John, Clark, Kirsti, …,
John, I agree with everything you say here. Peirce’s “high regard for his work
on lexicography” is well deserved, too. But there is another side of the
question revealed in Peirce’s 1909 letter to Welby (SS 118):
“My studies must extend over the whole of general Semeiotic. I think, dear Lady
Welby, that you are in danger of falling into some error in consequence of
limiting your studies so much to Language and among languages to one very
peculiar language, as all Aryan Languages are; and within that language so much
Peirce certainly devoted a lot of study to the meanings of English words,
especially in the period before he developed his detailed classification of
signs, but of course his work was not limited to those studies.
p.s. There is also a phenomenological side to Peirce’s semeiotic as revealed in
the Welby letters, but despite the subject line, we haven’t really considered
that in this thread …
From: John F Sowa [mailto:s...@bestweb.net]
Sent: 9-Aug-17 01:41
Kirsti, Gary F., and Clark,
> Meanings are contextual. - Do we agree in that?
Yes. Peirce said many times in many ways that any meaningful concept must show
its passport at the gates of perception and action. That is a major part of
> Letters to lady Welby need to be interpreted and evaluated on the
> basis to whom they were addressed to. Lady Welby was highly interested
> in sign classifications.
The person who is addressed is also part of the context, and I agree that would
influence the topics Peirce considered.
His work in writing and editing definitions would have had a strong influence
on "meaning", since that is the primary goal for dictionary definitions. Note
what he wrote to B. E. Smith, the editor of the _Century Dictionary_:
> "The task of classifying all the words of language, or what's the same
> thing, all the ideas that seek expression, is the most stupendous of
> logical tasks. Anybody but the most accomplished logician must break
> down in it utterly; and even for the strongest man, it is the severest
> possible tax on the logical equipment and faculty."
That comment indicates his high regard for his work on lexicography.
> Almost all of Peirce’s work on minute classification of sign types was
> done in the period 1903-1908, and his work on almost everything got
> set aside after that, because his health was deteriorating.
> Peirce may have used the letter writing to clarify his thoughts, but
> he appears to have been thinking on the issues for some time.
I agree with both of those comments. Peirce did not have the time and energy
to prepare an article for publication. A letter was more likely to get
attention for his ideas than a few pages in a notebook.
Of all his correspondents, Lady Welby was the most likely to appreciate and
circulate his letter about signs.
Given his health at the time, the fact that he made the effort to write a long
letter shows that he considered the subject matter important.
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