The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘Comments on 'On a New List of Categories'’


As early as 1860, when I knew nothing of any German philosopher except Kant, who had been my revered master for three or four years, I was much struck with a certain indication that Kant’s list of categories might be a part of a larger system of conceptions. For instance, the categories of relation – reaction, causality, and subsistence – are so many different modes of necessity, which is a category of modality; and in like manner, the categories of quality – negation, qualification, degree, and intrinsic attribution – are so many relations of inherence, which is a category of relation. Thus, as the categories of the third group are to those of the fourth, so are those of the second to those of the third; and I fancied, at least, that the categories of quantity, unity, plurality, totality, were, in like manner, different intrinsic attributions of quality. Moreover, if I asked myself what was the difference between the three categories of quality, the answer I gave was that negation was a merely possible inherence, quality in degree a contingent inherence, and intrinsic attribution a necessary inherence; so that the categories of the second group are distinguished by means of those of the fourth; and in like manner, it seemed to me that to the question how the categories of quantity – unity, plurality, totality – differ, the answer should be that totality, or system, is the intrinsic attribution which results from reactions, plurality that which results from causality, and unity that which results from inherence. This led me to ask, what are the conceptions which are distinguished by negative unity, qualitative unity, and intrinsic unity? I also asked, what are the different kinds of necessity by which reaction, causality, and inherence are distinguished? I will not trouble the reader with my answers to these and similar questions. Suffice it to say that I seemed to myself to be blindly groping among a deranged system of conceptions; and after trying to solve the puzzle in a direct speculative, a physical, a historical, and a psychological manner, I finally concluded the only way was to attack it as Kant had done from the side of formal logic.

1898 [c.]
CP 1.563
‘Categories’ (pub. 23.03.13-18:52). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Mar 23, 2013, 18:52 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Jan 02, 2016, 15:56 by Mats Bergman