Dear Jon, Michael, list

Michael, thanks for offering your article which I found very useful and
complementary for my short remarks. Very nice of you.

Jon, if I understood you correctly, you are putting the meaning of a symbol
on the interpreter as the arbiter of the process of interpretation.
Although I agree that meaning happens in the relation of the sign with its
interpretant, I would be careful not to slip into some kind of
psychologism, for the being of a symbol, the form that it embodies, must be
independent on any particular mind or collection of minds.
So, yes, the symbol carries with himself the arbiter of his own possible
general interpretants, which we may call its "purpose". That's why only
symbols can be self-conscious and govern its own conduct. The man, for
instance, is not the creator of a symbol. He IS the symbol.


2014-03-24 10:54 GMT-04:00 Jon Awbrey <>:

> Vincius,
> Thanks for undertaking this chapter.
> There's a trite and true observation on the word "arbitrary" that appears
> to be so old that as to have slipped from this millennium's memory.  An
> arbiter is a judge, and judges are interpreters of legislation, so the
> oft-observed "arbitrariness" of symbols is simply a mark of the fact that
> their meanings are markedly relative to interpretation, the interpreter,
> and the interpretant sign.  This form of relativity is thoroughly
> compatible with pragmatic semiotics, indeed, it is one of its basic
> principles.  This brand of relation to interpretation is different from the
> "conventionality" of indices, and Peirce was careful to distinguish them.
> Regards,
> Jon
> Vinicius Romanini wrote:
>> Dear list members,
>> Here I start the discussions of chapter five from the book "Peirce - a
>> guide for the perplexed", by Cornelis de Waal. The chapter is entitled
>> "Semeiotics, or the doctrine of signs".
>> In this introductory message I make some few general comments about the
>> whole chapter but advance remarks mostly from my reading of its first
>> part,
>>  the relation between Saussure and Peirce.
>> Kees' intention was to address a general audience that might not be yet
>> familiar with Peirce's sometimes difficult terminology and deep insights
>> into mathematic and logic. To keep the subject under a treatable
>> exposition, he chose to discuss Peirce's semiotic mostly from the narrower
>> perspective of Speculative Grammar, which is Peirce's first division of
>> Logic understood as a normative science. This means that the chapter
>> provides just an outline of Peirce's motivations to dedicate most of his
>> life as a researcher to the development of semeiotic, his definition of
>> sign as a genuine triadic relation, and his attempts do describe how the
>> sign and its correlates, the object and interpretant, can be further
>> analysed into aspects that might help us understand semiosis, or the
>> action
>> of signs.
>> The task is difficult because Peirce's whole philosophic work can be
>> considered, in a very meaningful way, as a narrative around the questions
>> related to Logic considered as a general doctrine of signs. Much of what
>> has already been said in previous chapters about phaneroscopy and the
>> categories, mathematics, logic of relatives; and what will come up in the
>> following discussions, can be framed as part of a more general view of
>> semeiotic as the study of all types of signs and their relation to
>> perception, cognition, representation and communication not only in humans
>> but beyond any assignable limit to reach even cosmology. In fact, Peirce
>> was convinced that was precisely on the metaphysical questions that the
>> rigorous logical approach was mostly needed.
>> I have read the whole book and can assure that in the final chapters
>> semeiotic will show up again in its more general view. Nevertheless, I
>> must
>> also say that the focus on Speculative Grammar, although justifiable due
>> the the goals and audience of the book, left out too much of flesh and
>> blood of Peirce's doctrine of signs. Some of the features left out but
>> that
>> I think are important to understand Peirce's broader view of semeiotic and
>> could show up during our discussions:
>> 1) Peirce's original concept of information and its role in the growth of
>> symbols and in the development and complexity. Peirce was the first
>> thinker
>> to use the concept of information in a scientific and systematic manner.
>> Kees does not talk about it in book, and I think it is a missing point
>> (some list members, particularly Ulysses, have already advanced some
>> opinions during this seminar)
>> 2) Peirce's late emphasis of semiosis as the action of signs and his
>> several tries, mainly in the letters to Welby and James, to describe
>> semiosis as a dialogical, communicational or rhetorical process in which
>> minds must be welded by a common ground of knowledge. The concept of
>> semiosis appears the last chapter but is certainly part of Peirce's
>> doctrine of signs, which is the subject matter of this chapter.
