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Subject: Percy-L: Literary, Religious, Scientific, and Philosophical Discussion on Walker Percy

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  • From: "Karey L. Perkins" <karey AT>
  • To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion" <percy-l AT>
  • Subject: Re: Abduction, not kidnapping but guessing
  • Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2002 20:23:09 -0400

I have several questions/thoughts, the first couple not related to Ken's insights below, the next are:
(1)  Did anyone go to the Percy Symposium?  How was it?  I couldn't make it, just wondering.  Hopefully I'll make it next year...
(2) I did make it to Loyola Univ. to take a peek at their Percy archives...just curious.  If you note on the Percy Internet Project it has a thoroughly detailed and itemized list of the Chapel Hill collection, and nothing listed for what Loyola has, just that Loyola has something.  I realized when I got there that that's because LOYOLA doesn't know what Loyola has.  Apparently Patrick Samway gave them a bunch of stuff about four years ago, and it has yet to be (organized? archived?  catalogued? not sure of correct term).  Arthur the Archivist escorted me through some of it, and there was some interesting stuff in the whole mish-mash of mush...including a signed and dedicated book by Ken Ketner...(!)  Lots of newspaper clippings, multiple editions, letters, "ephemera," but all of it closely guarded by our friendly archivist, who is, it turns out, not really the archivist.  She (the real Percy archivist) died a month ago, surely a bad (or perhaps blessed) fate for her, but definitely not a good thing for Loyola's Percy archives. 
Anyway, among all this, there is a wonderful framed picture of Percy in a "morning suit" (isn't that what it's called -- a Southern tuxedo for morning weddings or special dressy occasions or some such) that I thought would be great on the Percy Internet Project site (Henry Mills, are you listening?).  However, my guide through the inferno, who was reluctant to even admit me into the inner sanctum, would doubtless not even consider releasing a copy of it to the likes of me...perhaps someone with more clout could make a case for it.
(3)  Ken, this information (below) has been really helpful, invaluable really, and all that quite apart from its entertainment value.  I truly appreciate it.  I have a million billion zillion questions to ask about all this stuff, but will restrain myself and not impede on your no doubt busy and important schedule as I imagine most of these questions will be answered in my future readings of Peirce, your book, et al.  However, there are some questions that might not be, and I'd be interested in your insights on the following:
Percy writes on page 322 of 2000 edition of Message in the Bottle regarding how men's [and women's] minds usually hit on the correct principle after only a few guesses, that "Peirce's own explanation of the extraordinary founded in his own allegiance to philosophical realism, the belief that general principles actually operate in nature apart from men's minds and that men's minds are nevertheless capable of knowing these principles.   Peirce hazards the guess that, since 'the reasoning mind is a product of the universe,' it is natural to suppose that the laws and uniformities that prevail throughout the universe should also be 'incorporated in his own being' (Peirce)." 
Percy responds, "Maybe so.  This is only speculation, however interesting, about why abduction works,"  and he goes on to philosophize about the theory of abduction itself.
With that, he dismisses it.  However, this seems to me to be a really crucial point, the crux of the whole issue, and a key (or certainly one of the keys) to the nature of man and Percy's "radical anthropology."  I'm wondering if Percy dismisses this due to his medical/scientific background (this is too "out there" for Percy, like astrology or some such which he clearly disparages).  Or he just overlooks it, for whatever reason. 
The other thing, and I mention this at risk of revealing my lack of knowledge of Peirce (yet), is that it seems somewhat similar to Jung's synchronicity.  This seems to me to be the "third way" ... after mere cause-effect behaviorism, and after Descartes' dualism (both rejected by Percy), then Jung offers a viable alternative.  In fact, I had thought Percy mentioned that and went all the way back through Message in the Bottle to find it, and couldn't, and am now wondering if I just imagined that somewhere.  Does anyone know if Percy ever refers to Jung?
(4)  I found the essays you referred to on the Peirce site; would you recommend anything else on the site (the introductions perhaps?)
(5)  How can one obtain an issue of Doubletake?
(6) I'm giving a paper on Percy at the Conference on Christianity and Literature, St. Francis College, Oct. 26, New special insights, just an attempt to summarize for my own purposes, his "semiotic...."
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2002 12:39 PM
Subject: [percy-l] Re: Abduction, not kidnapping but guessing

Yes, Percy wrote the essay in DOUBLETAKE MAGAZINE probably about 1960. I
lay unpublished, probably because it appeared incomplete. I began
studying it and wrapping my brain around it. One day while driving to
work (I get some good thoughts that way) it hit me that if one adds the
three words now at the end of the essay as published in DOUBLETAKE, it
is complete. So I discussed this with Mrs. Percy and after consideration
she offered my edition of the piece to Walker's friend, Robert Coles,
the main man of DOUBLETAKE, and so it was published. It is significant
for Percy scholarship because it shows the early and strong influence of
Peirce's Semeiotic (not contemporary semiotics -- there's a vast
difference) in Walker's approach.

