§1. Kinds of Secondness
521. Very wretched is the notion of [the categories] that can be conveyed in one lecture. They must grow up in the mind, under the hot sunshine of hard thought, daily, bright, well-focussed, and well-aimed thought; and you must have patience, for long time is required to ripen the fruit. They are no inventions of mine. Were they so, that would be sufficient to condemn them. Confused notions of these elements appear in the first infancy of philosophy, and they have never entirely been forgotten. Their fundamental importance is noticed in the beginning of Aristotle's De Caelo, where it is said 2) that the Pythagoreans knew of them.
522. In Kant they come out with an approach to lucidity. For Kant possessed in a high degree all seven of the mental qualifications of a philosopher:
1. The ability to discern what is before one's consciousness.
2. Inventive originality.
3. Generalizing power.
5. Critical severity and sense of fact.
6. Systematic procedure.
7. Energy, diligence, persistency, and exclusive devotion to philosophy.
523. But Kant had not the slightest suspicion of the inexhaustible intricacy of the fabric of conceptions, which is such that I do not flatter myself that I have ever analyzed a single idea into its constituent elements.
524. Hegel, in some respects the greatest philosopher that ever lived, had a somewhat juster notion of this complication, though an inadequate notion, too. For if
he had seen what the state of the case was, he would not have attempted in one lifetime to cover the vast field that he attempted to clear. But Hegel was lamentably deficient in that fifth requisite of critical severity and sense of fact. He brought out the three elements much more clearly [than Kant did]; but the element of Secondness, of hard fact, is not accorded its due place in his system; and in a lesser degree the same is true of Firstness. After Hegel wrote, there came fifty years that were remarkably fruitful in all the means for attaining that fifth requisite. Yet Hegel's followers, instead of going to work to reform their master's system, and to render his statement of it obsolete, as every true philosopher must desire that his disciples should do, only proposed, at best, some superficial changes without replacing at all the rotten material with which the system was built up.
525. I shall not inflict upon you any account of my own labors. Suffice it to say that my results have afforded me great aid in the study of logic.
I will, however, make a few remarks on these categories. By way of preface, I must explain that in saying that the three, Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness, complete the list, I by no means deny that there are other categories. On the contrary, at every step of every analysis, conceptions are met with which presumably do not belong to this series of ideas. Nor did an investigation of them occupying me for two years reveal any analysis of them into these as their constituents. I shall say nothing further about them, except incidentally.
526. As to the three universal categories, as I call them, perhaps with no very good reason for thinking that they are more universal than the others, we first notice that Secondness and Thirdness are conceptions of complexity. That is not, however, to say that they are complex conceptions. When we think of Secondness, we naturally think of two reacting objects, a first and a second. And along with these, as subjects, there is their reaction. But these are not constituents out of which the Secondness is built up. The truth is just reverse, [in] that the being a first or a second or the being a reaction each involves Secondness. An object cannot be a second of itself. If it is a second, it has an element of being what another makes it to be. That is, the being a second involves Secondness. The reaction still more manifestly involves the being what another makes a subject to be. Thus, while Secondness is a fact of complexity, it is not a compound of two facts. It is a single fact about two objects. Similar remarks apply to Thirdness.
527. This remark at once leads to another. The Secondness of the second, whichever of the two objects be called the second, is different from the Secondness of the first. That is to say it generally is so. To kill and to be killed are different. In case there is one of the two which there is good reason for calling the first, while the other remains the second, it is that the Secondness is more accidental to the former than to the latter; that there is more or less approach to a state of things in which something, which is itself first, accidentally comes into a Secondness that does not really modify its Firstness, while its second in this Secondness is something whose being is of the nature of Secondness and which has no Firstness separate from this. It must be extremely difficult for those who are untrained to such analyses of conceptions to make any sense of all this. For that reason, I shall inflict very little of it upon you — just enough to show those who can carry what I say in their minds that it is by no means nonsense. The extreme kind of Secondness which I have just described is the relation of a quality to the matter in which that quality inheres. The mode of being of the quality is that of Firstness. That is to say, it is a possibility. It is related to the matter accidentally; and this relation does not change the quality at all, except that it imparts existence, that is to say, this very relation of inherence, to it. But the matter, on the other hand, has no being at all except the being a subject of qualities. This relation of really having qualities constitutes its existence. But if all its qualities were to be taken away, and it were to be left quality-less matter, it not only would not exist, but it would not have any positive definite possibility — such as an unembodied quality has. It would be nothing at all.
528. Thus we have a division of seconds into those whose very being, or Firstness, it is to be seconds, and those whose Secondness is only an accretion. This distinction springs out of the essential elements of Secondness. For Secondness involves Firstness. The concepts of the two kinds of Secondness are mixed concepts composed of Secondness and Firstness. One is the second whose very Firstness is Secondness. The other is a second whose Secondness is second to a Firstness. The idea of mingling Firstness and Secondness in this particular way is an idea distinct from the ideas of Firstness and Secondness that it combines. It appears to be a conception of an entirely different series of categories. At the same time, it is an idea of which Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness are component parts, since the distinction depends on whether the two elements of Firstness and Secondness that are united are so united as to be one or whether they remain two. This distinction between two kinds of seconds, which is almost involved in the very idea of a second, makes a distinction between two kinds of Secondness; namely, the Secondness of genuine seconds, or matters, which I call genuine Secondness, and the Secondness in which one of the seconds is only a Firstness, which I call degenerate Secondness; so that this Secondness really amounts to nothing but this, that a subject, in its being a second, has a Firstness, or quality. It is to be remarked that this distinction arose from attending to extreme cases; and consequently subdivision will be attached to it according to the more or less essential or accidental nature of the genuine or the degenerate Secondness. With this distinction Thirdness has nothing to do, or at any rate has so little to do that a satisfactory account of the distinction need not mention Thirdness.
529. I will just mention that among Firstnesses there is no distinction of the genuine and the degenerate, while among Thirdnesses we find not only a genuine but two distinct grades of degeneracy.