A Continual Circle


is this that reason seeks for and requires [...] the validity of laws ··· Mõistus otsib ja nõuab seaduste kehtivust.

empirical sources of cognition ··· In contrast with "merely speculative reason", all that is practical ("so far as it contains motives, relates to feelings") belongs to empirical sources of cognition. Practical reason, then, has to do with motives and feelings. Are "motives" here first or second?

The capacity for receiving representations (receptivity) through the mode in which we are affected by objects, is called sensibility ··· The order here is objectsensibilityintuitionunderstandingthought.

all thought must directly, or indirectly, by means of certain signs, relate ultimately to intuitions; consequently, with us, to sensibility, because in no other way can an object be given to us ··· This may already be reduced to a triad:


objects are quite unknown to us in themselves, and what we call outward objects, are nothing else but mere representations of our sensibility, whose form is space, but whose real correlate, the thing in itself, is not known by means of these representations, nor even can be ··· This is why it is possible to "reduce" the progression to a triad - it doesn't include the object itself, firstness is merely the (internal) representation of an object; our sensibility of something forces us to construct that "something" as sensible.

spontaneity in the production of conceptions ··· This is how Kant (or, rather, Meiklejohn?) phrases the power of cognizing by means of the representations received from sense impressions. Spontaneity in apperception, in the previous paragraph, made no damn sense, but here he appears to be reiterating that there are "two main sources [of knowledge] in the mind", one being sense and the other being understanding. It's almost like the body and soul among the pythagoreans, but what, then is the third? And how or why does Chase put down Spontaneity as second?

we call the faculty of spontaneously producing representations, or the spontaneity of cognition, understanding ··· Okay, at this point it kinda looks like this:


the originally pure conceptions of the synthesis which the understanding contains ··· A thought that strikes me is that these "pure conceptions" may be "pure" in a sense analogous to the "pureness" of the love of wisdom; that is, freedom from empirical conceptions may be compared to the lack of desire for glory or wealth.

the third category in each triad always arises from the combination of the second with the first ··· Man, qua intelligent animal, arises from the combination of body and soul [sense and understanding].

the division of the higher faculties of cognition ··· Now I am not at all certain that these correspond to the triad that I'm focusing on, since they are by definition "higher" up the scale of his progression from representation to idea. But just for comparison:


All our knowledge begins with sense, proceeds thence to understanding, and ends with reason ··· A moment of clarity that solidifies Kant's triad:


"Reason, therefore, never applies directly to experience, or to any sensuous object; its object is, on the contrary, the understanding" (Kant 1855: 214). The principle of degeneration - the third cannot operate on the first directly, it has to go through the second. In this case, Reason cannot operate upon Sense because it needs the conceptions of Understanding to make sense of sense, so to say.

I, as thinking, am an object of the internal sense, and am called soul. That which is an object of the external senses is called body. ··· Confirmation that there is indeed a sort of body/soul dialectic at play here.

Reason will not follow the order of things presented by experience, but, with perfect spontaneity, rearranges them according to ideas, with which it compels empirical conditions to agree. ··· Emphasis on the word "spontaneity". It is no accident that this is not very far removed from his discussion of free will.

the very essence of reason consists in its ability to give an account of all our conceptions, opinions, and assertions ··· Extremely important for clarifying the third.

Reason never has an immediate relation to an object; it relates immediately to the understanding alone. It is only through the understanding that it can be employed in the field of experience. It does not form conceptions of objects, it merely arranges them and gives to them [|] that unity which they are capable of possessing when the sphere of their application has been extended as widely as possible. Reason avails itself of the conceptions of the understanding for the sole purpose of producing totality in the different series. This totality the understanding does not concern itself with; its only occupation is the connection of experiences, by which series of conditions in accordance with conceptions are established. The object of reason is therefore the understanding and its proper destination. As the latter brings unity into the diversity of objects by means of its conceptions, so the former brings unity into the diversity of conceptions by means of ideas; as it sets the final aim of a collective unity to the operations of the understanding, which without this occupies itself with a distributive unity alone. (Kant 1855: 394-395)

Quite possibly the most illuminating paragraph in the Critique of Pure Reason, at least when it comes to triadicity. Reason arranges the conceptions of understanding through ideas. From one perception we get many spontaneous conceptions of understanding which in turn are arranged into an all-encompassing idea. As it stands:


The only caveat here is that "experience" must be understood as encompassing sense, perception, intuition, etc. Explicitly, somewhat later: "Experience is itself a synthesis of perception; and it employs perceptions to increment the conception, which I obtain by means of another perception" (Kant 1855: 464-465).

palingenesis ··· Kant betrays himself as a kind of Pythagorean with a single word.

