The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘The Fourth Curiosity’


The essence of a thing consists in its being rendered intelligible by being regarded from a certain general point of view. This gives it an intellectual nutritiousness. For instance, I may be shown a complicated piece of machinery, and while recognizing how many parts of it must or may move together, I may be utterly at a loss to understand it, or to discern what kind of a machine it is until someone tells me what purpose it is intended to subserve. Then I see. That I see gives it a function, an office in the world. But the essence does no more than determine the generic mode of being of the thing.

MS [R] 200:51
Editorial Annotations: 

From an alternative draft

‘Essence’ (pub. 07.03.16-15:25). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Mar 07, 2016, 15:25 by Mats Bergman