§3. Logical Goodness

 

137. The ground is now cleared for the analysis of logical goodness, or the goodness of representation. There is a special variety of esthetic goodness that may belong to a representamen, namely, expressiveness. There is also a special moral goodness of representations, namely, veracity. But besides this there is a peculiar mode of goodness which is logical. What this consists in we have to inquire.

138. The mode of being of a representamen is such that it is capable of repetition. Take, for example, any proverb. »Evil communications corrupt good manners.« Every time this is written or spoken in English, Greek, or any other language, and every time it is thought of it is one and the same representamen. It is the same with a diagram or picture. It is the same with a physical sign or symptom. If two weathercocks are different signs, it is only in so far as they refer to different parts of the air. A representamen which should have a unique embodiment, incapable of repetition, would not be a representamen, but a part of the very fact represented. This repetitory character of the representamen involves as a consequence that it is essential to a representamen that it should contribute to the determination of another representamen distinct from itself. For in what sense would it be true that a representamen was repeated if it were not capable of determining some different representamen? »Evil communications corrupt good manners« and {phtheirousin ethe chresth' homiliai kakai} are one and the same representamen. They are so, however, only so far as they are represented as being so; and it is one thing to say that »Evil communications corrupt good manners« and quite a different thing to say that »Evil communications corrupt good manners« and {phtheirousin ethe chresth' homiliai kakai} are two expressions of the same proverb. Thus every representamen must be capable of contributing to the determination of a representamen different from itself. Every conclusion from premisses is an instance in point; and what would be a representamen that was not capable of contributing to any ulterior conclusion? I call a representamen which is determined by another representamen, an interpretant of the latter. Every representamen is related or is capable of being related to a reacting thing, its object, and every representamen embodies, in some sense, some quality, which may be called its signification, what in the case of a common name J.S. Mill calls its connotation, a particularly objectionable expression.1)

139. A representamen [as symbol] is either a rhema, a proposition, or an argument. An argument is a representamen which separately shows what interpretant it is intended to determine. A proposition is a representamen which is not an argument, but which separately indicates what object it is intended to represent. A rhema is a simple representation without such separate parts.

140. Esthetic goodness, or expressiveness, may be possessed, and in some degree must be possessed, by any kind of representamen — rhema, proposition, or argument.

141. Moral goodness, or veracity, may be possessed by a proposition or by an argument, but cannot be possessed by a rhema. A mental judgment or inference must possess some degree of veracity.

142. As to logical goodness, or truth, the statements in the books are faulty; and it is highly important for our inquiry that they should be corrected. The books distinguish between logical truth, which some of them rightly confine to arguments that do not promise more than they perform, and material truth which belongs to propositions, being that which veracity aims to be; and this is conceived to be a higher grade of truth than mere logical truth. I would correct this conception as follows. In the first place, all our knowledge rests upon perceptual judgments. These are necessarily veracious in greater or less degree according to the effort made, but there is no meaning in saying that they have any other truth than veracity, since a perceptual judgment can never be repeated. At most we can say of a perceptual judgment that its relation to other perceptual judgments is such as to permit a simple theory of the facts. Thus I may judge that I see a clean white surface. But a moment later I may question whether the surface really was clean, and may look again more sharply. If this second more veracious judgment still asserts that I see a clean surface, the theory of the facts will be simpler than if, at my second look, I discern that the surface is soiled. Still, even in this last case, I have no right to say that my first percept was that of a soiled surface. I absolutely have no testimony concerning it, except my perceptual judgment, and although that was careless and had no high degree of veracity, still I have to accept the only evidence in my possession. Now consider any other judgment I may make. That is a conclusion of inferences ultimately based on perceptual judgments, and since these are indisputable, all the truth which my judgment can have must consist in the logical correctness of those inferences. Or I may argue the matter in another way. To say that a proposition is false is not veracious unless the speaker has found out that it is false. Confining ourselves, therefore, to veracious propositions, to say that a proposition is false and that it has been found to be false are equivalent, in the sense of being necessarily either both true or both false. Consequently, to say that a proposition is perhaps false is the same as to say that it will perhaps be found out to be false. Hence to deny one of these is to deny the other. To say that a proposition is certainly true means simply that it never can be found out to be false, or in other words, that it is derived by logically correct arguments from veracious perceptual judgments. Consequently, the only difference between material truth and the logical correctness of argumentation is that the latter refers to a single line of argument and the former to all the arguments which could have a given proposition or its denial as their conclusion.

Let me say to you that this reasoning needs to be scrutinized with the severest and minutest logical criticism, because pragmatism largely depends upon it.

143. It appears, then, that logical goodness is simply the excellence of argument — its negative, and more fundamental, goodness being its soundness and weight, its really having the force that it pretends to have and that force being great, while its quantitative goodness consists in the degree in which it advances our knowledge. In what then does the soundness of argument consist?

 


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