You employ guessing all the time -- each of us does -- so we are all
masters of it. To learn more about it, observe yourself when guessing
and compare notes with other guessers. Guessing produces hypotheses --
statements of possibility. Just don't fall in love with your hypotheses.
They are for torturing, not for loving. Those that survive the torture
are the components of objective thought (which some call science). Some
survivors get re-tortured as the years go by, after new evidence or new
methods appear. Hence a healthy (open-minded and level-headed) guesser
is what we call a rational person.

In Peirce, guessing is not intuition. For Peirce, 'intuition' has at
least two senses, and like 'sign' (which has at least 2 senses), one
must be careful which sense is in action at the time. 'Intuition1'
isCartesian foundationalism, there are priviledged and certain basic
foundations of knowledge. Peirce wrecked Descartes in his series of 3
essays: Questions Concerning Certain faculties Claimed for Man, Some
Consequences of Four Incapacities, and Grounds of Validity of the Laws
of Logic (these three in effect consititute a 3 chapter book, and they
mark a major fault-line in the history of thought, a location where the
old ends and something new begins). 'Intuition2' refers to observational
method in logic and mathematics; it is a fallible (noncertain) and
experimental approach to understanding the methods employed in
mathematical and logical research.

'Sign1' is that which represents an object to an interpretant. "His wave
was a sign of greeting." The object was an intent to greet, the sign of
that intent was the wave, to the interpretant (some other person
intended as the recipient of the intent to greet). Sign1 is best dropped
and replaced with 'representamen' to avoid confusion.

'Sign2' is an entire triadic sign relation: in the above example of
greeting, it is the nonreducible triadic relation among the greeter's
intent, the wave, and the recipient. This is the 'sign' of Peirce's
Theory of Signs, or Semiotic. (Semeiotic spoken as see-my-OH-tick is
terminologically and linguistically correct, and honors prior scientists
in the tradition such as Locke or the Greek physicians, whereas
semiotics is a mixed bag arbitrarily strung together; compare semeiotic
with logic with rhetoric with the german semiotik with the french
semiotique, not with the uncontrolled tendency in english to add ics on
everything in sight.) Peirce never used a triangle to represent a sign
relation (because on his well articulated approach, that would represent
a sum of three dyadic relations, which he clearly proved cannot
constitute a triadic relation); instead he represented triadic relations
as a large dot with three lines emerging from it (see my essay in THIEF
OF PEIRCE at page 213). The categories are nothing but types of
relational forms: Firstness = all those relations whose external form is
that of a monadic relation; Secondness = all those relations whose
external form is that of a dyadic relation; Thirdness = all those
relations whose external form is that of a dyadic relation. The
categories are complete, because the nonreduction theorem that triadic
relations cannot be constructed from dyadic relations was established by
Peirce and recently re-proven at the highest level of mathematical rigor
by Robert Burch (again see my stuff in THIEF); one aspect of the
nonreduction theorem is that triadic relations can be used to construct
all other relation types.

ALL TOGETHER NOW, SAY IT -- See-my-OH-tick is the main part of Prag-MAT-i-siz-em.

Once again, where your brain goes your lips will follow, ALL TOGETHER
NOW, anda won anda twoa....

> "Karey L. Perkins" wrote:
> Ken,
> I, too, appreciated the definition and it makes better sense now.  As
> I was reading Percy, I was getting the impression that "abduction" was
> "intuition" -- how different is that from "guessing?"  How would you
> differentiate the two, or would you?
> Second question:  did PERCY publish in Doubletake in Winter 2002?
> (Hmmm...he's been busy in the afterlife, hasn't he?) Or is this a
> chapter from his unpublished manuscript "Symbol and Existence"?  I saw
> that it is at UNC-Chapel Hill and wondered if it was worth the 8 hour
> drive to go look at it...has anyone read it/seen it?
> The reason I ask is I think the dissertation is going to be on this
> topic after all -- Percy's semiotics, as it relates to Peirce, et
> al...really fascinating stuff, don't you think?  So I'll be reading
> your book(s) (Ken) and may have lots more questions but I'll try to
> keep them to a minimum!
> Karey
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: James Piat
> To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
> Sent: Monday, September 16, 2002 9:52 PM
> Subject: [percy-l] Re: Abduction, not kidnapping but guessing
> Dear Ken,
> I thoroughly enjoyed your brief and CLEAR account of abduction,
> deduction
> and inference.  If  you have the time and interest  I would also love
> for
> you to give a brief account of Peirce's categories and indicate how
> they tie
> in with these forms of reasoning.
> BTW,  I read your HIS GLASSY ESSENCE   and found it a delight.  What I
> liked
> most about it was that Peirce's ideas (often in his own words) were
> selected
> and organized in way that assisted me in following their natural
> (historical
> and logical) development.  And you did not preach at me but instead
> concentrated on presenting his ideas plainly, carefully and in context
> so
> that I could begin to understand them and draw my own conclusions as
> to
> their significance.   The love and respect you have for your topic
> shines
> through and I think your book will be prized most by those share your
> affection. A credit to your subject!
> Thanks,
> Jim Piat
> --
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> <>.
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at <>. --
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> <>.
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at <>.

Kenneth L Ketner
Paul Whitfield Horn Professor
Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409-0002
806 742 3128
Office email: b9oky AT
Home email: ketner AT
Office website:
Personal website:

An archive of all list discussion is available at <>. 
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