Being: Modes of   

Being: Modes of

Digital Companion to C. S. Peirce
Being: Modes of
1903 | Lowell Lectures on Some Topics of Logic Bearing on Questions Now Vexed. Lecture III [R] | CP 1.23-25

My view is that there are three modes of being. I hold that we can directly observe them in elements of whatever is at any time before the mind in any way. They are the being of positive qualitative possibility, the being of actual fact, and the being of law that will govern facts in the future.
On the whole, I think we have here a mode of being of one thing which consists in how a second object is. I call that Secondness.

Besides this, there are two modes of being that I call Firstness and Thirdness.

1904 | Letters to Lady Welby | CP 8.328

… I was long ago (1867) led, after only three or four years’ study, to throw all ideas into the three classes of Firstness, of Secondness, and of Thirdness. This sort of notion is as distasteful to me as to anybody; and for years, I endeavored to pooh-pooh and refute it; but it long ago conquered me completely. Disagreeable as it is to attribute such meaning to numbers, and to a triad above all, it is as true as it is disagreeable. The ideas of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness are simple enough. Giving to being the broadest possible sense, to include ideas as well as things, and ideas that we fancy we have just as much as ideas we do have, I should define Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness thus:

Firstness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, positively and without reference to anything else.

Secondness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, with respect to a second but regardless of any third.

Thirdness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, in bringing a second and third into relation to each other.

1907 | The Fourth Curiosity | CP 6.342-343

So, then, there are these three modes of being: first, the being of a feeling, in itself, unattached to any subject, which is merely an atmospheric possibility, a possibility floating in vacuo, not rational yet capable of rationalization; secondly, there is the being that consists in arbitrary brute action upon other things, not only irrational but anti-rational, since to rationalize it would be to destroy its being; and thirdly, there is living intelligence from which all reality and all power are derived; which is rational necessity and necessitation.

A feeling is what it is, positively, regardless of anything else. Its being is in it alone, and it is a mere potentiality. A brute force, as, for example, an existent particle, on the other hand, is nothing for itself; whatever it is, it is for what it is attracting and what it is repelling: its being is actual, consists in action, is dyadic. That is what I call existence. A reason has its being in bringing other things into connexion with each other; its essence is to compose: it is triadic, and it alone has a real power.