Control and Consciousness

The credit for having placed dialogics on a metaphysical level and thereby naturally giving it a strongly religious bias must go to Buber. Other concepts within dialogics have also been the subject of experiments on other levels.

At an early and decisive stage in the development of his anthropological philosophy, Buber without doubt became acquainted with Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914). We are concerned with two tenets of Peirce’s philosophy:

  1. The fundamental categories (also called “the universal categories”) within the pragmatic maxims
  2. The triad system within a variety of spheres of research and investigation.


1. Re universal categories

  • The three fundamental categories are naturally and logically called firstness, secondness and thirdness.

Seen as an entity and including the three instances as Peirce defined them, the categories are ontologically placed at “the level of thirdness”, where all symbolic phenomenon are to be found.

  • Toys and play are symbolic.

Peirce disposes the categories in opposition to other philosophers (including Aristotle) and every being can be categorised here. These were therefore ontological categories.

Peirce’s categories are based on the construction of these phenomena (not on the “matter” of the phenomena alone) so that it is not only the visible world Peirce classifies but also the world of phenomena as seen “in the mind’s eye”.

To return to firstness, secondness and thirdness in Peirce’s system, a brief outline:


A special form of consciousness without self-awareness where the I experiments - as all other egos (the mechanical, rootless and timeless) do - and learns about phenomena through being and using the senses.

Secondness is experience with an It corresponding to or challenging the I which is gained on the basis of both negative and positive confrontations with the external world, regardless of whether this “foreign or different” phenomenon is familiar or unfamiliar to the I, physically present or an idea/representation or thought.

Thirdness has three trigonoms which contain three aspects: firstness’ recognisable sensing of the phenomena and unconsidered action, secondness’ experiences with familiar and unfamiliar phenomena, melted together in a synthesis, based on the I’s cogitation, conscious and self-aware conclusion or judgement and a self-aware action.



The categories contain the elements deduction, induction and abduction.

The categories describe three forms of reasoning - three different ways in which to reason in order to find out whether a statement is correct:

  • Deduction decides that, on the basis of information, a statement is “necessarily”
  • Induction draws the conclusion that a statement - due to parallel information and results - is correct on the basis of “existence”.
  • Abduction draws the conclusion that a statement, due to many parallel results and principles, is correct on the basis of the many “possibilities”.

These fundamental categories are preconditions for Peirce’s triadic sign concept which will be outlined in the later section on “Evaluation of the Play Object” about the “primary sign, object/case and interpretation”.


2. Re the triad system within spheres of investigation

The various research and investigative spheres within physics, biology, physiology, psychology, logic and metaphysics each contain several triads.

The triads within spheres of research and investigation are exactly the same elements as those which are a natural part of the play of any person-at-play but are always dependent upon environmental conditions, gender, age, abilities/predisposition and stage of development reached.

Within metaphysics (which is particularly relevant in connection with this project), Peirce lists, for example, five fundamental triads, which Buber has also used and which are therefore also part of Buber’s anthropological philosophy and dialogics, viz.:

I - It - Thou!

Spirit - Matter - Evolution!

Origin - End - Mediation (Betweenness)

Pluralism - Dualism - Monism!

Mind - Matter - God!

The concepts express realism because they must be seen as eternally existing, relevant, logical phenomena. They are not at all nominalistic as they must in no way be seen as human constructions or fictions.

The concept relationships are in addition absolutely universally pragmatic as their meaning is determined by their practical usage. For example, if we were to enter into an understanding of a person’s or an object’s being and value, we would have to investigate via experience, through proximity, dialogue and experimentation, how the person or object behaved and what purely factual consequences one could expect from his/its behaviour.

These concepts will be discussed in detail later in this book - on the assumption that investigation (in Peirce’s terminology) is in fact play at a high level.



Table of Contents