First Letters of A Thief of Peirce:
February 26, 1984
Prof. [Kenneth Laine] Ketner,
Thanks for your treasure trove on CSP [Charles Sanders Peirce]. When I get into it, I'd like to respond.
Walker Percy [s]
August 8, 1984
Dear Dr. Ketner,
I take pleasure in being called a Cenophythagorean. I've been called worse. It is extremely pleasurable to see you quote CSP on the Phaneron, as to "totality of all that is before or on your mind--" and the notion of phaneroscopy as a method of examination
of same, and the idea of valency of elements in the phaneron as a key to a classification system. I arrived at the phaneron through a different route, my idea of the "world" of the symbol-user (triadic) as opposed to the "environment" of the organism (dyadic).
But you can help me. Unfortunately for me: Where CSP is very good about giving examples in his classical discussion of the difference between indexical signs and symbols, dyadicity and tradicity, such examples are not forthcoming in his writings on diagrammatic thought and existential graphs. You seem to set much store by these as a means of exploring the valency or valencies of the phaneron. When CSP concentrates on logical diagrams and leaves out examples of relevance in our perception in the phaneron, frankly he loses me. You seem to be onto something I am missing. Tell me, give me a hint, how I can connect up these very formal, logical diagrams of valencies with the data of experience, which is what interests me as an amateur-behavioral psychologist and novelist.
Thanks for citing me in your paper. I will certainly send your institute my only tow non-fiction "semiotic" books.
Waker Percy [s]
P.S.: Sometimes I could genuflect before CSP for his genius and for seeing, before his time and before our time still, the difference between dyadicity and triadicity.
Othertimes I could kick his ass for his deliberate withdrawal into logical games. WP
August 22, 1984
Dear Dr. Percy,
Thanks for your fine letter of 8 August. If your are an amateur, then I am Darwin's missing link.
I enclose a few extracts from the CSP manuscripts, plus one of my recent Institute Newsletters. I forget if I have already sent you one. I have found a fairly common pattern in Peirce's writing. His letters and the earlier drafts of his books and articles are often much more explanatory than the final published article or whatever. This is probably due to multiple factors. He often was urged to cut his published pieces by editors, hence he ended up with an essay that had been abstracted to death. He also seemed to have wanted to be thought scholarly and academic, so even on his own, he would remove parts he regarded as simpler. One can often read several drafts and drafts. Ditto for letters to James, Royce, or whomever. Also, a factor in misunderstanding Peirce is what I have called the mythical versus the real CSP (in article I got into Krisis. Did I send you a copy?). There is an erroneous received version of what P is supposed to be like among a number of academic philosophy and intellectual history types. the received P is not the real one. I have recently been trying to put together a book of P texts taken mostly from the informal kind, where he does explain himself better. I inclose a few samples. The man that emerges from this exercise is vastly different from the received one.
To find out more about the Percy-Ketner letters, or purchase the book, go HERE.