[percy-l] Fwd: [peirce-l] Re: Mills on Percy on Peirce

J Rivas-Pita juliorivas at gmail.com
Thu Jan 13 13:06:05 EST 2005

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Peter Skagestad <Peter_Skagestad at uml.edu>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 12:42:47 -0500
Subject: [peirce-l] Re: Mills on Percy on Peirce
To: Peirce Discussion Forum <peirce-l at lyris.ttu.edu>

Bill, Frances, and all,

Having now read Henry Mills' essay on Percy, I find it a faithful
presentation of Percy's thought, as I remember it from "The Message in
the Bottle". I was surprised, however, to find no references to Peirce
in Mills' essay. To the best of my recollection Percy repeatedly -
and, fairly clearly, erroneously - equated his sign-object-mind triad
with Peirce's sign-object-interpretant triad. Following Deledalle, I
myself see the explication of mind as an important function of
Peirce's semiotic triad, and for that purpose it is, of course,
essential not to make use of the concept of mind, directly or
indirectly, as one of the terms of the triad. By contrast, Percy's
principal objective is not to explicate the mind, but rather to show
that the phenomenon of language cannot be made sense of without
presupposing a conscious mind, a mind which, as a next step, might be
equated with the soul of Christian theology. I do not, however, have a
copy of "The Message in the Bottle" ready to hand, and so cannot at
the moment cite chapter and verse.

For those interested in exploring the relationship between Percy and
Peirce in depth, I can think of no better source than Patrick Samway,
ed., "A Thief of Peirce: The Letters of Kenneth Laine Ketner and
Walker Percy", University of Mississippi Press, 1995. The letters
contain some exceptionally candid and at times emotional discussions
of such thorny issues as the nature of the interpretant, a concept
Percy proved reluctant to embrace. Ketner has shown an exemplary
generosity in allowing the letters to be published, thus providing a
veritable treasure trove for those interested in probing the depths of
Walker Percy's mind.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Frances Catherine Kelly" <frances.kelly at sympatico.ca>
Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 11:40 am
Subject: [peirce-l] Re: Mills on Percy on Peirce

