Thursday, February 23, 2006

Unfathomable Addendum to a Conversation on Algebra, Etc.: One

The evolution of forms begins or, at any rate, has for an early stage of it, a vague potentiality; and that either is or is followed by a continuum of forms having a multitude of dimensions too great for the individual dimensions to be distinct. It must be by a contraction of the vagueness of that potentiality... that the world of forms comes about.

We can hardly but suppose that those sense-qualities that we now experience, colors, odors, sounds, feelings of every description, loves, griefs, surprises, are but the relics of an ancient ruined continuum of qualities, like a few columns standing here and there in testimony that here some old-world forum with its basilica and temples had once made a magnificent ensemble. And just as that forum, before it was actually built, had had a vague underexistence in the mind of him who planned its construction, so too the cosmos of sense-qualities, which I would have you suppose in some early stage of being was as real as your personal life is this minute, had in an antecedent stage of development a vaguer being, before the relations of its dimensions became definite and contracted.

—Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers 6.196-197


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