Thus all human cognition begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to conceptions, and ends with ideas. ··· Straight from the Köningsbergian's mouth (Kant 1855: 429):


The simplest possible form of division is dual, but in treating of the faculties or capacities of Mind, there has been a very general recognition of triplicity. From the days of Pythagoras, who recognized in the soul three elements, Reason (νοῦς), Intelligence (φρήν), and Passion (θυμός). (Chase 1863: 469)

The second sentence about Pythagoras is what instigated my superficial but earnest investigation of that fellow, but for the complete picture, the first sentence is necessary also: the simplest possible division, as we've seen, is that between body and soul.

The really odd thing is that pretty much in the beginning of Intellectual Symbolism, Chase already sets forth the "psychological" triad:


All in all this is very good. It confirms that despite using alternative jargon, we're still dealing with the same triad.

the recipient of an impulse not originating in itself ··· The first, Chase says, "corresponds very nearly to the Passion (θυμός) of Pythagoras" (Chase 1863: 472). Although others give the same word as "Temper" (cf. Stocks 1915: 215), this need not bother us - we don't know Greek. The really relevant thing here is Chase's logic, which is based on the terms "Subjective" and "Objective". Thus, these are his primary categories, his primary triads:

Sensibility or Sensitivity
Intellect or Intelligence

The last row is Mahan's (Mahan 1847: 15). Chase writes: "I do not remember to have seen the boundaries of the primary divisions of Consciousness more clearly indicated, than by Mahan" (Chase 1863: 472). Now, the really important thing is that, these subdivisions of consciousness can in turn be interrelated, "regarding the modifications it assumes under different relations" (ibid, 473), so that I have to recreate the table:

Motivity (M)
Spontaneity (S)
Rationality (R)

Of course it doesn't stop there. There is one more level, but in order to fit them into such a table, I'll have to construct three tables according to the primary triad. Thus:

Motivity (M)
Propensity (MM)
Desire (MS)
Sentiment (MR)
Proclivity (MMM)
Appetence (MMS)
Attachment (MMR)
Selfishness (MSM)
Curiosity (MSS)
Purpose (MSR)
Enjoyment (MRM)
Approval (MRS)
Respect (MRR)
Vitativeness (MMMM)
Combativeness (MMMS)
Amativeness (MMMR)
Alimentiveness (MMSM(
Acquisitiveness (MMSS)
Ambition (MMSR)
Self-Esteem (MMRM(
Affection (MMRS)
Adhesiveness (MMRR)
Envy (MSMM)
Cupidity (MSMS)
Approbativeness (MSMR)
Marvelousness (MSSM)
Inquisitiveness (MSSS)
Eagerness (MSSR)
Confidence (MSRM)
Zeal (MSRS)
Emulation (MSRR)
Content (MRMM)
Hope (MRMS)
Sympathy (MRMR)
Admiration (MRSM)
Esteem (MRSS)
Taste (MRSR)
Generosity (MRRM)
Veneration (MRRS)
Conscientiousness (MRRR)
Spontaneity (S)
Instinct (SM)
Will (SS)
Energy (SR)
Cautiousness (SMM)
Forecast (SMS)
Constructiveness (SMR)
Attention (SSM)
Direction (SSS)
Resolution (SSR)
Vivacity (SRM)
Concentrativeness (SRS)
Decision (SRR)
Solicitude (SMMM)
Vigilance (SMMS)
Circumspection (SMMR)
Frugality (SMSM)
Providence (SMSS)
Self-Denial (SMSR)
Imitation (SMRM)
Device (SMRS)
Order (SMRR)
Observation (SSMM)
Scrutiny (SSMS)
Tact (SSMR)
Activity (SSSM)
Management (SSSS)
Positiveness (SSSR)
Intrepidity (SSRM)
Pertinacity (SSRS)
Self-Reliance (SSRR)
Frankness (SRMM)
Alacrity (SRMS)
Constancy (SRMR)
Patience (SRSM)
Perseverance (SRSS)
Inflexibility (SRSR)
Dexterity (SRRM)
Courage (SRRS)
Determination (SRRR)
Rationality (R)
Perception (RM)
Judgment (RS)
Understanding (RR)
Sense (RMM)
Memory (RMS)
Intuition (RMR)
Discernment (RSM)
Deliberation (RSS)
Discursiveness (RSR)
Conception (RRM)
Abstraction (RRS)
Comprehension (RRR)
Sensation (RMMM)
Self-Consciousness (RMMS)
Apperception (RMMR)
Suggestion (RMSM)
Recollection (RMSS)
Retention (RMSR)
Penetration (RMRM)
Ideality (RMRS)
Affirmation (RMRR)
Contemplation (RSMM)
Reflection (RSMS)
Imagination (RSMR)
Meditation (RSSM)
Comparison (RSSS)
Calculation (RSSR)
Discrimination (RSRM)
Causality (RSRS)
Elucidaiton (RSRR)
Individuality (RRMM)
Cognition (RRMS)
Appreciation (RRMR)
Analysis (RRSM)
Synthesis (RRSS)
Generalization (RRSR)
Insight (RRRM)
Sagacity (RRRS)
Classification (RRRR)

