morals", or by the pope, when he 
defines something ex cathedra (Petri)  (from the chair of Peter).  Four 
conditions must be fulfilled (per Vatican I) for a papal proclamation to be 
infallible:  1. He must be acting as supreme pastor and teacher of all 
Christians, 2. he must use his supreme apostolic authority (i.e. as 
successor of Peter), 3. the subject matter must be concerning faith and 
morals, 4. he must expressly indicate that the doctrine is to be held 
definitively by all.

Most doctrines in the catechism have never been formally defined by an 
official papal statement, but there are probably fairly few topics on which 
it would be possible for a pope to make an infallible decision without 
duplicating one or more infallible pronouncements from ecumenical councils 
or the traditions exemplified by the ordinary magisterium of the Church.

There were definitely popes that were total scoundrels (as there are 
bishops aplenty today), however, they were too busy with their intrigues to 
ever bother with muddling the doctrine (for whatever reason you want to 
believe).  The pope's private theological opinions are not infallible, only 
what he solemnly defines is considered to be infallible teaching.  There is 
no omniscience, or impeccability, or even conscientiousness implied in 
infallibility (i.e. lack of action doesn't count, popes are most definitely 
human) -- it's that if an action is taken with the above conditions, it is 
to be taken as infallible.  As to encyclicals, unless explicitly defined as 
ex cathedra, they are not considered infallible (per 2.) (many of the 
encyclicals are social, addressing specific needs of the times.)  The 
definition of the Assumption (Pius XII in 1950) is the only papal 
encyclical that I also explicitly know of as being ex cathedra (though I am 
by no means authoritative on any of this).

The thing I find striking, is that the things that are considered most 
Catholic (i.e. "controversial" today, e.g. abortion, true presence, papal 
authority, etc.) are also those things that are readily found in the 
continuous string of Church writings extant today.  These are 
infallible.  I have an Evangelical friend who once told me his biggest fear 
was that the RCC would change its mind on abortion one day -- it's actually 
about as big a worry as the sun not rising tomorrow, it won't happen.