> Frances to Bill Bailey...
> In regard to the essay by Henry Mills on Walker Percy and his use of
> Charles Peirce we seem to be in agreement, but in not being familiar
> with Percy myself it is hard for me to say whether Mills represents
> Percy well or more important even if Percy represents Peirce well.
> Based on my quick reading of the essay, my first reaction of the
> latter point is to conclude that Peirce is not represented well by
> Percy, but that Percy may represent some aspects of psychotherapy
> well. It is so that Percy has been presented by some listers as being
> a useful illustrator and illuminator and interpreter of Peirce yet
> essay by Mills does in my opinion clearly shows that the ideas of
> Percy are not consistent with those of Peirce and indeed the two
> stances likely are in general incongruent. Percy may claim to be
> Peircean, but only on the thin surface. The notions of emergence and
> transcendence are obviously present in both Percy and Peirce to a
> degree, but the reasons for them claiming so are vastly different,
> perhaps should not be linked or shared at least for purposes of
> theory, although they may both have "technical" contributions to make
> in the clinical practice of psychotherapy.
> The essay "Walker Percy's Philosophy of Language" by Henry Mills was
> posted and archived recently to the list in two messages by a new
> lister Julio Rivas-Pita who has reportedly now retreated from the
> for personal reasons, but who might be reached via other means.
> Here are some of my immediate reactions to some statements made in
> essay for what they may be worth, but correction is invited, because
> it is only a view of Percy through a reading of Mills. My items are
> numbered in order as they occurred in the text of the essay.
> 01. Percy writes about the philosophy of language, and not about
> semiotics or linguistics nor semeiotic or logic, but he attempts to
> place language signs within the field and study of psychotherapy as
> part of dialogic discourse between the participants in a clinical
> setting or sitting or session.
> 02. Within the inner subjective cosmos of the individuals involved or
> engaged in therapy, the semiosic tern is listed by Percy as user and
> sign and object, which ordering is inconsistent with that in Peircean
> synechastics and categorics and semiotics. In Peircean synechosis the
> ordering is object and sign and user, but in subsequent semiosis the
> ordering is sign and object and user. In either event, the user is
> always determined, but is never the determiner of the sign or object.
> 03. The user for Percy is a synonym for only the human interpreter,
> when in Peirce it is at least the object itself, or at rest the
> interpretant effect sign, or at most the interpreter who furthermore
> may be any mechanism of matter or organism of life.
> 04. The term "symbol" is used incorrectly by Percy as a synonym for
> the genus term "sign" which is a mistake that is also often made by
> other theorists and found in their writings, such as early Langer for
> example. For Peirce the sign is a genus class under which falls the
> species of icons and indexes and symbols. The further Peircean
> breakdown of symbols into degenerative abstractors and singulors and
> genuines however is not pursued by Percy, at least not explicitly.
> 05. Humans are held by Percy to be "symbol mongering organisms" which
> term reminds me of humans being called "time binders" in Cassirer via
> their use of symbolic signs, but it is not clear to me whether Percy
> assigns the use of signs or symbols only to normal humans.
> 06. Consciousness does factor in Percy as being necessary for the
> inner or private use of symbols, but in Peirce consciousness is pure
> feeling alone, and is deemed to be independent of and irrelevant to
> semiosis generally and to obstinate reason or logic; yet for Peirce
> the living conscious mind is never completely devoid of signs or
> reason or logic, even though it does not necessarily need them to
> exist nor to be in or as an organism or human being.
> 07. For Percy the inner use of language is the means that makes
> conscious meaning, which yields a human mind. This inner subjective
> state is bracketed by the outer poles of brute nonhuman animals and
> their signs on the one hand, and by the objective community of
> symbolic and linguistic name makers on the other. For Peirce this
> wrongly denies to humanity their physiotic and biotic roots on the
> hand, and their familial and social roots on the other. Peircean
> humans are different in degree from nonhuman organisms or inhuman
> suprematisms, but humans are not different in kind.
> 08. Intention is held by Percy to be necessary for both user and
> object in all and any of semiosis, but this for Peirce is a fallacy.
> The meaning of signs and of life for Percy is an intended assertion
> made with language symbols that constitutes a subjective mental state
> and a mysterious psychical being. For Peirce this sort of belief
> objectivity and community.
> 09. Percy holds that words and minds "have" meaning as an entity that
> is separate from the sign and object and user which exists externally
> in some objective ontic realm, rather than the sign or word being
> enabled or empowered formally to "stir" or "incite" or "evoke" the
> meaning of an object within the mind of the user. To further say as
> Percy does that a meant object "is" something would be to wrongly
> assign the meaning of the object to a state outside semiosis.
> Percy is
> thus not a nominalist, which seems contradictory to his main stance,
> but he is also not a realist of which Peirce is. For Peirce the
> meaning meant is found as a relation where the sign and object are
> combined together laying in a ground of conformity that is controlled
> by the user via a law, which law or user may be the interpretant
> effect or the interpreting phanerism. The issue of meaning in Peirce
> is partially clear to me, but in Percy it is hazy.
> 10. The individual human person is held by Percy to be a whole total
> world that exists independent and transcendent of all others. This
> Peirce would likely boarder on supernatural mythical theism or
> extraterrestrial mystical spiritism, and would be placed outside the
> concerns the sciences, but not fully outside the concerns of signs.
> 11. Language in which the sign and object are fused is held by Percy
> to be the magical bridge that subjectively links the single person
> together with their own self or intimately links the individual self
> with another individual self somewhat epiphenomenally. This hence
> is a
> tetradic structure of sign and object with the self and the other,
> rather than a triadic structure that Peirce would insist on. It is a
> kind of communication model, but the common repertory of shared signs
> and any inferred meaning would lay outside this psychologistic world,
> which phenomenology seemingly contradicts the Percy stance.
> 12. Under Peircean semiotics, signs have the purpose to make the
> general ideal seem real to sense in mind. Phenomenal semiosis is thus
> essential for realizing any ontic metaphysical realm, but Percy would
> place all this within the sole mind of the human alone.
> 13. The key to Peircean semiosis and science is determination, but
> only in a ground and thus as a limit, while for Percy such
> determination is wrongly held to be found in origins and causes.
> 14. The definition by Percy of science as a process to know nature is
> too limited and radical for Peirce. Indeed, general philosophy is
> deemed by Peirce to be coenoscopy, which is a formal science and that
> prepares for and precedes the natural sciences and contributes to the
> social sciences. The formal science of general philosophy is
> furthermore speculative and tentative in its special findings.
> 15. Peirce would likely agree that deductive inferences or judgements
> and empirical instruments or experiments are not the only methods
> available to thinkers nor the best means to test samples, while Percy
> would and thereby limit science needlessly.
> 16. Percy in adopting a quasi theistic metaphysics wrongly
> disposes of
> phenomenal factuality and existential reality, but to what useful end
> is a mystery to me.
> ---
> Message from peirce-l forum to subscriber Peter_Skagestad at uml.edu
> WS1 - FO:  This message has been scanned for viruses and malicious
> code by the UMass Lowell anti-virus scanners.

Message from peirce-l forum to subscriber juliorivas at gmail.com

Be Happy! (Fr. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
Sé feliz! (P. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)

More information about the Percy-L mailing list