It could be a life's work to make heads or tails of all these - exactly 120 terms (81+27+9+3) altogether. Chase himself was very fond of dictionaries and comparative lexicography, but in order to get the gist of any particular term, one would have to go through the dictionaries that were available during his lifetime. That's one hell of a task! I'm putting it off at the moment because I probably don't have so many decades to spare. Though one could imagine that working out this "exhaustive catalogue of the powers of the mind" (Chase 1783: 474) would make for one curious monograph.

the principle of trichotomy may be extended as far as the needs of science may require ··· Yeah, "the nomenclature I have suggested is a wholly experimental one" (ibid, 494).

A cursory perusal of the works of Plato and Aristotle reveals the origin of so much of the variety and profundity of thought that later writers would gladly claim as their own, that one is tempted to exclaim with Solomon, "there is nothing new under the sun," and to believe that in what poor, weak, deluded humanity regards as the most exalted sphere of investigation, it is destined to move in a continual circle, making no real progress, but constantly repeating the ideas and systems of earlier ages. (Chase 1863: 496)


a stimulus to exertion, acted upon by external influences ··· Motivity is stimulation coming from outside of the subject.

acting of its own accord, free from any extraneous impulse, and stimulated only by its own conscious Motivity ··· Spontaneity is introversive motivity (free will).

operating intelligently for the discovery of truth ··· Motivity and Spontaneity are "subservient" (alternatively, "ministrant to") Rationality.

In a paragraph reminiscent of that gradual list of representations in Kant, Chase (1863: 502) gives an illustration of a flash of lightning, in which he highlights these three moments:

"an impression on the brain through the nerves"
"a simple and at first confused consciousness of that impression"
"a rational perception of an object"

Another row can be derived from "the three guides to knowledge" (Chase 1863: 518):

"Sense, the guide to a knowledge of the outward world"
"Self-consciousness, the observer of the inward workings of our own minds"
"Reason, the teacher of abstract and general truth, and the judge to whose tribunal is our ultimate appeal in all questions of doubt"

In another iteration Chase points out the analogy between "the triform Intelligence" and our "threefold nature" (Chase 1863: 538):

a passive material frame

The threefoldness, here exhibited psychologically, is found, in different applications, through all the last general period of Plato's literary life ··· Schwegler (1880[1946]) points out the relevant triads of the ancients, with which we dealt in the last post:

current opinions (or sense-perception)
science (or thinking)
the sensible world
mathematical relations
the ideal world

All the impressions of mere Motivity are single and momentary ··· For this bit I found support in Kant, and quoted it in notes to his Critique of Pure Judgment. Though my blockquotes go on in a similar manner and it was news to me then, the "single and momentary" nature - "If we feel, our sensation is a unit, - merely a feeling, and nothing more" (ibid, 548) - it is clear that Motivity, Spontaneity and Rationality are in an accord with Unity, Plurality, and Totality.


  • Raven, J. E. 1948. Pythagoreans and Eleatics. An account of the interaction between the two opposed schools during the 5th and early 4th centuries B.C. Cambridge University Press.
  • Minar, Edwin Leroy 1942. Early Pythagorean Politics in Practice and Theory. Baltimore: Waverley Press, Inc.


Post a Comment