The just-so-story that relative terms got their meanings by blanking out pieces of meaningful clauses or phrases, plus the analogies to poly-unsaturated chemical bonds, supply a stock of engaging ways to introduce the logic of relative terms and the mathematics of relations but they both run into cul-de-sacs when taken too literally, and for the same reason. They tempt one to confuse the syntactic accidents used to suggest formal objects with the essential forms of the objects themselves. That is the sort of confusion that leads to syntacticism and on to its kindred nominalism.
Here’s a note I appended to the InterSciWiki article on Relative Terms the last time questions about rhemes or rhemata came up.
I wanted to check out some impressions I formed many years ago — this would have been the late 1960s and probably mainly from CP 3 & 4 — about Peirce’s use of the words rhema, rheme, rhemata, etc.
- CP 2.95, 250-265, 272, 317, 322, 379, 409n
- CP 3.420-422, 465, 636
- CP 4.327, 354, 395n, 403, 404, 411, 438, 439, 441, 446, 453, 461, 465, 470, 474, 504, 538n, 560, 621
Reviewing the variations and vacillations in Peirce’s usage over the years, I’ve decided to avoid those terms for now. As I am realizing more and more in recent years, analyzing and classifying signs as a substitute for analyzing and classifying objects is the first slip of a slide into nominalism, namely, the idea that the essence or reality of objects is contained in the signs we use to describe them.