>> 3) Peirce's late notion of the modality of "would-be" as a realist "form"
>> that governs the being of symbols.
>> 4) Peirce's theory of final causation (the law of mind), which involves
>> "finious" or teleological process and is important to understand how his
>> theory of signs might help us tackle with metaphysics and cosmology. I
>> don't remember Kees discussing this subject in the book.
>> Again, although none of the above might no be strictly necessary to
>> understand Peirce's grammar of sigs, they all become important when we try
>> to apply the classes of signs to an evolving and dynamic reality, which
>> was
>> Peirce's intention.
>> About Peirce and Saussure
>> As the prospective readers of the book might be more familiar with the
>> Saussurian tradition, Kees offers a synoptic but fairly sufficient
>> comparison between the two doctrines, describing the eventual points of
>> contact but also the dangers of trying to reduce one to the other due to
>> the very different backgrounds, purposes and models adopted by each
>> author.
>> It is already fairly known that Saussurean semiotics (born as semiology
>> but
>> then assimilated under the same general program of semiotic studies) is
>> based on a dyadic relation while Peircean "semeiotics" is based on triads
>> (and, out of simple curiosity, I would like to hear from Kees why he
>> chooses "semeiotics" among other possibilities, as semeiotic, semiotic,
>> semeotic).
>> One common mistake when newcomers compare Peirce and Saussure is to assume
>> that they have an identical conception of the symbol as a conventional
>> sign. As this is constantly repeated in some communities, the result is
>> that there is much confusion and difficulty to admit that animal behavior
>> can be naturally symbolic. For this reason, I offer here a quote that I
>> find quite elucidating in this regard, although it will certainly raise
>> objections and questions - which is precisely what I hope it will happen.
>> It is a undated fragment from MS797, page 4. What interests me here is
>> that
>> Peirce himself brings up the most important features of Saussurean symbol
>> (a diadic match-word, arbitrary, deliberately instituted, or
>> conventional),
>> and then explains how he himself departs and expands from it:
>> "*Symbols*: The word "symbol" has already many meanings; and I shall ask
>> leave to add a new one. Among its early significations, perhaps the
>> original one, is that of a match-word, a somewhat arbitrarily adopted word
>> or phrase, by which persons of one party recognize one another. It is
>> nearly in this sense that the church creeds are called *symbols*. So a
>> flag
>> is a symbol, etc. I think, then, that I shall not merck the word too much
>> if I use it to mean a sign to which a general idea is attached by virtue
>> of
>> a habit, which may have been deliberately instituted, or may have grown up
>> in a natural way, and perhaps have been acquired with one's mother milk,
>> or
>> even by heredity".
>> Another interesting point in the relation Peirce/Saussure: although
>> arbitrariness and conventionality might be nearly equivalent in Saussure's
>> doctrine (and so they appear in Kees' book), they might not the same in a
>> Peircean approach.
>> Peirce would certainly accept conventional linguistic signs as symbolic
>> but
>> I don't think he would accept that linguistic symbols are totally
>> arbitrary. Traces of iconicity and indexicality might be present in
>> symbols
>> even after they have been largely generalized by their use in a community.
>> In fact, the words of natural language usually develop from icons, become
>> indexical when used in historical context and grow into more abstract
>> symbols. Egyptian hieroglyphs, chinese ideograms and certainly all kinds
>> of
>> "animal languaging" cannot be counted as arbitrary only.
>> Even more important to semeiotic, the grammar of a specific natural
>> language systems seem to embody a universal syntax, which Peirce believe
>> to
>> be the Filonian material implication or the Latin "nota notae" - and maybe
>> related to the schema of time. Complete linguistic arbitrariness would
>> mean
>> a non translatability among natural languages. What we see, actually, is
>> that languages are not only translatable one into another but there might
>> be a possibility of capturing the essence of this general syntax to create
>> a diagrammatic system to represent thought *in general*. This belief will
>> lead Peirce to conceive his logical graphs.
>> In my next message I will put some specific questions and doubts about
>> Peirce's semeiotic and the division of signs as presented and discussed by
>> Kees.
>> Best for now,
> --
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Vinicius Romanini, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication Studies
School of Communications and Arts
University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

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