Letter, Peirce to W. T. Harris


L 183: W. T. Harris Collection


Cambridge 1868 Jan. 24

Dear Sir

I have to thank you for the fourth number of your excellent Journal. I think you are to be congratulated upon the success of your first volume. There are many things which might be said in the way of praise and blame, but I will not venture upon criticism. Only, the national importance of your undertaking impels me to mention one matter itself of national importance. I think that the terminology used in the journal has occasionally violated usage. I remember, for example, such expressions as, "Locke's primary properties" instead of qualities, reality as the opposite of potentiality instead of actuality, contemplation (for Anschauung) instead of intuition, comprehension (for Begriff) instead of concept. Begriff is a common word and there can be no doubt of its equivalence commonly to concept. Shall we then assign two English words to this one German? Considering the superior richness of the latter language, I fear that this would necessitate our assigning but one word in English to several German ones which ought to be distinguished. If Hegel put up with Begriff, I think that we must get along with Concept. In English a rigid economy of words is requisite which in German is unnecessary, although it could hardly be without its advantages.

I should like to make some inquiries in regard to your meaning in the paragraph beginning 'Being is the pure simple' on p. 140.

I will begin by stating how much of it [ . . . ]

I have been thus long-winded in order that the nature of my questions in reference to your meaning and position should be unmistakable. I will say again that I do not argue or profess to represent or state the position of Hegelians, but only seek a more explicit statement from one of them.

I have written on one side of the paper only so that if you should think it well to answer my questions in print, you might print them in full with the answers. Should you do this, I should desire (as a mere inquirer) to remain incognito. Yours with great respect

C. S. Peirce