>Karey L. Perkins wrote:
>>Thanks for the references, that was just what I was looking for.  The 
>>Peirce literature is so comprehensive it's overwhelming, and unlike my 
>>studies of Percy, I have no idea where to start.  I almost didn't do this 
>>topic because I am not trained in semiotics (semeiotics?) and most of 
>>this is now self taught.  But I have been reading "American Signatures" 
>>which says that most semioticians are self taught (as was Percy).  So I'm 
>>not alone, but I still don't have a clear path of reading mapped out.
>>Percy says in several places that Susanne Langer dropped the ball and he 
>>intended to pick it up -- he says it in the essays, the conversations, 
>>etc.  But only one place do I recall that he actually says WHAT she 
>>dropped -- what she missed.  I believe it was early in my reading, in 
>>"Message," but I don't remember what it was and I'm going to have to go 
>>back and look.  I thought someone else might have been familiar with it.
>>Peirce, unlike Percy, was eagerly ready to reject that which did not 
>>conform to "the method of science" as a manner of fixing belief.  So he 
>>rejected the "method of tradition" "method of authority" and "method of 
>>fashion."   The infallibility of the Catholic church would fall under 
>>those.  And if anyone has read Peirce's "Fixation of Belief," which was 
>>the first essay I read, Peirce clearly asserts that the idea of 
>>transubstantiation just can't be.  I don't know if he continued with this 
>>opinion or not for the rest of his life, as it seems he changed as he 
>>grew older.  However, this is clearly contradictory to Percy's beliefs, 
>>and explains why Percy called himself only a "Thief of Peirce" rather 
>>than embracing Peirce's whole philosophy.  Still, Percy gives no reason 
>>(that I have found) for rejecting the triad in favor of the 
>>triangle.  Your solution of viewing the AREA of the triangle as the 
>>triadic content is one resolution to the problem, but was Percy viewing 
>>it that way?  I think he wanted to put it all on the interpretant (one 
>>point of the triangle) to differentiate it from dyadic behavior and to 
>>say something special was happening there, within the interpretant. 
>>That's where the triadic event was taking place.  But then why do we need 
>>the idea of the triangle at all?  It gets back to Cartesian dualism 
>>(something non-material is within man) and this is why I think Percy was 
>>expressing in his letters to Ken Ketner some doubt as to whether Peirce's 
>>triads (notwithstanding Peirce's other writings) could refute 
>>Descartes.  However, I don't quite get how Peirce's triads solve the 
>>problem either.
>>Just some things I'm wondering about.  I am interested in the work that 
>>has been done on this after Percy.  Any way to find out what that is?
>>----- Original Message -----
>>From: Mike Frentz <mailto:mfrentz at bbn.com>
>>To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion 
>><mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
>>Sent: Friday, August 15, 2003 4:04 PM
>>Subject: Re: [percy-l] gays, biblical authority and Percy's language 
>>theory --
>>re your first question -- this paper was "discovered" yesterday and 
>>floated on the peirce-l list (though the paper is four years old, I 
>>wasn't aware of it either and I'm a big fan of Deacon).  Interesting 
>>coupling of the "reproductive properties" of memes in terms of semiosis 
>>(interpretant spawning yet another sign).
>>Terrence W. Deacon, Memes as Signs
>>  http 
>> <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/epc/srb/srb/10-3edit.html>://www.chass.utoronto.ca/epc/srb/srb/10-3edit.html 
>> <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/epc/srb/srb/10-3edit.html>
>>Unfortunately the two other books he comments on as upcoming in "Note 10" 
>>still aren't to be found.  Floyd Merrel's 1997 book on Peirce, Signs, and 
>>Meaning is also quite an interesting read in this area.
>>re the second question -- I personally think this whole notion is 
>>irrelevant, as long as the triangle is interpreted by the area rather 
>>than the edges, all vertices are connected to the other two, a dyadic 
>>relationships aren't necessarily implied to me by this.  I find it 
>>interesting that Peirce doesn't really seem to have used either notation 
>>in his various descriptions of the same concepts (at least not in the 
>>Collected Papers), yet he his existential graphs are nothing less than a 
>>graphical computer.  BTW, a *great* reference for anyone attempting to 
>>surf the CP on their own is Charles S. Peirce's Philosophy of Signs: 
>>Essays in Comparative Semiotics (Advances in Semiotics) 
>>by Gerard Deledalle, 2001 (Deledalle, a French philosopher who did much 
>>to bring CSP to Europe's attention, just died a few months back).  Like 
>>having a Fodor's to the CSP wilderness (I think WP would have loved to 
>>have had this book)
>>I find it striking how different research is today because of the web vs. 
>>when Percy was working this a little over a decade ago (per Ketner's 
>>Thief of Peirce dialogues).  Also, a lot of work has been done in this 
>>area since his death.
>>re the third question:  I dunno?  I'd be interested if you do find the 
>>reference.  I have on occasion started to look up Langer's work but came 
>>away with the impression that she had drifted so far off in less Pe*rc*an 
>>directions that aren't of particular interest to me that I've never 
>>followed through on what it was that Percy was fond of in Langer's work 
>>wrt CSP's legacy.
>>At 03:24 PM 8/15/2003 -0400, you wrote:
>>>No -- I'm certainly no moderator!  But I am fascinated by the fact that 
>>>gays and Biblical authority have garnered so much response, but Percy's 
>>>language theory doesn't get much interest?  There's so much he left 
>>>unfinished and so much to investigate.  If he had lived longer, I think 
>>>something tremendous might have come out of it -- like, the answer to, 
>>>what is the interpretant?  He died before he could solve it.
>>>So, here's what I would discuss if I had the choice...
>>>What is the interpretant?
>>>Why did he use triangles instead of triads, even when a good argument 
>>>was given against it?
>>>What did Susanne Langer drop that he picked up?  (I believe he says what 
>>>it is in one place, but I lost it somewhere)
>>>----- Original Message -----
>>>From: Parlin, Steven <mailto:PARLINS at culver.org>
>>>To: 'Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion' 
>>><mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
>>>Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2003 10:52 PM
>>>Subject: RE: [percy-l] West Wing
>>>Because some of my replies that contradict Karey are not showing up in my
>>>inbox, I assumed (wrongly it seems) that I had angered her (isn't she the
>>>moderator?), and that she was preventing my postings from going to the list.
>>>I owe you an all an apology...but especially Karey.
>>>Please forgive my presumption.
>>>I'm an ass.
>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>From: David Alan Beck [mailto:dabeck at iupui.edu]
>>>Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2003 9:45 PM
>>>To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
>>>Subject: Re: [percy-l] West Wing
>>>Why are we getting triplicates of your posting??
>>>On Thu, 14 Aug 2003, Parlin, Steven wrote:
>>>   [NON-Text Body part not included]
>>>David Beck
>>>An archive of all list discussion is available at
>>>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
>>>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>>>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
>>>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>>>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
>>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
>>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
>   Kenneth L. Ketner
>Paul Whitfield Horn Professor
>Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism
>Texas Tech University
>   Charles Sanders Peirce Interdisciplinary Professor
>   School of Nursing
>   Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
>Lubbock, TX 79409-0002
>806 742 3128
>   Office email: kenneth.ketner at ttu.edu
>   Home email: ketner at arisbeassociates.com
>Office website: http://www.pragmaticism.net
>Personal website: http://www.wyttynys.net
>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
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